Nissan 370Z MY18: Driven

In the 15 years since Nissan brought a Z-car back to the UK - after an absence of nearly as long - there have been just two models: the 370Z as you see here, and its 350Z predecessor. Given the rapid rate of progress in the 21st century automotive world, to have a pair of such similar cars on sale for so long looks brave. Since 2003 the 350 and 370 have most certainly found their fans in Britain, as well as those less keen on their Japanese muscle car approach, but there's no denying the established presence of both in our sports car landscape. As the Mazda RX-8, BMW Z4 Coupe and Vauxhall Monaro have fallen by the wayside, so the V6 Nissan has soldiered on. What the future holds for Nissan's Z family remains unclear, though one thing is for certain: any replacement for this car will be significantly different to both it and the original 350.

Because, let's face it, cars a with large, naturally aspirated V6, manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive are not long for this world. The 2018 model year may have introduced a new clutch to the 370 (as well as this jazzy red paint and wheel design), but fundamentally the package has remained the same since its introduction in the previous decade: 328hp, 3.7-litre V6, six-speed manual gearbox, somewhere around 1,500kg and 155mph, passing 62mph after 5.3 seconds. In 2018 it looks about as modern as a PlayStation 2: potentially still quite enjoyable years after launch, but with a suspicion that newer tech would be more fun. Or could it be that the Zed now represents the traditional, authentic sports car experience that so many crave?

The engine frankly feels a bit daft in a contemporary context, and the better for it actually. This V6 is just 103cc smaller than the V8 you'll find in McLaren's Sport Series cars, it's more than twice the size of the four-cylinders in the Alfa 4C and Alpine A110 and it's a full 1.8-litres - or an entry-level Audi TT - larger than a Porsche 718's flat-four. Madness.

And yet, because they all rely on turbocharging, to embrace the Nissan's naturally aspirated throttle response, linearity and predictability is as welcoming as the comfy seat in front of your Nan's fire. It's as simple, as pleasing and as rewarding as it was 15 years ago, and will most likely continue to be, even as so much of the rest of the world changes. That capacity means the Zed will haul from barely any revs at all, power building and building with real intent beyond the naughty side of 7,000rpm. There's no delay, no spike of boost and no sense of everything being in the mid-range - modern turbos are good, but there's still a lot to be said for an atmospheric engine in a sports car.

It even sounds better than 370s of old, the noise now more turbo-less GT-R rather than the strangled Murano it once resembled. The six-speed gearbox is good enough without being remarkable, and that new clutch has probably made the process a little less recalcitrant. Or it might not have. Funny how being told something is new will convince you of an improvement.

The 370's has never been the most inspiring of powertrains, but heck does it remain potent. Even with gears longer than ideal the car romps along the road, pulling hard through every gear and every rev. Indeed on A-roads or larger B-roads the Nissan is entirely pleasant company as you revel in that pace, heel-and-toe your own downshifts (or use the very smart rev-match system), feel a bit of rear-wheel drive-ness on the exit of bends and generally embrace a more simple sports car approach. Traction control is on or off, the rev match is on or off and, well, that's about your lot.

The trouble comes, as anyone who has followed the 370Z's history will know, when you actually attempt to drive it like a sports car. For something with such a promising basic formula, the end result remains underwhelming as a driver's car. And for those citing weight as a reason, its kerbweight is comparable to an Alfa Giulia. Or a 911. Or a Focus RS, even.

When pushed the Z feels clumsy, vague and a bit scrappy, the body control that felt acceptable at lower speeds becoming loose and unsettling. Even with the traction control off something still intervenes which, when combined with the erratic behaviour of the limited-slip diff - which doesn't always seem that keen on locking - can make cornering a disjointed, awkward, unpleasant experience. It never feels entirely in control of itself when you want to drive more quickly, which inevitably means you back off and revert to that more relaxed gait where both car and driver feel more comfortable.

A lack of focus should be a frustrating irk, if not a critical issue, for the 370Z, but there's a bigger concern beyond the problems it creates for itself: the rivals on offer at the same money. If you want to just go fast in something rare that doesn't look like anything else, a V8 Ford Mustang is now available in right-hand drive. A GT86 may look puny by comparison but it's tangibly more enjoyable to drive. Hot hatches are more capable than they've ever been. These are all competitors that just didn't exist in 2009, and all expose weaknesses in the 370Z package somewhere - even allowing for the discounts from list price that will be on offer.

Yet, despite its problems - don't forget this is a one-star car for the judging panel at What Car? - there's a boisterousness and a charm that makes the 370Z quite likeable. It always has been a bit of a bruiser and will continue to be so until the day it dies, whatever piecemeal tweaks are thrown at it. However, as has surely been discussed numerous times, if every car set out to achieve the same objective then the automotive world would be far duller. This one could never be mistaken for anything other than a 370Z, and diversity in the face of continued conformity to a dreary norm should be celebrated. If another Zed car can retain this one's slightly coarse appeal, while introducing a level of dynamism that could broaden its audience, then the future will be bright for Nissan's iconic badge.

Inspired? Search for a used Nissan 370 in the classifieds

NISSAN 370Z MY18 - Specifications
Engine 3,696cc, V6
Transmission 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp) 328@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft) 268@5,200rpm
0-62mph 5.3 sec
Top speed 155mph
Weight 1,496kg
MPG 26.6
CO2 248g/km
Price £34,285( as tested £34,860 comprising £575 for Infra Red metallic paint)

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (123) Join the discussion on the forum

  • David87 13 Mar 2018

    An odd car, the 370Z. I always preferred the earlier 350Z and by the amount of each I see on the road even now, the sales figures would seem to agree.

  • cerb4.5lee 13 Mar 2018

    Always liked these and I really enjoyed the test drive I had in a 350z, fair play to Nissan for sticking with it for so long because it certainly is an odd ball in this day and age.

  • richs2891 13 Mar 2018

    Have to agree with OP, its an odd car, its one I would have though I would like to own / drive, as it has got all the basic bits, manual, RWD, large capacity engine. Had both 350 and 370 on an extended test but both models I have though where just nothing special at all. Shame really.

  • goldstar500 13 Mar 2018

    I have been looking at a cheap weekend fun car and a 2011 plate for approx £10-£11k is in my mind a bit of a bargain but £30k+ for a new one is more than i would want to pay.

    I prefer the looks of the 370z over the 350z and with my 928s now sold i have a large engine coupe sized hole in my garage,just waiting for something local and mint to pop up..

    Only ever had a rush test drive a few years ago but i am a fan..

  • Summit_Detailing 13 Mar 2018

    Who knew Nissan still made/sold these!?

    The competition has moved on significantly and this has has been left behind in my eyes.

    I can't remember the last time I saw one on the road, it would be interesting to see how many were registered last year compared to its rivals.


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