Monday June 28
In this business it takes effort to avoid pigeon-holing buyers of certain cars. You know the stereotypes: hairdressers buy convertibles, high-powered business men have to have a big BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi and yummy mummies like their large SUVs. Sportscars are a little different though. More than any other car they're bought as much by the heart as they are the head, which explains why there's such a wealth of choice, even in these straitened times.
Which brings us to the Nissan 370Z. It's the successor to the 350Z - which is obvious to anyone with sight in their eyes - but it's virtually all-new. Thankfully the core concept is unchanged. A high-powered V6 petrol engine is mounted well back in the chassis and it feeds the rear wheels, while a snug two-seat layout and low-slung seating position define the interior.
Our first glimpse of the car at Nissan's headquarters confirms that it's a stunning looker, even in the relatively subtle 'Twilight Grey' paintwork. The 19-inch forged alloys really stand out as well. Although the 370Z has obviously evolved from the 350Z, the curves have been exaggerated and the surfacing brought up to date, while the new boomerang-style headlights are like no other car's.
Tuesday June 29
The quality of the 370Z's interior is significantly more impressive than that of the 350Z. Gone are the scratchy plastics and in their place are tactile materials covering virtually all surfaces. The instruments still move with the steering wheel, but they're more sophisticated looking than before. We found the seats to be comfortable, but wider drivers may find them a little slim.
Practicality was never a strong point for the 350Z and the 370 isn't much better. There is space for oddments in the cabin, but the boot is small as ever. At least Nissan has relocated the strengthening brace to make loading luggage in and out a little easier, and now there's a blind that automatically opens and closes to cover your belongings.
The Bluetooth system is a cinch to use and the switchgear in general feels good. The storage box above the stereo looks a little strange though, as it's where the optional satnav would sit. Starting the engine is a keyless operation. Press the starter button and the 3.7-litre V6 grumbles into life. It sounds good from the off and really adds to the occasion, even when only ambling around town.
Wednesday June 30
Many car nuts will wonder why Nissan offers the 370Z with an automatic gearbox, but you have to remember that this car's biggest market is the USA and the majority of buyers there - even of sporty cars - prefer a self-shifter. The seven-speed gearbox is a good one though. I'd personally prefer a manual, but the auto is well matched to the 370Z. In fully automatic mode it's keen to drop a ratio and is certainly in keeping with the car's remit. Take over changes for yourself with the tactile paddle shifters behind the steering wheel and gratuitous throttle blips are provided on every down change.
This may seem odd, but the engine sounds better at low to medium revs than it does chasing the redline. I reckon Nissan has engineered the car to transmit the engine and exhaust noise through the body to the cabin too, which is great at lower speeds, but there's a little too much road noise getting in as well.
Thursday July 1
Given that the 370Z rides on wide, ultra low profile tyres and it's a pucker sports car, I didn't expect the chassis to deal with Irish roads too well. It exceeded expectations though. Sure, it's stiff and the ride comfort is best described as 'firm', but the suspension works well and never crashes into potholes. It's well damped too and corners flat and fast with ease.
In the right environment, the 350Z was huge fun to drift and the 370Z retains that characteristic. A limited slip differential is standard, which aids such larking about of course, but also helps the car get its traction down when cornering hard. Keen drivers will love the distinct rear-wheel drive feeling, but a word of warning: even with ESP turned on it can be a little 'lively' in the wet.
Friday July 2
I'm not sure how many buyers of this type of sportscar have very young kids, but one of the first things I look for in a two-seater under test is whether it has a passenger airbag deactivation switch. The 370Z doesn't, but a little research revealed that there is a sensor in the passenger seat and if the weight is below a certain level then the airbag is deactivated automatically. That's really clever, but I personally would still rather have a switch to control it for myself.
Monday July 5
Nissan doesn't expect to sell shiploads of 370Zs to Irish buyers, but it's a very cool halo model to have at the other end of the spectrum to the forthcoming Nissan LEAF. The 370Z also makes an interesting - and cheaper - alternative to the likes of the Porsche Cayman and BMW Z4. Without wishing to pigeonhole anyone, the Nissan is not for those that are buying a car primarily for its appearance; it's much more serious than that.
Nissan 370Z Coupé 3.7 V6 GT Pack automatic:
- Engine: 3,696cc V6 petrol
- Maximum power: 328hp at 7,000rpm
- Maximum torque: 366Nm at 5,200rpm
- Acceleration (0-100km/h): 5.6 seconds
- Max speed: 250km/h
- Fuel economy (combined cycle): 10.4 l/100km
- CO2 emissions: 248g/km
- Motor tax band: G
- Annual road tax: €2,100
- Retail price: €56,795 (excluding delivery related charges). Seven-speed automatic gearbox with paddle-shift is €2,500 extra.