2009 Nissan 370Z Vehicle Overview
In the 50-some-odd years that Japan has been exporting automobiles to the U.S., most have been of the reliable, sensible-shoes variety. There have been very few "icons" -- cars that transcend basic transportation, eliciting a strong emotional connection that resonates for decades. The Nissan Z car is one of those few and the first to show up on American shores. Although various numbers have appeared in front of that Z (plus the occasional X on the back end) as the engine displacement rose, each Z car has been a top performance choice among contemporary sports cars. The 2009 Nissan 370Z carries on this tradition while raising the bar for all sport coupes.
There are clear visual ties between the 370Z and its successful 350Z predecessor (which continues on this year as a convertible only), but from the ground up, every aspect of the Z has been revisited, redesigned or re-engineered to create a more finely polished performance machine. The wheelbase has shrunk and the rear track widened, while 95 pounds have been trimmed from its waistline. Not only does this pay dynamic dividends, but the car now looks trimmer, too. Torsional and bending rigidity have been increased, yet the old structural crossmember that used to eat up valuable cargo space has been relocated out of the way. All of this plus revised suspension tuning results in a car that feels more premium and grown up.
The engine has grown up as well. As its larger number for 2009 suggests, the 370Z boasts a bigger engine, one it shares with Infiniti's G37. This 3.7-liter V6 is basically a larger version of the outgoing engine, with variable valve timing, variable valve lift and a redline of 7,500 rpm. Its 332 horsepower is actually 17 more hp than in the 2010 V8-powered (and heavier) Mustang GT.
On the inside, the new Z benefits from a revised interior that's higher in quality than before. There's less hard plastic, easier-to-read gauges (yes, they still move with the tilt action of the steering wheel) and even a proper glovebox. The Touring trim level continues this year, with upscale features such as leather seating, Bluetooth and a hard-drive-based navigation system with music storage capability.
If there's one area where the 370Z inherently struggles, it's practicality. Even with the newly inverted rear brace, the cargo area remains on the small side, and with only two seats, you'll rarely be called on to be the designated driver (perhaps that's a good thing). If you need additional space, the BMW 1 Series, Infiniti G37 and Mazda RX-8 are smart alternatives, while the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the new batch of 2010 American muscle cars (Camaro, Challenger, Mustang) may also be worth a look. However, if you can work around its size limitations, the 2009 Nissan 370Z delivers abundant power, strong brakes, world-class handling, a comfortable ride, a pleasant interior, an ample features list and a reasonable price. That's what we call a winner -- and another Japanese automotive icon.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Nissan 370Z is only available in a two-seat coupe body style with base and Touring trim levels. The convertible roadster version retains the 350Z name and body style.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, performance summer tires, cruise control, keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control, an eight-way manual driver seat and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
The 370Z Touring adds leather and faux suede upholstery, power seat adjustments, heated seats, a rear cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and an upgraded Bose stereo with six speakers, two subwoofers, an in-dash six-CD/MP3 changer and satellite radio.
Optional on both 370Z models is a sport package that adds 19-inch wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, upgraded brakes, front and rear spoilers and the downshift rev-matching SynchroRev Match feature for manual-equipped cars. Optional on the Touring is a navigation package that includes a navigation system, real-time traffic, a 7-inch screen, voice recognition, digital music storage (9.3GB), an auxiliary audio/video jack and an iPod interface.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 370Z is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 good for 332 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and when equipped with the sport package includes SynchroRev Match.
This feature automatically blips the throttle during downshifts, eliminating the need to heel-and-toe downshift. A seven-speed automatic transmission is optional and includes manual-shift paddles.
In performance testing, the 370Z went from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. It also stopped from 60 mph in 101 feet, which is about the same as that of the outlandish Nissan GT-R supercar. Nissan estimates the car's fuel economy at 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Nissan 370Z includes side torso and head curtain airbags, traction control, stability control and active head restraints.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior was probably the old 350Z's low point: a dour den of cheap black plastic with limited storage capacity. The 2009 370Z features the same basic look with equally intuitive controls, but materials are greatly improved and in line with the rest of Nissan's pricier offerings.
The driving position is now friendlier for tall folks even though there's still no telescoping feature for the steering wheel. The instrument pod continues to tilt along with the wheel, though the gauges tend to reflect off the windshield.
Storage has also been enhanced, thanks to a traditional glovebox (the old car only had a bin behind the passenger seat) and a cargo area that's no longer intruded on by a large structural brace. You can now actually fit a suitcase in a Z car. However, there's a rather nasty right-rear blind spot to contend with.
You don't have to be a magician to utilize the 370Z's extra dimension of performance, which is truly thrilling. As before, the VQ-Series V6 performs with even more gusto than you'd expect. However, one gets the feeling that it's stretched to its limits, as vibration grows disturbingly intense the closer you get to the engine's 7,500-rpm redline. Though the six-speed manual transmission is the obvious enthusiast's choice -- especially considering the trick new downshift rev-match function -- this year's new seven-speed automatic is similarly impressive for its quick shifts and rev-matching ability.
On the road, the 2009 Nissan 370Z provides unrelenting contact and razor-sharp control, and yet it's also easy to drive and generally makes you feel like a better driver. Gone is the stiff-legged feel of the 350's suspension, replaced by a ride that's almost European in its ability to be supple without mucking up the handling. However, the sport package's 19-inch wheel-and-tire combo, which admittedly provides seriously tenacious grip, can get awfully noisy, especially on concrete highway slabs. If there's not a lot of aggressive driving on your docket, we'd suggest skipping the sport package and sticking with the standard 18s.