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24999 SE Stark Street Troutdale, Oregon 97060 (888) 479-8942
Base Price (MSRP):$29,930.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $33,625.00
2009 Nissan 370Z
View The 2009 Nissan 370Z Specifications
Review by: Barry Winfield
All-new, shorter, wider, faster. 

Model Lineup
The 2009 Nissan 370Z is offered in just two models: the 370Z ($29,930) and the 370Z Touring ($34,460). Currently, it's only available as a coupe.

The standard 370Z is well equipped, and includes the Nissan Intelligent Key with push-button start, power windows with one-touch auto up/down feature, power door locks with auto-lock feature, a center console box with a new non-intrusive cover design, automatic climate control, rear window defroster with timer, two 12-volt power outlets, four cupholders (two in door panels, two in center console), dual overhead map lights and a AM/FM/CD/AUX four-speaker audio system with illuminated steering wheel-mounted controls. It comes with the standard six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters ($31,230).

The 370Z Touring model adds four-way power adjustable heated synthetic suede and leather-appointed sport seats with adjustable lumbar support, a 6CD Bose audio system with eight speakers (includes dual subwoofer) and MP3/WMA playback, XM Satellite Radio (XM subscription required, sold separately), Bluetooth Handsfree Phone System, HomeLink Universal Transceiver and passenger seat map pocket. It comes with the standard six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters ($35,760).

Options are limited to a Sport package and a Navigation package. The Sport package ($3,000) adds 19-inch forged lightweight aluminum-alloy Rays wheels, fitted with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A high-performance radials. Spoilers are fitted fore and aft, and lower the car's drag coefficient from 0.29 to 0.28. Also included with the Sport package are higher-spec brakes with 14-inch front rotors and 13.8-inch rear rotors (versus 12.6/12.1-inch standard rotor sizes) with four-piston front and two-piston rear aluminum calipers. The chassis calibrations are otherwise the same as on the base car.

The Navigation package ($1,850), offers a GPS powered by a hard drive and featuring a touch-screen display. The system includes real-time traffic information from XM NavTraffic, which requires a paid subscription. Also bundled in this option is a 9.3 Gig Music Box hard drive and interface system for iPods and other MP3 players.

Safety features include dual-stage front airbags plus front seat-mounted side-impact supplemental air bags for torso protection and side-curtain airbags for head protection. Active head restraints are also fitted, as are four-wheel tire pressure monitors. Active safety features include anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control.


Walkaround
Now shorter and wider than before, the Nissan 370Z exhibits crisper contours and tighter surface tension on the panels. Front overhang is perhaps still a little long, but it is in the best interests of efficient aerodynamics and, besides, styling that emphasizes the rear-wheel-drive nature of the beast is an important part of the car's image.

Nissan chose to retain the vertical metallic exterior door handle, which is not our favorite feature because it's difficult to grasp, and to echo the rear quarter-window look first seen on the original 240Z. We think that little nod to history has been skillfully adapted. Attractive Z-badged turn signal 2009 Nissan 370Z markers fill the void between the front wheels and the front-door shut line, while vertical bars in the grille opening up front make the car look a little like a feeding manta ray.

The surface of the bodywork is comparatively devoid of bling. Nissan's hamburger logo graces the front end, and a shiny 370Z badge decorates the rump, but it's otherwise tastefully simple.

The Sport model gets Rays wheels with five artfully faceted split spokes, and look terrific peeking from the 370Z's muscular wheel wells. We've only seen the base car's wheels sitting apart from the car, but they don't look bad either.

At the rear, the dual exhaust outlets are tidily integrated with the rear fascia, and so is the rear spoiler when fitted as part of the Sport option. But we think more could have been made of the tail with a diffuser-like lower edge. See what you think.

Although it's not immediately obvious, one of the most telling aspects of the car's body is that the doors, rear hatch and hood are all made from aluminum, obviously in the quest for lower weight. Although the hood of the previous Z was aluminum, it used steel supports. Not in this one. Despite the added strength in the body, Nissan claims a 90-pound weight reduction.


Interior Features
The interior is hugely improved in this sixth generation Z-car, with much richer-looking materials and a design that escapes the low-rent effect of the old 350Z. A high-tech looking steering wheel (shared with the Maxima) is a bold centerpiece in the dash, a large Z gleaming in its center boss. The wheel was skimmed to produce differing thicknesses around its circumference, and tightly clad in solid and perforated leather at the appropriate segments. Buttons stud the beefy spokes for close-at-hand control of the stereo and cruise control.

The instrument panel still moves with the adjustable steering column, and still has a passing resemblance to a motorcycle gauge cluster, but the gauges are large and clear, with a 9000-rpm tachometer sitting dead center. A 180-mph speedometer is set off to the right, and a rather unusual aluminum circle at left contains two rows of LEDs for temperature and fuel level 2009 Nissan 370Z indication.

Naturally, the three auxiliary gauges that have always graced the Z-car's dash top are there, providing the time, oil temperature and battery state of charge. The seats in the new 370Z are larger and more supportive than before, and are of slightly different design right to left. Fittingly, the driver gets more aggressive bolsters than does the passenger.

The inconvenient shock-tower support bar that seriously compromised luggage space in the old car went the way of the shortened midsection, and there is now a cross-car bar directly behind the front seats, where it performs more of a locating role than an obstructive one. Rear luggage space is quite decent now, and the rear hatch provides unimpeded access. The big rear B-pillars produce distinct blind spots, but can be worked around quite well by positioning the large outside mirrors to compensate.

On automatic-transmission equipped cars, alloy shift paddles sprout from the steering column, their rear faces coated with a matt texture for positive finger actuation. In cars with the navigation system, the screen is tidily integrated into the center console, the usual Nissan ATM-like keyboard neatly incorporated at its base.

Along with the improved aesthetics comes rational layout and control function. Operating the stereo system is straightforward, and learning the navigation functions did not require any reference to the manual. The standard four-speaker stereo produces pretty good quality sound, so we expect exceptional performance from the 240-watt Bose unit found in the Touring model, with its six speakers and dual subwoofers though we haven't listened to it.

Access to the car, as with many sport coupes, is a little more difficult than with your average SUV, but the doors open fully and the sills are not unduly wide. For those inclined toward sportier cars, the new interior now compares favorably with cars costing a lot more.


Driving Impressions
The previous 350Z was fun to drive, but this new 370Z is a revelation. Where the 350Z was somewhat truck-like and crude in certain circumstances, this one is much better integrated. One can better appreciate a cohesive sense of control from the wheel, the pedals and the levers. The control relationships just seem better networked, all on the same page.

With the shortened body came increases in torsional rigidity at both ends of the car, and this solidity concentrates the feeling of agreement from all parts of the chassis. It now feels agile rather than brutal, supple rather than rigid, and it is easier to drive as a result.

We only had the Sport model to try out at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park in Nevada, and the car took to the course as if to the manor born. Since the 370Z uses a much-modified version of Nissan's FM platform, we expected some of 2009 Nissan 370Z the tail-happiness we've seen in cars using that chassis. But while we could occasionally provoke a spot of tail-wagging by adding too much power at corner exits, or by turning hard on a trailing throttle, the transition was progressive and easy to read.

For those not practiced at the art of double-clutching and heel-and-toeing, Nissan's SynchroRev system helps out enormously by blipping the throttle on downshifts to match engine speed with rear-axle speed for smooth synchronization.

Unlike true double-clutching, SynchroRev does not first select neutral then rev the engine to the required speed, so the synchronizers are still called upon to help out. You can feel the sensation through the shift lever as the synchros clutch in, and the purists among us would still prefer to do our own legwork. But there's no denying that it's a brilliant idea for most people, and even for purists on occasion.

Nissan's VVEL variable-valve timing systems has endowed the 370Z with a very broad torque spread, so forays to the 7500-rpm redline are not often needed. But when you do venture there, the famous high-rpm hullabaloo and clutch growl we know so well from the VQ-engine series turns back up. But it's hardly there at all at lower engine speeds, and that's another sign of the car's improved manners.

With steering that is weighted just about perfectly for a sportscar, the 370Z steers with great precision, turns in decisively, and will tighten the line even at high lateral-g loadings. There's simply more grip than you first think. And the big brakes as fitted to Sport models work as well as advertised.

Apart from some tire roar on rough surface textures, the ride is surprisingly calm and quiet on the public road for such a close-focused sportscar. The 370Z will undoubtedly make a fine grand tourer, particularly with the standard 18-inch wheels and tires.


Final Word
Improving technology lends a broad operating range to the new Nissan 370Z in every aspect, making it a usable everyday commuter as well as a fun track day car, but 2009 Nissan 370Z the Sport package is nonetheless aimed directly at enthusiasts. As is the unmistakable visual signature. Here's a car that really looks like it's doing 100 mph while parked. Yet its civilized character and affordable price will likely attract one-car singles for all-around motoring activities.

Barry Winfield filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the 370Z Sport at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park in Nevada.

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