Nissan’s well-known “Z’’ rear-drive sports car that started in the 1970s still pulls at the heart strings of driving enthusiasts with its sporty, two-seat cabin, low-to-the-pavement stance, racetrack-ready stiff ride and strong V-6 power.
Race day sensations are even greater in the top-of-the-line 2014 370Z NISMO model, in which power is tuned up to 350 horses, suspension is so taut the car corners like it’s on rails, and the brakes are the largest in Z car history.
Nissan held the line or reduced pricing on its Zs for 2014.
The starting retail price for the coupe dropped about $3,000 from its predecessor, and the price for the 370Z NISMO was unchanged.
The starting price, including destination charge, is $30,800 for a base coupe with 332-horsepower V-6, six-speed manual transmission and 18-inch, high-performance tires. The coupe with same engine and a six-speed manual with SynchroRev Match – a feature that has won raves because it makes downshifts quicker and smoother – starts at $33,830. The more powerful NISMO starts at $43,830.
Among the exclusive standard features on the NISMO are an Alcantara-finished steering wheel, 19-inch, forged alloy wheels by Rays Engineering and a plaque on the center console noting the vehicle’s model year and serial number.
As expected, the Z car, in which premium gasoline is recommended, is not a fuel sipper. The car is rated at 18 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway.
U.S. sales of mainstream sports cars declined last calendar year, and sales of the Z cars fell 10.6 percent to 6,561.
The Z didn’t change much for 2014. Nissan further bolstered the NISMO Z for speedy travel by adding a longer front nose for more down force and special side sills and new rear bumper for smoother airflow around the car.
Styling-wise, dark gray paint with red pinstripe is added at the lower front and rear fascias to differentiate the NISMO models from lesser Z cars.
All 2014 models of 370Z continue with Nissan’s squat, strong, exterior appearance that’s unlike that on any other car. It reminds some observers of a car body composed of flaps rather than graceful curves.
Inside, the two seats provide good support, and Nissan uses hold-fast fabric seat inserts to ensure people stay put during the ride. The three round gauges directly in front of the driver and three other round gauges atop the center of the dashboard are reminiscent of earlier Zs and are easy-to-read references on the car’s operation.
Larger adults might feel confined in the compact, low-to-the-ground interior, particularly because side windows are squat and views out the back and rear sides are restricted. Indeed, the driver of the test 370Z NISMO tired of looking directly at the tailpipes of pickups and SUVs in front.
The test model, with a price of more than $46,000, had a $790 optional rearview camera. But the image was displayed in a small square in the left corner of the inside rearview mirror and was tiny compared with that of other cars.
The 370Z NISMO was a blast to drive, with a “point and go” personality. Steering response was quick; power from the 3.7-liter, double-overhead-cam V-6 came on quickly, peaking at 276 foot-pounds at 5,200 rpm. The high-performance tires had lots of grip to propel the car swiftly. The low center of gravity and the suspension that held the car body down firmly gave the speedy Z an agile feel. A driver can push the car hard in curves and marvel at its composure.
But the ride was noisy all the time. Highway bridge expansion cracks sent major vibrations to passengers. City road bumps and even some sunken manhole covers could create a choppy and jarring ride.
The 6.9 cubic feet of trunk space is shallow and seems like a large shelf. A hot pizza placed under the long rear lift-gate quickly steamed up the rear window.
The 370Z also is offered as a roadster with a starting price of $42,280.