Ask an enthusiast driver what makes for a great sports car, and the answer inevitably boils down to this: A true sports car must put performance above all else. With the 2009 Nissan 370Z, however, enthusiasts will find a car that meets their demanding ideals while still sneaking in a few appealing luxury features that the rest of us can't live without. Nissan's reputation for good resale and reliability is in full force with the 370Z, making it one of the few sports cars that won't cost you an arm and a leg as it ages.

Powered by a potent V6 engine, the 370Z lacks the deep, throaty growl of such V8-powered muscle cars as the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. What the Z lacks in loudness, it more than makes up for with its sophisticated suspension and lightweight body, both of which make it more manageable on sprawling back roads or at SCCA track events.

As for living with the 370Z as a daily driver, that all depends on your tolerance levels. The Z's ride is decidedly on the firm side and can be downright jarring over rough pavement. If you're looking for a powerful sports car with a more compliant ride, the Ford Mustang or Dodge Challenger might make a better choice, and both offer the added bonus of a rear seat.

What We Like

Powerful V6 engine; rev-matching manual transmission; good resale and reliability; outstanding handling; costs thousands less than a Porsche Cayman or BMW Z4

What We Don't

Stiff ride; no convertible model for 2009; stability-control system sometimes too eager to intervene; excessive road noise inside cabin

Fuel Economy & Engine Specs

The 370Z is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 engine rated at 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. The standard transmission is a slick-shifting 6-speed manual with available electronic SynchroRev Matching. A 7-speed automatic with downshift rev-matching and manual shift control is optional. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the 370Z earns an estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, regardless of transmission choice.

The NISMO 370Z uses the same engine and manual transmission but is tuned for more power, producing 350 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. Fuel economy remains the same.

Standard Features & Options

The 370Z is offered in three trims: Base, Touring and NISMO.

The base 370Z includes a 6-speed manual transmission, cloth sport seats, automatic climate control, power windows, power door locks, Intelligent Key keyless entry and push-button start, an AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a rear-window defroster, 18-inch alloy wheels and xenon headlights. Standard safety equipment includes six airbags (front, head-curtain and side-impact), electronic traction and stability control, an anti-lock braking system and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Moving up to the Touring trim brings heated leather and faux suede seats, a power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, an 8-speaker Bose audio system including dual-powered subwoofers and a 6-disc CD changer, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and SiriusXM Satellite Radio capability.

The NISMO trim distinguishes itself by its numerous exterior and interior styling upgrades, 19-in forged alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, an enhanced exhaust system, larger brakes, a revised steering ratio and a 6-speed manual transmission (an automatic is not available on this trim).

The base 370Z and Touring trims can be equipped with a Sport package that adds a limited-slip rear differential, upgraded brakes, 19-in RAYS wheels, a rear spoiler, a front air-dam spoiler and SynchroRev Matching on cars equipped with the manual transmission. The Touring trim offers a Navigation package that brings a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic alerts and voice recognition, iPod integration and 9.3 gigabytes for music storage.

Pricing

The 2009 Nissan 370Z holds its value better than most sports cars, including pricier European makes. We think you should be able to negotiate a pretty good price, however, as there are plenty of these cars on the market and there is not an overwhelming demand.

To get a good idea of the 370Z's price range, we suggest using the Kelley Blue Book used-car values at KBB.com. You can also search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see what models are currently for sale in your area.

Recalls

To date, there are no recalls or investigations for the 2009 370Z, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In the event that a recall is issued, repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed, and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

Safety Ratings & Warranties

Although it carries a full complement of airbags, side protection beams and numerous electronic systems to help keep everyone safe, it's still unknown as to how occupants would fare in an accident, with no crash-test data on the 370Z yet.

The 2009 370Z entered service backed by a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. If you purchase your 370Z through Nissan's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program, the vehicle not only goes through an extensive 150-point check but also comes with an extended factory warranty of 7 years/100,000 miles from the original date that the vehicle entered service. Other advantages of the program include a free Carfax report, 24-hour roadside assistance, rental-car reimbursement and towing benefits and a 3-month, free trial subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio. To qualify for the Nissan CPO program, vehicles typically should be no older than five years and must have less than 60,000 miles.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW Z4 -- The Z4 is a worthy rival to the 370Z, offering excellent performance in a premium-grade coupe. The Z4 costs more than the 370Z, however, both to purchase and maintain.

Mazda RX-8 -- The RX-8 is every bit as much fun to drive as the 370Z, plus it has a small but usable rear seat. The RX-8 is not as powerful as the 370Z, though, and its reliability record is somewhat spotty.

Chevrolet Camaro -- The V8-powered Camaro SS offers more hp than the 370Z, while the V6 model costs less and has a stronger muscle-car appeal. The Camaro's handling, on the other hand, isn't as precise, and its interior bits feel rather cheap and hard.

AutoTrader's Advice

We think the obvious choice is the 370Z Touring. We like the idea of being able to have navigation to guide us, a Bose stereo to rock us and heated seats to keep us toasty during winter. Although we know many people prefer an automatic, the 370Z's 6-speed manual with synchronous rev-matching would be our pick. The system is basically an electronic heel/toe setup, matching revs when downshifting. If you prefer to utilize your own skills, rev-matching can be switched off.

Find a Nissan 370Z for sale

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Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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