MOTORING

Nissan 370Z Coupé: Old-school – and all the better for it

By Deon Schoeman 18 May 2018

Nissan 370Z Coupé

It might not be the fanciest, the sleekest or the most advanced. But as sports cars go, the Nissan 370Z still delivers the right stuff. And it all starts with the rumble of a big V6...

The thrill starts when you push the start button. It invokes a guttural growl that crescendos into a gleeful roar every time you prod the loud pedal.

You’re settled comfortably into a form-hugging, bolstered bucket seat, staring at a trio of recessed dials framed by a grippy, thick-rimmed steering wheel. The rev counter takes centre stage – where it belongs – and it’s red-lined at 7,500rpm.

To your left, a stubby gearshift lever jutting invitingly from the high transmission tunnel confirms that this is a manual-gearbox car, while the centre stack has so many buttons, switches and controllers – and a touchscreen – that it’s more reminiscent of an aircraft’s flight deck than a car dashboard.

Three smaller gauges angled at the driver are centrally perched above the touchscreen, and comprise a digital clock, a volt meter and an oil temperature gauge. The cockpit is finished in a mix of charcoal, aluminium and faux metal, augmented by alloy-trimmed pedals and red instrument needles.

A glance over your shoulder confirms that this is a strictly two-seater machine – what little space there is behind the two seats is restricted by a thick brace bar designed to increase overall rigidity in the interests of improved chassis response.

Accommodation for driver and passenger is best described as cosy: those high-backed bucket seats take up a lot of space. If you’re tall or fairly corpulent, things might get a little too snug.

As for ergonomics, all that switchgear takes some getting used to: it takes a while before accessing the right button for the desired function can be instinctively located. Some of the key controls are conveniently located on the multifunction steering wheel, though.

Talking of which, the driving position is compromised by the steering wheel’s limited adjustment scope: only the rake can be altered, meaning that for some, the helm will always feel that little bit too far away, or the foot well will seem too shallow.

Equipment levels are full house, ranging from electric windows and heated seats to climate control, and a touchscreen-driven infotainment system that includes Bose-powered audio, Bluetooth and satnav. There’s a long list of safety gear, too.

But let’s get back to that lusty V6 now burbling contentedly under the bonnet. It flies against the current trend of smaller-capacity, turbocharged design, proving that there is something to be said for the bigger-is-better approach.

Those six cylinders use a combined capacity of 3.7 litres to deliver 245kW of muscle – ample, but old-school inefficient compared to the 300kW or so being wrung from smaller turbo engines these days. The torque tally peaks at a useful 363Nm.

Sticking with the traditional sports car theme, the front-mounted engine sends its urge to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. No comforting, driver-flattering all-wheel drive here: it’s up to the pilot to dictate just how much power is channelled to those fat rear tyres – and to live with the consequences.

For those who don’t treat the loud pedal with enough reverence, some assistance is provided by the standard viscous limited slip differential, which boosts traction and addresses wheelspin. Electronic stability control provides an additional safety net.

But frankly, the Nissan 370Z is not about safety nets, advanced electronics, or cutting-edge technology – nor about efficiency, low fuel consumption and eco-friendly emissions. It’s all about the thrill of driving.

The clutch action is meaty enough to make you think something’s broken, and to give your left leg a decent workout. The steering, while power-assisted, has a reassuringly analogue heft, courtesy of an hydraulic system as opposed to the over-assisted electric power steering that has become the modern-day norm.

The throttle action has a longer travel than expected, almost demanding you bury the pedal against the firewall. Even the short and chunky gearshift action requires a certain level of effort and commitment, further nurturing the necessary rapport between man and machine.

Once on the move, it all starts making sense, accompanied by a soundtrack that’s one of the best in the business. If you’re old enough to remember the sound of a Nissan Skyline at full chat through a forest rally stage, you’ll recognise the war cry of the 370Z.

It’s a spine-tingling roar that becomes an angry howl as the V6 approaches the red line – and in the 370Z’s cabin, you can hear and feel the fury as the car ruthlessly gathers momentum.

The Nissan doesn’t deliver the instant, punch-in-the-chest acceleration you’ve come to expect from turbo cars. Instead, its progress is a relentless, sustained accrual of speed that only lets up at the very top end of the rev range, and then only until you’ve swapped cogs, and resumed the chase.

The 370Z is by no means slow. It will sprint to the benchmark 100km/h in just more than 5sec, and reaches the 250km/h limiter with loads of enthusiasm to spare.

Swap straights for twisties, and you’ll find the 370Z wieldier than expected. It’s still not surgically precise from apex to apex, and there’s always a sense of the rear wanting to break free – at least until the electronics intervene.

But the direct dialogue between chassis and driver means you feel as much as steer the coupé through corners. That rear-axle waywardness not only adds character to the Z, but also injects some non-PC excitement into a motoring world where toeing the line is expected, even demanded.

The 370Z scoffs at such nonsense, and delivers seat-of-the-pants driving fun with abundant glee.

That same irreverence is expressed by an exterior that is bold and muscular and in your face. The shape hasn’t changed much over the 16-year lifespan of the car: it’s still a head-turner, linking that long, prowling nose to broad, muscular haunches, a tar-crouching stance and wide tracks.

Big 19-inch alloys fill the wheel arches to the brim, while showcasing the large disc brakes and crimson callipers lurking behind the slim spokes. The design is aggressive but also harmonious, expressing classic sports car lines that have stood the test of time well.

Some might feel that the rounded rear looks too podgy from some angles, that the roofline’s slope is too acute, or that the twin exhausts could have been housed more elegantly. But the overall effect is individual, aesthetically arresting, and unmistakably 370Z.

This latest version gains some basic embellishments, including metallic door handles, a black-finished diffuser and revised headlight housings. But the essentials have remained the same – and rightly so.

No wonder the Nissan 370Z is a cult car, a sports coupé that swims upstream in so many ways, and is all the more appealing for it. It’s a reminder of what real sports cars should be like – raw, visceral, exciting – and just why old-school can be better, after all. DM

PROS

As raw and visceral as a real sports car should be

CONS

Too raw and visceral for some

VITAL STATS

Nissan 370Z Coupé Manual

Engine

3 696cc V6

Power

245kW @ 7,000rpm

Torque

363Nm @ 5,200rpm

Power-to-weight ratio

167.69 kW/ton

Gearbox

Six-speed manual, RWD

Wheels/tyres

19-inch alloy, 245/40 (f) 275/35 (r) R19 tyres

0-100 km/h

5.3sec

Top speed

250km/h (limited)

Fuel tank capacity

72 litres

Fuel consumption (claimed)

10.5 litres/100km

Operating range (claimed/tested)

685km

CO2 emissions

248 g/km

Retail price

R684,900

Gallery

While we have your attention...

An increasingly rare commodity, quality independent journalism costs money - though not nearly as much as its absence.

Every article, every day, is our contribution to Defending Truth in South Africa. If you would like to join us on this mission, you could do much worse than support Daily Maverick's quest by becoming a Maverick Insider.

Click here to become a Maverick Insider and get a closer look at the Truth.


THE PLOT OUTPLOTTED?

As internal polls confirm his personal popularity, emboldened Ramaphosa moves to outflank plotters’ cabal

By Ferial Haffajee

There are more skin cancer cases related to tanning beds than there are lung cancer cases to smoking.