2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe
2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe. Click image to enlarge
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Manufacturer’s website
Nissan Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Nissan 370Z coupe

I admit I’ve become soft. Most sporty cars with manual transmissions are just so easy to drive these days—slick shifters, low-effort clutch pedals, hill-holders, minimal brake pedal effort and easy steering take the worry out of driving a ‘stick’. So when I stepped into a 2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe last week, I was quickly reminded that serious performance cars often come with some uncomfortable compromises. “The clutch pedal is so stiff,” I whined. “What’s with the stiff steering?” “I can’t see out the back window!” “It’s noisy in here!” And on and on. It was embarrassing.

Though I’d been a Miata owner for 12 years, I’d forgotten that most serious sports cars are designed primarily for superior handling and performance at the expense of more practical considerations like ride comfort, driver visibility, trunk space, and interior comfort. In a true sports car, compromise is a dirty word.

2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe
2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe. Click image to enlarge

Not that the 370Z gives up anything in creature comforts: it has heated leather seats, automatic climate control, power windows, Bluetooth hands-free phone, optional navigation, and colour touchscreen. All the modern doo-dads are there.

But in return for its blistering acceleration, superb handling, fantastic brakes, and state-of-the-art engineering, the 370Z driver must endure a stiff ride, overly firm vehicle-speed-sensitive steering, a notchy manual shifter, a rather heavy clutch, a noisy cabin, poor rear visibility, and minimal cargo space.

Clearly, when the 370Z was redesigned in 2009, its designers were focused on handling and performance and everything else was secondary (except maybe styling). The 370Z features a front mid-mounted longitudinally positioned 3.7L V6 engine and six-speed manual transmission (optional seven-speed automatic) and a rear-wheel-drive layout that provide a fairly balanced front/rear weight distribution as well as good lateral stability. Combined with a fully independent and lightweight aluminum alloy suspension (two-link double wishbone in front and four-link aluminum alloy at the rear), front and rear stabilizer bars, front strut tower brace and underbody V-brace that virtually eliminate body flexing, a low centre of gravity, wide track, and low profile 18-inch (optional 19-inch) performance tires, the 370Z is purpose-built to go around corners very, very quickly.

2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe
2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe
2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe
2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe. Click image to enlarge

Out on the open road (or on a race-track), the 370Z Coupe seems glued to the tarmac and exhibits minimal body lean, excellent stability and accurate steering. My test car had the optional Sport Package ($4,000) with 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza summer performance tires—245/40WR-19-inch in front and 275/35WR-19-inch at the rear—which proved superb on dry roads although rather noisy, perhaps due to inadequate cabin insulation (after all, it adds weight!). But as with most rear-wheel-drive sports cars, you have to wonder how it will perform in the winter. With only 46 percent of its weight over the rear wheels, I would be concerned about possible oversteer on wet or icy roads even though the 370Z comes with a standard viscous limited slip rear differential and standard electronic stability control. But that will have to wait for a winter test drive.

Powering the 1,535 kg (3,385 lb) 370Z coupe is a normally aspirated 3.7L DOHC, 24-valve V6 producing 332 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 270 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm. According to Consumer Reports, the 370Z Coupe can zip from 0 to 96 km/h (60 mph) in just 5.3 seconds, but I was more impressed with the engine’s low-speed torque, which allowed it to accelerate up hills in fifth or sixth gear, and rarely required bringing the engine up to its 7,500 rpm redline. In fact, the engine sounds quite thrashy above 4,000 rpm and is not exactly a free-revving powerplant. Cruising on the freeway, the engine settles down to a sporty burble turning over just 2,400 rpm at 100 km/h in sixth gear. But tire and road noise can be intrusive, depending on the road surface.

Fuel consumption is estimated at 11.6 L/100 km city and 7.7 L/100 km highway with the manual transmission (11.1/7.5 city/hwy automatic). My average fuel consumption readout was showing 13.3 L/100 km.

The standard six-speed close-ratio manual shifter has short, deliberate throws that feel notchy and firm, while the clutch pedal requires a stiff push to disengage. Nissan’s unique Syncro-rev Match (part of the Sport Package) feature helps smooth out shifts, up or down, by matching engine revs to the speed of the next gear position. I found this helpful in spirited driving but not really an advantage in city traffic. A button next to the shift lever turns it on or off.

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