Posted: November 10, 2009

Executive Wheels: I wanted to love this 370Z

Everybody else did -- but they weren't driving it

Jeff Rundles

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2009 NISSAN 370Z Coupe

When I was younger, I would salivate when I found out I was going to drive a sports car, a roadster, for my auto-reviewing duties. Like most young men, a two-seater, a stick shift and plenty of horsepower for a car that size got the blood boiling - and, of course, one would hope it would boil the blood of a female willing to go for a ride. Any little bit helps.

Now, of course, I'm a family man and have a need for more seating and less of a need to impress females. But I'm happy to report two significant things about the Nissan 370Z: First, every young man I came across during my test-drive looked at it much the same way I did back in the day; and, Second, the car generated much excitement with females young and older. I think truly it made me look younger.

That may be the best thing I can say about the car.

Oh, it's beautiful. Very Porsche-like in appearance, everyone said. And it feels cool in your hands. The driving is fun, the responsiveness impressive.

This was a 2009 370Z, a redesign of the 2008 model. Nissan has a 2010 370Z roadster out, the convertible, and it represents the same redesign as the 2009 coupe, so the 2010 coupe will undoubtedly be the same. The 2009 roadster was a 350Z, with 306 hp, and the new 2010 version, as a 332 hp 370, is actually priced less: in 2009 the base price for the base model was $36,870; the new improved one is $36,970.

The 370Z is the 6th generation of the venerable Z car from Nissan (it was Datsun until the late 1970s), a line that began in 1970 with the famous 240Z. This new one replaced the 350Z which many reviewers, me included, thought lacked muscle at 306 hp. Here in the 370 the hp goes to 332, in a 3.7-lter V6, and there is plenty of muscle.

This car is fun to drive, garners an unbelievable amount of attention from the public (mine was bright yellow), and by all rights should be considered an outstanding car. There are many outstanding things about it - look, performance, handling.

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And the price is outstanding, too: I drove the base model coupe, which carries a MSRP of $29,930. They added on the yellow paint for $300, carpeted floor mats for $115, and for $3,000 you get the sport package: SynchroRev Match 6-speed manual transmission, viscous limited slip differential, 19" RAYS forged wheels, front and rear spoiler, and Nissan Sport Brakes. So the bottom line, with $695 in destination charges, is $34,240 - which in the world of two-seat sports cars is a great price.

When I first got into the car at my office, I drove for about two miles through some residential streets at relatively low speeds, and I was feeling quite spunky, if not a little annoyed that I couldn't really let it out. I was impressed. The car felt great. Then I hit University Boulevard where the speeds rose, and I kept having to turn the radio up to hear it. This is, without question, the noisiest car I have been in for a long time. The road noise is stifling, a deal breaker.

I've had this same problem with other Nissan/Infiniti products over the last several years - very high road noise. I drove an Altima early this year and it was quiet, so I thought perhaps Nissan had addressed the issue. But not in this Z. In doing some research, I found out that this car has a lot of aluminum in it, to save weight, and I believe the all-aluminum hood and hatch back contribute to the noise problem.

Plus that rear hatch never seemed to close quite right; it could just have been this particular car, and not a design flaw, but given that other Nissans I have driven have had noise problems, I'm going with the design flaw theory. Really - this noise problem is terrible; when you get it out on the highway you can forget listening to the sound system at all. The noise sucked out all of the fun.

There were other nagging design issues as well. Seeing as this is a two-seat car, storage is at a premium, and they placed a smallish console compartment in between the seats. But it's too far back for easy use because of the parking brake lever and the gear shift mechanism. Plus, every time I got into the car - every time - I opened this storage compartment by accident with my elbow. It's also an arm rest, of course, and the button to open it fell just where my elbow landed. Very annoying all around.

I really wanted a car this cool looking to be, well cool. It's not. From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Nissan took a break from producing the Z, placing it on "hiatus." They need to do that again, and come out with a car that matches its look. This car, as they might say in Texas, is all hat and too few cattle.

What a shame.

RATING: One and ½ wheels (out of four).

 

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Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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