A Trophy Car For Living The Life.
I learned something this week: I’m part of a car cult – the Nissan 370Z cult. I took a trip recently to Austin and San Antonio all by myself: no kids, no husband, just me. As a part of the trip I asked to review a car and Nissan offered me the 370Z NISMO. From the start it seemed perfect: a driver’s car, it seats only two, it’s sporty, powerful and fun. But I didn’t realize just how much fun it would be.
What Kind of Car is THAT?
But maybe the best part of the 370Z NISMO is that it’s a car that catches everyone’s attention. “What the heck is that?!?” exclaimed Alex when I pulled up in his driveway. “That’s a Nissan?” Yup. He immediately compared it to Porsche or other racing machines, and I had to smile: race-worthy, yes. Wallet-emptying? Not so much. Similarly-sized engines and racing bodies are often priced much higher than the 370Z NISMO’s $46K price tag.
And the 370Z NISMO’s sleek, sloped hatchback design, its rear spoiler, racing wheels that reveal bright red brakes and sleek front end make it look as if it eats asphalt for lunch.
Alex’s son Jackson came running out of the house begging for a ride. He’s only seven and already a car fanatic; I had to oblige.
We put his booster chair in the front seat—in true sports car fashion, the 370Z NISMO only seats two—and as Jackson settled in and buckled up, I noticed that the passenger air bag ‘off’ light illuminated; he wasn’t heavy enough to trigger the airbag.
Then, I had to drive Alex’s brother-in-law, Ed, around the block. A car enthusiast too, he loved the NISMO edition, which gives the 370Z both its super-sports car appeal and drive—a growling engine and super-tight suspension that feels every pebble on the road (a toggle button turns off the sport mode but I couldn’t really tell the difference; anyway, in this car, sport is the point).
As I tooled around Austin and then headed down to San Antonio, I noticed people noticing the 370Z. Men stopped to comment on the car, to tell me how much they loved the 370Z, to ask about the Nissan NISMO model type.
Learning I’m part of the club
But something even more magical happened: as I drove around and passed other 370Zs on the road, I got the 370Z ‘hi’ sign. Every time I passed a 370Z, the driver made eye contact and raised his hand in greeting. On the highway, a driver merging into traffic next to me sped up to get a better look, gave a smile and went on his way. They knew how much fun I was having with this car, and not knowing I was only borrowing it for a few days, I suppose, they suspected I must be part of the club. It felt pretty nice to be accepted into this silent, enthusiastic group.
The Nissan 370Z heritage: cars that make your heart race
The 370Z is a sports car I’ve dreamed of driving for a while. As a teen, the Nissan 300 series was the ultimate car: sleek, sporty, track-worthy, not just a statement, but a lifestyle. Getting from point A to point B was an adrenaline rush, even if you kept to the speed limit.
It’s still the case, in both the NISMO and the more elegant but still sporty 370Z. But the NISMO takes a commitment from its owner; while it’s filled with fun and luxury, it’s also a super sports car first: the engine has two speeds: growl and roar, which means it is loud.
The Bose sound system on the model I drove easily filled the cabin with satisfying music, but using the hands-free Bluetooth was fairly useless; while I was driving the person on the phone with me could hear more road noise than anything else. I used my ear buds instead to talk while driving and that worked just fine.
A car that demands you drive it
Talking hands free and listening to music is about all you can do while driving the 370Z (not that you should be doing anything else): it only comes in standard manual transmission, meaning your hands are on the steering wheel and stick shift at all times.
And you can feel the power of the 350 horsepower engine through the leather and suede steering wheel, so I felt more in control with both hands on the wheel. All this means there’s little margin for sipping from a water bottle or fishing around in your handbag for things while driving the 370Z.
The drive experience is just as intense and satisfying. The 370Z NISMO’s clutch is stiffer than the typical Japanese car, and its stick shift takes a little more muscle than the typical stick shift.
The car’s engine growls as it moves along city streets, and begs for a track to open up on. I took it up to about 90MPH on the highway (and just kept up with Texas traffic!), and it moved easily along the road.
But driving it fast on long stretches isn’t where the fun is: it’s merging onto the highway, putting through the gears to quickly get on the highway that was most satisfying.
And, at one point I was lucky enough to have a whole stretch of curving highway to myself and pushed it through the curves at 80MPH; the 370Z NISMO hugged the road and easily could have gone faster.
The growling and then roaring engine made me think that surely I was getting awful gas mileage. But to my surprise, the car averaged about 20 MPG during my time with it, about half of the time on the highway and the other half on city streets. Mileage was comparable to both my BMW 335i and the Toyota Sienna minivan I drove recently.
Clever interior features for function and fun
The interior and function of the 370Z NISMO is carefully crafted to make sure its owner has all the necessities without overkill.
The model I drove did not have a navigation screen (though a storage compartment on the center console looks like a place where one would easily go) but even without that, satellite radio was easy to operate, I could sync my phone, and the rear view camera displayed on the rear view mirror.
Which was a brilliant thing; the sloping roof line, rear spoiler and wide ‘pillars’ that support the roof block much of your view out the back. Side mirrors and the rear view camera display were a blessing during my test drive. The only other thing I would have added are blind spot detectors, which are very helpful when merging into traffic in any car, and would be especially helpful in the 370Z NISMO (and even if YOU are a more than capable driver and don’t need the blind spot monitors, they are a great help to anyone else who might drive your car, like a valet attendant or your very jealous friends).
The rear hatch had plenty of room for luggage or groceries, but its large rear window made me nervous to leave anything out and visible. A shelf behind the seats helped with that, keeping items out of sight, and it held my handbag perfectly. Also, a little cubby cut into the shelf was the perfect hiding place for my computer.
A car like the Nissan 370Z is a trophy in its own right: your life has to accommodate the car, not the other way around. If you can live that life, it’s a great one. And if you can’t, the 370Z may still be an option: its attractive price means it might occupy that space in your life reserved just for you and a special someone, perhaps a thrilled seven year old?
What We Loved
- The sleek sports car design
- The powerful race car–like experience
- Leather NISMO seats
- Suede and leather steering wheel—easy to hold on to and control
- Rear view camera display on the rear view mirror
- Growling engine that revved and growled even louder when downshifting
- Being part of the 370Z ‘club’
What You Need to Know
- Requires premium fuel
- Seats only two
- 18 MPG city/26 MPG highway
- NISMO suspension feels every nuance and bump in the road
- Available only in standard transmission
- Base price: $43,000; price of the model we tested: $46,000
Disclosure: Nissan provided the 370Z NISMO for my test drive; opinions expressed here are all my own.