The visceral Nissan GT-R supercar has given an angry persona to its younger brother. Never has the Z been this raw and focused. Raw, because the famous Nissan V6 (now enlarged) has found a beautiful and purposeful new home and focused, because Nissan is not taking its eyes off Zuffenhausen.
Presenting the new 370Z, now on sale in India. Nissan India organised an agonisingly short "driving experience" of the new Z, that too on a straight, gravel-strewn stretch, barely long enough for it to jog, let alone run. Well, at least they didn't make you sit in the passenger seat and let a driver take you around... But you know what, the new Z is so impressive that even in that short time, even in that pencil-straight (and pencil-long) stretch, it gave its best shot. All I could experience was a fraction of its straightline acceleration capabilities - no cornering, no handling, no ride, no braking, no grip, no nothing. Still I came back shaking my head at the kind of machine the engineers at Nissan have created. Yet another precision tool like the GT-R. The 370Z doesn't have to try very hard to impress you.
The Z cars have a hallowed history, not just within Japan, but across the whole automotive world. With the 370Z, I have driven all the Z cars of the ages - except... except... (this rankles) the original 240Z. I am not including the 260Z, as I think it was a compromise. Anyway, regular readers of Business Standard Motoring magazine will remember the stories on the 280Z, the 300ZX, the 350Z, the 350Z facelift and hopefully, this one, the 370Z. What brings them all together - what defines the Z cars, beginning with the legendary 240Z - is thoroughbred performance at an affordable price. With the 350Z, Nissan came quite close to making a Porsche out of it. And now with the 370Z, they have made it, and then some. The V6 now displaces 3700cc to deliver 332 bhp at 7000 rpm and 37 kgm of torque at 5200 rpm to the rear wheels. Those are mere figures and it cannot describe the finely-cut jewel of an engine nestling under that aluminium bonnet. The motor sings at a state of tune which can be heard by competition all over Germany. It snarls, it barks, it roars. It's frenzied. And it makes the Z feel like a slingshot when you stomp on the pedal. The engine has been placed as far back from the front axle as possible to maintain balance - Nissan's boffins have arrived at a 54:46 front/rear split, but the power delivery of the engine is so strong that all that weight seems to shift towards the rear as it digs its heels, lifts its nose and rushes ahead.
It stuns you the first time you try it; this raw edge was missing earlier, but now the aggression is there for all to see. And it gets addictive after that. The aggression is carried in the way it looks too. GT-R-like fangs, anyone? We had the seven-speed automatic gearbox, while a six-speed manual will also be offered. The automatic comes with paddles (that don't move along with the steering) and something called Downshift Rev Matching - which I didn't observe as all I did in the limited time and space I had was to just plant it. But the manual has something more interesting as an option, the Synchro Rev Match. Essentially it blips the throttle when you downshift in preparation of the next gear. That should be fun.
So's the steering feel and the feedback. It is fabulous to hold and steer; it sends the right signals from your palms to your brain - that you are piloting something special. That apart, the new Z is based on an all-new chassis which is shorter than its predecessor. Yes, its wheelbase is reduced as well as its overall length. Now Nissan could have done it to bring costs down by making it related to the rear-wheel driven Infinitis, but the net effect is that the car is much more nimble. I could feel it itching to straighten up a curve or two. The car also boasts a high content of weight-saving aluminium, but it's not about shearing off weight. I remember the legendary Kazutoshi Mizuno (the father of the GT-R, former head of Nissan motorsport and the Kamakura Buddha knows what else) telling me that weight is not bad by itself - it's how you make weight work for you. And that philosophy seems to have been carried over here as well. Anyway, the only way Mizuno's philosophy can be put into practice is by getting quality time behind the 370Z's wheel. Which I hope will happen someday.
This is just one of the many fun-to-drive cars that we have in our forthcoming February issue - it's our Fun To Drive special. Also, for an extended driving impression of the 370Z in Japan, log on to http://bsmotoring.com/storypage.php?autono=983