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Old fashioned muscle!

Old fashioned muscle!

Nissan’s modernisation of its 370Z Coupé does little to dispel perceptions that the derivative remains true to its sports car roots. Wynter Murdoch reports.

The allure of Nissan’s 370Z has little to do with how it reflects the shape of sports cars to come – but more in how well it represents an automotive era that’s fast being superseded.

That’s my view of the latest version of a model whose credentials date back to 1969, when the first of its forerunners – the Datsun 240Z – staked its claim to being a top choice in the performance car sector.

Japan’s E-Type, it was called – and Nissan’s recent facelift of the latter-day counterpart does little to dispel perceptions that the 370Z Coupé remains true to the founding father’s sports car roots. Inevitably, the model also closely resembles another of its forerunners, the much-vaunted 350Z – which was introduced in 2003 – and from which it takes many of its proportions and styling cues.

 

Those kinds of pedigreed reminders are apparent in many areas of the car’s design – not least beneath the bonnet. In an age that has seen the introduction of downsized, turbocharged engines across the motoring spectrum, Nissan has stuck to some old-fashioned sports car tenets and retained a naturally-aspirated V6 to power the model. 

The unit is capable of producing 245kW and 363Nm, giving the coupé a power to weight ratio of around 167kW per ton – about 11kW per ton more than that of one of its major rivals, Porsche’s 718 Cayman, which is propelled by a four-cylinder, turbocharged, 2,0-litre engine.

 

Equally, the gearbox employed on the test model – a six-speed, close ratio, manual shifter – emulates that of sports models of the past in terms of its short-throw action though, it must be said, a seven-speed auto ’box with manual sequential shift is available as an option.

Steering is of the traditional, speed variable, hydraulic power assisted type, with suspension at the front by way of double wishbones and a beefy stabiliser bar and, at the rear, a multi-link system. The clutch has been developed in partnership with high performance brand Exedy, while the differential is of the limited slip variety. 

Though the focus of Nissan’s engineers in developing the car’s sporty appeal appears to have been to adhere as much as possible to tried-and-tested tech, the model doesn’t eschew state-of-the-art alternatives – or lack refinement.

 

In order to reduce the vehicle’s weight, for instance, aluminium has been used for suspension components, bonnet, rear lid and doors, while the driveshaft and radiator housing have been fashioned from carbon-fibre.  

 

In addition, the V6 features an aluminium alloy block and head – along with variable valve timing, lift and sequential multi-port fuel injection – while the gearbox incorporates a  synchro-rev function which automatically blimps the engine on downshifts.

Fine-tuning has been paramount in a number of other areas, too, notably in reducing noise, vibration and harshness in the cabin and improving ride comfort. Even the exterior mirror design has been aerodynamically shaped to help to reduce the amount of wind noise.    

 

 

Styling upgrades include metal chrome door handles and a black rear bumper fascia. Dark-tinted headlamps and rear combination lights are now standard features, along with 19-inch Rays alloy wheels.

Breathing for the engine has been improved thanks to a larger grille, while the long bonnet retains its distinctive power bulges. Large wheel arches front and rear help to reinforce the old-school, muscle car look, aided by chrome tipped exhausts which protrude from the back.

Inside the two-seat cockpit, the classic Z-car look has been preserved. Ahead of the driver the three-spoke steering wheel fronts three circular gauges – a large rev counter placed centrally.

 

 

Supplementary gauges which offer a variety of performance information have been mounted on the dash above the centre console and, beneath them, Nissan has incorporated a seven-inch touch screen for the infotainment system, which includes satellite navigation, radio and DVD player and rear-view camera. 

The seating position is low slung and, despite the fact that the steering wheel is adjustable for rake only, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. Controls are within easy reach and the clarity of instruments is impressive.

Optimum weight distribution coupled with firm but refined suspension combine to deliver good ride quality – though tyre roar over rough tarmac remains intrusive. Performance is excellent, the 370Z remaining one of the quickest cars you can buy at the price. Nissan claims a 5,3 second time for the zero to 100km/k sprint, with top speed limited to 250km/h.

Though the vehicle is exciting to drive fast it is equally at home in traffic, the clutch action light and the V6 pulling strongly from low in the rev range. At slow speeds the engine note is muted, the steering light and the brakes easy to modulate.

 

Open the throttle on a twisty mountain pass, however, and the 370Z provides all of the thrills – and much of the dynamic ability – you could possibly want from a front-engined, rear-drive sports car.

Priced at R676 900 – which includes a three-year, 90,000km service plan and a six-year/150,000km warranty – it’s my view this car will offer good value to anyone who enjoys driving.


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