I admit that I had doubts about this specific setup: A $47K, loaded to the gills 370Z Touring with the tech-focused sport packaged as well as a nav-entertainment center that turn the Z into a near-luxury roadster. Is there any fun is left? Let's find out.
The Z has a huge fan base and many will buy the 370Z for the very same reasons why others buy a Corvette. You know about its flaws and you don't buy this car because of the desire of perfection. You buy it because of its heritage and its very specific talents. One of the traits of the Z has always been its value proposition - not entirely cheap, but very much in the price range of the mainstream sports car buyer.
However, our tester was clearly exploring how much Z buyers are willing to pay. You can get into a Z for a little more than $31,000, but the roadster starts at a lofty $41,000. Our black cherry 370Z (which appears to be purple from most angles) came with the $2150 nav package to fill the awkward hole in the dash, a $2820 sport package with a 6-speed manual transmission, Nissan's rev matching tech as well as 19-inch wheels (245/40 in the front, 275/35 in the back), and $580 Nismo brake pads. The bottom line: $47,370, including a $750 destination charge. At that level, you may be cross-shopping the Z with a Porsche Boxster and it is difficult to justify the price tag, which, by the way, can top $55,000, if you dip into the options department even further.
Of course, you don't have the same raw power on tap in the Porsche. The 370Z is driven by a 332 hp V6 that develops 270 lb-ft of torque at 5200 RPM. Nissan offers a sport exhaust that provides 5 more horsepower for $1800. The engine took our Z from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds and in 13.5 seconds at 101.9 mph through the quarter mile. There is serious punch in the Z, but it is not the straight line performance that makes the 370Z so enjoyable to drive, it is the way it delivers its power to the road, especially on those twisty roads that lead you through mountain ranges.
The sport package comes with a fantastic rev matching technology called Synchro Rev Match that is tied to the 6-speed manual transmission. Activated with an "S" button next to the shifter, the tech supports especially downshifts and matches the rev to your speed. As you take the car through corners, you get the maximum torque of the car right away and can focus to the corner rather than attempting to match the rev yourself. It is addicting to use this feature in corners as well as overtaking slower cars. The rev matching fits the character of the 370Z well and is worth the rather painful $2820 investment. Combined with the 332 hp V6, there is never the impression that there is not enough acceleration power available.
Taking the Z to its edge is fairly easy, as it will let you know very quickly when it's time to pull back. The direct steering and its moody rear end communicate instantly and unmistakably when the driver crosses the Z's limit. As long as you communicate back to the car and have your throttle and steering under control, it will behave and not embarrass you. If you go beyond its limit, the Z will require an experienced driver to get it back on track - which makes it an extremely enjoyable car to drive. The suspension is still very firm, but not as punishing as the setup in the 350Z.
Much has been written about the wimpy engine sound of the car. Of course, it doesn't make the muscular sound of a V8, but it is really a matter of taste in the end. I personally enjoy the more athletic V6 sound that is closer to the whine of a Formula 1 car than the rather obscene tune you can get out of a big V8. The volume is much more subdued than what you get in a Camaro or Corvette, but it is similarly addicting at high RPMs and, if you really want to, attract some attention from others. By the way, there was never a lack attention, which, however, appeared to be due to the shape and color of the car and not because of the exhaust sounds.
On the inside, the driver get a mix of near-luxurious materials (including supportive leather seats) as well as some hard plastics that easily scratch. The center dash is dominated by the nav-entertainment system, which I recommend as a purchase for the 370Z. Nissan's navigation packages are among the best on the road today and the integration in the 370Z is not only optically appealing, but also compelling because of its high-resolution screen and user interface. The resistive touchscreen is complemented with traditional user controls.
The system provides access to hands-free phone connectivity, fuel economy analysis, weather and traffic information, maintenance-related data such as oil, oil filter and tire information/reminders. The resolution graphics quality of the screen is among the highest that is available on the automotive market today. The package, of course, lacks luxury level features such as Internet access. However, you wouldn't expect such functionality in this car anyway.
It's difficult not to fall in love with this roadster, in this particular equipment level, as it bridges everyday appeal with enthusiast driving in a very unique way. Personally, I'd take it over a GT-R anyday. In a performance view, it is almost impossible for the average driver to exploit the capabilities of the GT-R, as even the 370Z is much more capable to deliver what the average driver may be able experience. As a tech-loaded roadster, the 370Z is one of those examples where technology actually adds to the driving experience and does not dilute it.