2009 Nissan 370Z Touring
2009 Nissan 370Z Touring. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Nissan 370Z

When I first saw the Nissan 370Z in the flesh (at the 2009 Toronto auto show), my first thought was how much its designer drew upon the original, the Datsun 240Z, for inspiration.

Retro is trendy lately, thanks to Ford’s success with the Mustang since its 2005 redesign (and a 2010 refresh). Since then, Chrysler and GM have also gotten into the neo-muscle-car game, with the Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro.

During a recent week-long test drive of the 370Z, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that Nissan’s latest take on its iconic sports car was also an attempt to bring a bit of the original 240Z of the 1970s to the present day.

Designer Randy Rodriguez with the 2009 Nissan 370Z
Designer Randy Rodriguez with the 2009 Nissan 370Z; photo by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge

But does the 370Z’s looks classify it as one of these time-capsule cars? Is this car a shallow attempt to take the iconic Z back to its 1970s heyday? Or is it an honest homage to the original?

Who better to ask, I thought, than the guy who designed it, 32-year-old Surrey, B.C. native, Randy Rodriguez.

“No, the 370Z is not retro,” Rodriguez told me on the phone from his San Diego home. “The Ford GT or Dodge Challenger are retro, because they execute a past design.”

The 370Z, he suggests, simply takes cues from its heritage, with hints from the 240Z and 280Z.

“The 370Z has a stronger connection (than the 350Z) for those who love the older (Z cars),” Rodriguez says. “The older ones are the most pure examples of what the Z embodies, and the 350Z didn’t have enough of that pure heritage.”

2009 Nissan 370Z Touring
2009 Nissan 370Z Touring. Click image to enlarge

Regardless of what this car has that its predecessor lacks, the 370Z never failed to turn heads during the week I drove it. Guys looked at it, many asking, just what is that thing? Girls riding in clapped-out Civics gazed longingly, wishing their boyfriends could afford a real sports car. Or maybe those girls wanted the car for themselves: Rodriguez says many women are attracted to vehicles with a masculine aesthetic, which, he adds, makes it difficult to determine which gender a car should be marketed to.

In any event, the 370Z got just as much, if not more, attention than a Guards Red Porsche Cayman S I drove earlier in the summer.

Speaking of Porsche, I don’t know what cars Nissan benchmarked in the process of engineering the 370Z, but the Cayman and its Boxster sibling seem like very clear targets for this car. The Nissan’s performance is very close to that of the Cayman S, but for a little more than half the money: the 370Z starts at 40 grand, while the Cayman S is worth nearly $76,000. For the cut-rate price, you get a 332-hp car that, at least according to the butt-o-meter, goes, stops and turns just as well as the Porsche.

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