Packing things no other car in its class can offer, like proper steering feel and a spectacular suspension setup.
Nissan brought back the Z nameplate in 2002, with the introduction of the 350Z. I was barely of driving age at the time, and I will happily admit that both the 350Z and its sister car, the Infiniti G35, were objects of my affection. The 350Z was replaced by the 370Z for the 2009 model year, and aside from some very minor updates, that car has gone unchanged since its introduction. Nearing the end of its current life cycle, we found it imperative to sample the top-trim model, a 2017 Nissan 370Z NISMO, and put it through our testing.
A very pretty thing, the 370Z has aged quite gracefully. This NISMO model has 19” RAYS forged alloy wheels, and red accents throughout the exterior that set it apart from its “plebian” 370Z sibling. The sport-tuned suspension also sits a little bit lower than the standard model, and the rear decklid is finished with a tasteful spoiler. The NISMO gets its own performance upgrades, but doesn’t deviate from the standard front-engine rear-drive layout of the Z line. A cool touch is the side indicators, which are built into the “Z” badges on the front fenders.
Power for the NISMO model comes from a similar 3.7L VQ V6 that has been a staple in the 370Z since 2009, though this model uses the VQ37VHR that has been tuned for more power. Offering the same 11:1 compression ratio as the regular 370Z, this motor pushes 350 horsepower at 7,400RPM (up from 332) and 276 lb-ft. of torque at 5,200RPM (up from 270). This motor is naturally aspirated and, though very dated, still offers excellent power delivery and satisfaction to purists.
There is no fancy turbocharging here, but the VQ V6 is direct injected and makes a delightful noise on wide-open throttle. As stated, this engine makes peak power at 7,400RPM and is happiest higher up in the rev range, a noted Z-car quality. It’s raw at the limit, and it’s eager even during your commute. It’s almost inevitable that the successor to this model will receive some sort of turbocharged variant of the VR V6 seen in the Q60 Red Sport (reviewed here). While the prospect of more power is always welcomed, the dedicated exhaust note and raw growl of the VQ will be missed when it’s gone.
Two transmissions are available on the 370Z, though the NISMO is the purist’s model. Hence, it gets only a conventional six-speed manual in Canada, though Americans can opt for the seven-speed automatic seen on other trim levels. The clutch is heavy, and the shifter is as well, but at no point does this car feel artificial. The shift gates are defined and the 370Z confidently slips into gear with a flick of your wrist. There is the “S-Mode”, an automatic rev-matching technology that pulls off flawless throttle blips at downshifts. True enthusiasts will turn this off almost immediately, but we found it rather satisfying during the daily commute. It also means that in a track setting, the driver can focus on keeping the racing line and not worrying about heel-toe downshifts.
Steering feel is one of the best in segment, and it’s significantly more fun to push through the curves than rivals like the Subaru BRZ (reviewed here) or even similarly-priced vehicles like the Ford Mustang GT (reviewed here). This is where the dated platform works to the 370Z’s benefit, because hydraulic steering has far more analog feel than almost any electronic power steering system, and there is excellent feedback through the wheel. The NISMO suspension maintains a great connection to the pavement, but ride quality during regular commuting on Toronto’s awful roads can become tiresome.
Nissan rates the 370Z NISMO at 13.3L/100km in the city and 9.3L/100km on the highway. Being a focused sports car, it makes no false promises about efficiency and is honest about its intentions. We put a considerable amount of mileage on it including an all-highway road trip north of the city for a cottage weekend. It returned an expected average of 11.4L/100km when running on 91-octane premium fuel. The fuel range and overall efficiency is displayed through the dated monochromatic trip computer in the instrument cluster.
The interior of the 370Z is where its datedness becomes very, very obvious. The aggressive Recaro seats are supportive and hold you snug during hard cornering, but they’re not heated and manually adjustable. The knob to adjust the backrest is awkwardly shaped and positioned in a manner that renders it nearly impossible to reach. There is enough space behind the two seats to hold a backpack on each side, but accessing it while standing outside of the car is frustrating.
Infotainment is equally dated, with no compatibility with the latest NissanConnect apps seen in other models, and no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support. The NISMO model is equipped with satellite navigation and a touchscreen that responds adequately. There is a USB port in the center console, though it charges modern iPhones at a very slow rate, and could benefit from added power. The system does support Bluetooth streaming and USB playback for music, and the physical buttons for climate control are very easy to use.
Thanks to its old platform, the Z also isn’t able to offer any of the latest electronic safety nannies that are offered in other models such as the Maxima (reviewed here). There is a rear-view camera with adequate resolution, but there are no parking sensors – these would be handy to gauge the front of the car with that low front lip. There is also no blind spot monitoring (and the blind spots are massive), a lack of autonomous emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. Of course, this is a bit of a double standard – sports cars that come equipped with these gizmos are criticized for being too electronic and not natural enough. This is a dedicated car with no frills and it’s shot at for not having enough toys.
Storage space in the rear cargo area is limited, but the liftback design means a traditional-sized carry-on will fit. Total storage is 6.9 cubic feet, which matches the Toyota 86 (reviewed here), a direct rival to the regular 370Z. There was ample room for luggage for a weekend away, though the Z is no crossover and it doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not.
Nissan brags about the base model of the 370Z starting at just $29,998, which is a huge bargain for what it delivers. Short of a limited-slip differential, this car has everything it needs to demolish rivals priced significantly higher. The NISMO stickers for $48,298, which is considerably more, but offers enough to play with the big boys. Notable competitors here include the Ford Mustang GT, which can be had with the Performance Package and the V8 engine for similar money. The base 370Z plays ball against the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86, but the NISMO is in a slightly higher league overall.
There’s no official word on how long the Z will remain around in its current iteration, but its days are definitely limited. There may be a few drawbacks with the 2017 Nissan 370Z NISMO, but the vast majority of them are related to its age. On the plus side, it packs things no other car in its class can offer, like proper steering feel and a spectacular suspension setup, not to mention the alluring exhaust note of the naturally aspirated V6. There is a very definitive reason why this car is still around, and it’s because buyers still happily snap them up. Long live the Z.