By: Lee Bailie Special to the Star
When I was a teenager, the car of my dreams was a bit different from the Mustang/Corvette/Porsche triumvirate many of my (mostly male) peers lusted after.
Sure, those cars were great. I wouldn't turn one down, as but what really got my blood pumping wasn't American muscle or German precision - it was the Nissan 300ZX (a.k.a. the Z32), a descendant of the 240Z from the early 1970s.
It was my super cool aspirational car. I loved everything about it: the sleek styling, the impressive power output (of the turbo, not the base 300ZX) and the fact that it was relatively rare. The scarcity just made me want it more.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance to even drive a 300ZX, much less own one.
However, I was able to get my hands on its descendant recently, the 2016 Nissan 370Z, and a lot of those memories came flooding back. Not the same car, I realize, but it was nice to finally drive a Z car.
For 2016, Nissan Canada elected to drop the price of the entry level 370Z by $10,000 from the 2015 edition. The base model (also known as the Coupe Enthusiast Edition) now starts at just $29,998, a move that has put a charge into its sales. For the year to date through Aug. 31, 370Z sales are up a whopping 57 per cent through the same period in 2014. In August alone, sales more than doubled over the same month last year.
It may be a bit hard to believe, but the current iteration of the Z car is actually pretty old. Introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2008 as a 2009 model, the 370Z hasn't changed a whole lot in the intervening years.
Although it may be getting a bit long in the tooth, it has aged well on the outside. The car's compact, low slung and rather squat proportions still look fresh after seven years. The bulging fenders, slim notch headlamps and twin exhaust outlets project a familiar Z-car look that's both inviting, yet retains a hint of menace.
Despite some much-appreciated price adjusting, Nissan has wisely left the mechanicals of the 370Z alone. That means it's still a rear-wheel drive platform with a 3.7-litre, 24-valve, V6 engine, mated to a six-speed manual transmission (an optional seven-speed automatic is also available). Keeping the wheels in contact with the pavement is a double wishbone suspension up front with an independent multi-link setup in the rear.
It's a package that still delivers the goods. The V6 produces 332 horsepower at 7,000 r.p.m., with 270 pound-feet torque at 5,200 r.p.m., which can hustle the 1,493 kilogram 370Z to 100 km/h from rest in just six seconds.
Adding to the performance oomph on the 2016 are 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels wrapped in Yokohama ADVAN Sport summer performance tires.
On the inside, the base 370Z comes pretty well-stocked. Standard features include a push-button starter, automatic climate control, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and the usual stuff, including cruise control, power windows and door locks and keyless entry.
On the road, the 370Z feels like it's in a permanent ready-to-launch state. Even a modest pressing of the accelerator will pin your back to the driver's seat. That, and a couple of quick shifts, will have you exceeding posted speed limits in no time flat.
That said, I found the 370Z's sharp reflexes to make the car a blast to drive. The clutch/shifter relationship is a good one, with smooth engagement that allows one to snick through the gears with relative ease.
The ride is pretty stiff, but when a car sits as low to the ground as this one does, and rides on 18-inch wheels and summer tires that are there for the benefit of performance rather than comfort, bumps and road imperfections are going to feel more pronounced. That's just the way it is. With that said, it is far from intolerable.
Same goes for cabin noise. It is pronounced, but it wasn't any worse than other performance cars I've driven recently. You'll hear more engine and tire noise, compared to an average family sedan, but then again, the average family sedan isn't built for performance.
My week with the 370Z was an enjoyable one. It's great to drive, and for a price that undercuts many V6-powered family sedans. It's hard to go wrong if you're in the market for a bona fide, rear-wheel drive performance coupe.
Nits to pick? A few.
The interior, while spacious, feels a bit old. The instrument panel graphics look dated, as does the accompanying bright, orange backlighting. Keeping the MSRP low has also resulted in some interior trim materials that look and feel a bit cheap. Not the worst I've seen, but not great either. If I had a wish list for this car, a telescopic steering column would be on it.
Oh, and the trunk release is far more convoluted than it needs to be. My advice to Nissan: Just put a release button on the key fob. Problem solved.
As I said, these are nitpicky things that don't detract from the Z's overall value proposition, which is excellent.
If you're in the market for a great looking, fun-to-drive performance coupe that won't break the bank and delivers great value, the 370Z should definitely be on your shopping list.