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2011 Nissan 370Z - New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader June 2011

The Nissan 370Z competes in a very crowded segment. Challengers on the low end include the acclaimed Mazda MX-5 Miata. On the high end, the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Chevrolet Corvette, Mercedes SLK and Porsche Boxster/Cayman all vie for the hearts and dollars of sports car buyers. It even faces competition from its corporate sibling, the Infiniti G37 Coupe. But despite all the opposition, Nissan's latest "Z" car manages to stand out from the crowd.

The Z's three trim levels give it the flexibility to appeal to just about any buyer looking for a two-seat sports car. Base-level coupes start a hair above $30,000, and offer stripped-down, raucous fun. Touring models – especially convertibles – can easily hit $45,000 when loaded up with options, making the 370Z a competitor among premium cars, too. And the high-performance NISMO model is essentially a factory racer, appealing to purist drivers looking for a thrilling experience. Strong performance is assured regardless of trim level thanks to the Z's powerful 3.7-liter V6, which is standard across the board.

How does it drive?

Enough talk. The Z's primary appeal is its driving experience – and it lives up to expectations. Even when equipped with the 7-speed automatic, the 370Z jumps off the line without hesitation, hitting 60 mph somewhere in the high 4-second range. It feels even stronger on the highway, delivering seemingly unending passing power with a few flicks of its column-mounted paddle shifters. Perhaps the only flaw in the Z's performance is a lack of torque very high in its power band – unlike the turbocharged BMW Z4, which maintains high levels of torque as power builds. But as soon as the 370Z upshifts, its engine growl returns as music to your ears.

Turning the steering wheel provides incredibly direct feedback, and the Z goes around corners with steady confidence no matter the speed. The best part is that steering is perfectly weighted, not over-assisted like the SLK and Z4, or overly numb. The 2011 Mustang offers somewhat similar steering feel, but the Z blows past it on twisty back roads with its more nimble and athletic handling – thanks in part to its smaller size. It's not quite on par with the Porsche Boxster/Cayman, but it's the closest you can get in the mid-$30,000 price range.

On the inside

One of the most frequent criticisms leveled against the 350Z was the quality of its interior. Critics complained that it was too cheap, wore too fast and was unworthy of a car that counts BMWs and Audis among its competitors. Fortunately, Nissan has addressed those complaints in the 370Z. Hard plastic has mostly been eradicated from the cabin. Leather-equipped models are trimmed with high-quality soft alcantara. Base models still use plastic, but they feel like better quality. And drivers will like the cleverly arranged gauges that make the driver's seat feel like a cockpit.

Still, there are a few flaws. The radio, shared with many other current Nissans, has a very small screen. It makes a guessing game out of browsing XM channels since it's not big enough to display both the channel's number and name. That problem is solved if you get the easy-to-use optional navigation system – but if you don't, you're constantly reminded of it by a navigation system-sized storage compartment in the center of the dash. And there's no question that interior space pays a price for the exterior's sharp lines. The top of the windshield comes in just above a tall driver's sightlines on the roadster, and some may feel a bit claustrophobic with the top up or in the coupe. Fortunately, outward visibility is good thanks to large, well-placed side mirrors.

It's all about value

The 370Z is all about offering serious bang for the buck. Not many other new vehicles offer more than 330 horsepower, supremely competent handling and aggressive styling in the mid-$30,000 range. It may not have all the latest technology to wow your friends, but the 370Z is an absolutely solid purchase for anyone looking for an impressive sports car with few compromises. If that's you, check out the competition – but don't be surprised if you end up won over by the Z's value-packed charm.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2011 Nissan 370Z - New Car Review - Autotrader