The Nissan Z sportscar concept celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2009 successfully evolving the ‘less is more’ mantra.
Less weight, less sheet metal. Less fuel. Less wheelbase. Less money.* But more rigidity. More agility. More pace. More power. More driving thrill.
When the Nissan 350Z returned the famed Z badge to the Nissan line-up in February 2003 in Australia, a new era dawned.
Now, after a successful run and continuous improvement over a six-year lifespan, a new son is rising: 370Z.
The Nissan 370Z is new all over, and yet carries into the new Z generation the seeds of an automotive icon and the knowledge store that made the 350Z so successful.
The new body is tauter, sharper-looking and 100mm shorter in wheelbase to bring the rear driving wheels closer to the driver. Overtly flared arches cover 18-inch wheels backed by high-performance brakes.
The curve of the window line is echoed in the lower sill panel, more strongly than ever, yet in the style of previous Z cars.
The definitive new Z badge affixed to the front guards transforms into an indicator repeater flasher through the magical combination of LEDs and transparent smoked plastic lenses.
The seats are 10mm closer to the ground, and the driving position perfectly sited. The long bonnet hides a revised, empowered and enlarged new generation VQ37VHR high-performance 3.7-litre V6 engine that delivers an unashamedly macho 245kW power at 7000rpm and 363Nm torque at 5200rpm.
Underlining the thoughtful evolution of the Z means the power is unleashed in a controlled, linear manner. No rush of blood, no performance jolt, but a muscular surge of power that builds forcefully to a new peak of 7000rpm (a full 800rpm higher than the original 206kW 350Z from 2003).
The highly advanced new VVEL (Variable Valve Event and Lift) system takes credit for delivering continually optimised valve lift and timing for deeper breathing and both low down and high-end torque.
* (370Z man. Vs. 350Z Track).
Economy is improved too, with the 370Z manual transmission model using 1.2 litres less fuel for a 100km journey – compared to the outgoing 350Z Track coupe).
Of course the VQ engine family has a success-studded record; it’s the only engine in the world to have been chosen for the ‘Ward’s 10 Best Engines’ list 14 years in a row.
Mating to the new VQ37VHR engine is a choice of two gearboxes, the refined and revised six-speed manual and a new seven-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted magnesium paddle shifters.
Both feature Nissan’s new and unique SynchroRev Match - the world’s first fully synchronised shift rev control system, allowing perfectly smooth up and down shifts every time… and perhaps quicker (at 0.5secs) than even a professional race driver’s heel-and-toeing. The system is switchable on the manual transmission.
Downshift Rev Matching (DRM) is a feature of the new auto which delivers rapid downshifts and a matching ‘blip’ of the throttle when used in manual mode.
A carbon fibre prop shaft connects with the rear axle. Wider tracks front and rear (15mm and 55mm respectively) further enhance stability, aided by a revised suspension that uses many more aluminium components.
The bonnet, doors and tailgate are aluminium, contributing a weight saving of 32kg.
New safety systems and the new design could have added 100kg to the overall weight, but Nissan compensated entirely for this potential additional mass by honing, simplifying and amalgamating components in order to keep the overall weight 15kg below that of the outgoing car (man.trans. vs. 350Z Track).
More power, lower centre of gravity, lower weight, wider track and a tighter turning circle add to the most complete, 2-seater Nissan sportscar yet.
Practicality is enhanced via a larger luggage area and increased cockpit storage. The load area can now swallow two golf bags with the deletion of the previous stabilizer strut which is replaced by a luggage partition beam.
The highest point of the car is now over the windscreen not the driver’s head so the slope of the roof is an unbroken line from the header rail to the tail.
Arrow-shaped xenon headlights spear the darkness, while boomerang shaped tail lights cleave a unique light form in the night. The fog lamp is centrally mounted at the lowest point of the rear diffuser, just like in Formula 1.
Smart touches abound. The driver’s seat continues to focus on holding the driver firmly, now assisted by a special non-slip cloth insert surrounded by plush, black leather bolsters.
The three cell instrument panel has larger gauges for greater clarity and the trim finishes are soft to the touch, conveying a premium feel.
Safety is high on Nissan’s agenda so the new 370Z is one of the first Japanese cars in Australia to feature a pedestrian impact friendly ‘pop-up’ bonnet design.
So thorough and painstaking has the conversion from 350Z to 370Z been that the change represents a quantum leap in automotive evolution and driving exhilaration.
The new Nissan 370Z is available in Australia from May 2009 in one specification with the option of automatic transmission. Pricing for the 2009 370Z is $67,990 for the manual and $70,990 for the 7-speed automatic. This means the new 370Z is actually priced below that of the outgoing, comparative 350Z Track.
“The new 370Z is the culmination of Nissan’s competitive passion and its ability to create world-class sportscars,” said Dan Thompson, CEO of Nissan Australia.
“It is a two-seat performance machine that blends genuine excitement with typical Nissan qualities of innovation and premium performance. The 370Z is a true Z in every way.
“The 370Z embodies a fresh, ultra-modern design. It is instantly identifiable as a Z. It builds on the best features of each past Z generation and adds many new dimensions of its own.
“The new 370Z delivers more agility, more performance, more practicality and more exhilaration. It is lower, wider and shorter and bristles with new technology, including the innovative SynchroRev Match feature for automatic ‘heel and toe’ gear shifts.
“Only the Nissan 370Z offers the unique combination of ‘no compromise’ sports car style and performance at an attainable price.
“The 370Z not only continues the great Z tradition but will become an icon in its own right,” Thompson said.
1. Exterior Design
Sharper handling and honed performance is matched by a more aggressive look which blends traditional Z styling cues with a purposeful sportscar stance. Broad shoulders contrast with compact overall dimensions to create a car worthy of the famous Z badge.
Every panel is new, every dimension has been changed. But it is still indisputably a Z.
Squat, muscular and powerful.
After 40 years the long bonnet short overhangs and truncated rear live on, a tribute to the 240Z, and is as effective in 2009 as 1969 for delivering burly performance and sprightly handling.
The new Nissan 370Z is 65mm shorter overall than the 350Z, at 4250mm bumper to bumper. The wheelbase of 2550mm is 100mm shorter. At 1315mm high it’s eight mm lower than the 350Z, but 30mm wider at 1845mm.
The more directly sloping roofline required the seats to sink 10mm closer to the floor, simultaneously enhancing the race car feel and reducing the centre of gravity boosting agility. And with the rear wheels closer to the driver, the ‘seat-of-the-
pants’ handling exhilaration is intensified.
The side window graphic is quite different, with the signature quarter window behind the doors framed by an upswept flick that starts its trajectory towards the trailing edge of the door. It is this simple line, echoed in the lower sill panel that encapsulates the dynamism of the design as a whole.
Dramatic wheel arch extensions appear to stretch the bodywork over the wheels. Although the overall silhouette appears angular, the flowing shape of the wings and doors, the upward sweep of the quarter window and the gentle curve of the bonnet prove the 370Z’s fluency of form.
The safety-conscious 370Z design incorporates an innovative ‘pop-up hood’ to lessen the impact on a pedestrian during contact.
Perhaps the biggest visual changes are the new lights front and rear. LED tail lights form a boomerang shape framing the rear of the car, while the thin arrowhead headlights effectively give the 370Z a direction pointer at the front. Xenon projector-style lamps light the way ahead.
At the front, a deeper air intake ‘mouth’ beneath the nose adds to the aggressive imagery.
Aerodynamic efficiency also improves with a discreet splitter at the front and a subtle rear spoiler integrated into the tailgate reducing lift and creating extra downforce.
Aluminium bonnet, doors and tailgate along with extensive use of lighter materials and components in the body structure and mechanical layout make their presence felt.
Overall weight reductions amounted to about 100kg. Even the audio system ‘adds lightness’ to the tune of 1.6kg. But extra equipment like DVD satellite navigation and safety-plus construction like extra stiffening, added back weight. The result is still a significant 15kg weight saving - at 1517kg kerb weight (for the manual transmission model).
The circular Z badge on the front wing now adds function to form: it incorporates a side repeater indicator lamp. The robust, vertical door handles are retained while the rear view is dominated by the large bores of the twin exhaust pipes.
The purity of the shape is maintained by incorporating the radio aerial into the rear screen.
2. Interior design
A tacho red-lined at 7500rpm, specific driver-oriented bolstering in sports leather, non-slip cloth insert seats, soft-feel premium quality door and dash trim, enlarged instruments, engine start/stop button, thick steering wheel, alloy pedals, floor hinged throttle – the 370Z fits the sportscar DNA.
Launching now in Australia, the international media is already awarding prizes to the Nissan 370Z.
The original Nissan 350Z won more than 50 awards during its production life and the new 370Z looks set to follow in its tyre tracks.
In April, the 2009 Nissan 370Z was honoured with the Ward’s ‘Interior of the Year’ Award for sportscars, with the judges commending: “The purposeful passenger compartment manages to be both spacious and sporty, while paying homage to famous Z cars of the past.”
There are just two seats, one for the driver with specific under thigh bolstering and more body hugging wings, and a wider one for the passenger.
The seats are low, fixed almost centrally in the car for optimum weight distribution.
The 100mm shorter wheelbase has not eaten into cabin space.
The driver looks through the top half of the new, kidney-shaped steering wheel at the new instrument cluster, with its three dials, the largest being the centrally mounted tachometer, red-lined at 7500rpm.
The tacho is on the right and the read out for the trip computer is on the left. As with the 350Z the binnacle is attached to the steering column so visibility remains high irrespective of the steering wheel angle selected.
The centre console features audio controls low down, ventilation controls above and the engine start/stop button a finger’s stretch away from the steering wheel. Controls for the DVD Satellite Navigation with 3D mapping incorporating a 7-inch integrated colour display with touch screen functionality are mounted horizontally just below the screen for ease of use. The Sat Nav can also be controlled by buttons on the steering wheel.
A Nissan Z trademark, three separate hooded dials – from left to right, clock, voltage and oil temperature gauge – sit commandingly atop the centre console.
The final driver-centric touch is the adoption of a floor hinged throttle pedal. The pedals and standard clutch footrest are aluminium with rubber inserts for extra grip.
While the driver is cocooned in a wrap-around control zone, the passenger space is more open. The seat, for example, is wider than the driver’s to allow greater flexibility of movement on a journey.
Strut Brace Gone
Perhaps the biggest area of change in the cabin comes behind the seats where luggage space has been enlarged thanks to extra structural reinforcements to the 370Z shell. The rear strut brace (used in the 350Z to enhance torsional rigidity) is no longer required, though an aluminium luggage partition beam behind the seats has been retained.
As well as preventing luggage moving forwards under heavy braking, the beam adds extra side impact strength and aids overall rigidity.
Space for oddment stowage has also been improved with a new area behind the seats providing enough space to hold a briefcase.
There’s also now an illuminated glovebox with damped locking lid, larger door bins and centre console storage opportunities. The centre console now has an integrated cup holder, in addition to cup holders moulded into the door pockets.
With a potent new engine and exciting new transmission options, the new Nissan 370Z offers responsive, enthusiastic driving enjoyment. The adoption of VVEL and SynchroRev Match mean that the moment the Start button is pressed, the 370Z comes alive…
Nissan’s acclaimed VQ engine family has consistently won praise for its performance and refinement. The new 3.7-litre VQ37VHR is a development of the 350Z engine. It is an all-alloy 24-valve twin cam unit and 35 percent of the components are new.
The result is a markedly different motor that is not only more powerful and blessed with a higher rev limit but it is also more refined, responsive and fuel efficient. The high revving engine also offers more bottom end power delivery and a wider spread of torque.
Durability changes include a new oil pump, improved water flow paths, stronger upper and lower oil pans and rocker covers, while the height of the cylinder blocks has been increased and they are topped by revised cylinder heads. Asymmetric piston skirts are used as are high performing iridium-tipped spark plugs.
Perhaps the biggest change is the adoption of VVEL (Variable Valve Event and Lift) technology to optimize efficiency and, in turn, the balance between power, response, fuel efficiency and emissions.
By continually altering valve lift (and therefore the quantity of air in the combustion chamber) VVEL provides a more powerful combustion phase to increase torque and power. VVEL is compact and mechanically comparatively simple with just 13 moving parts per cylinder, half that of some competitive systems.
As the valves themselves control the intake phase, response to throttle inputs is immediate. In tests, Nissan engineers have recorded response times up to 32 percent quicker than competitors’ variable valve systems that retain conventional valve springs.
Precise mapping of the ECU helps the engine provide a progressive swell of power and torque, providing a ‘tidal wave’ of acceleration rather than a ‘peaky’ power delivery. Fuel efficiency at constant speeds with half throttle is improved thanks to reduced pumping losses, while at low speeds and small throttle openings; intake valve lift is kept as low as possible to reduce camshaft friction losses.
Cleaner emissions, even with a cold engine, are another benefit thanks to more complete and quicker combustion which results in shorter warm-up times for the catalysts.
Power is delivered to the rear wheels via a lightweight carbonfibre composite propshaft, a development pioneered in motorsport and first seen in a production car on the 350Z.
The figures speak for themselves: the VQ37VHR punches out 245kW at 7000rpm (up from 230kW in the final iteration of 350Z) and 363Nm torque.
The longitudinally-mounted 3696cc V6 has a bore and stroke of 95.5 x 86.0, the capacity increase over the previous 350Z engine achieved via a longer stroke. It runs a compression ratio of 11.0:1 (10.6:1 in the previous 350Z).
And while power and torque have risen, fuel consumption has decreased to 10.5 l/100km on the combined cycle, and CO2 emissions are now at 249g/km on the manual version, an improvement in both cases of 11 percent. The seven-speed automatic transmission is even cleaner and more frugal, emitting just 247g/km of
CO2 and using just 10.4l/100km on the combined cycle.
The fuel tank holds 72-litres of 95 RON Premium Unleaded.
Adding even more driver appeal are the two new transmission systems. The new six-speed manual gearbox is based on the acclaimed gearbox found in the 350Z, which has been further refined with a shorter shift throw and improved lubrication to reduce noise and enhance shift action without losing its mechanical edge.
This feeling of driver and car in harmony is further enhanced by the introduction of a unique feature that allows every driver, no matter how skilled, to seemingly change gear as quickly and as smoothly as any professional racing driver.
The manual gearbox has a dual mode operation. It can either be used conventionally or in S-Mode, when Nissan’s innovative SynchroRev Match is automatically engaged. This ensures that engine revs are always at the optimum level when the driver is changing gear, delivering exemplary ‘heel and toe’ changes every time.
Sensors on the clutch and on the gear lever itself monitor driver actions to blip the throttle on down shifts and maintain constant engine revs when changing up. As the sensors detect clutch pedal movement, the SynchroRev Match system is primed, coming into operation when the gear lever is moved. By matching this information to vehicle speed, SynchroRev Match knows whether the driver is slowing for a corner or changing up through the ’box.
Heel and toe changes are used by skilled drivers partly to ensure rapid gear shifts, but mainly to guarantee smooth progress that never threatens to destabilise the vehicle. But even the most experienced Nissan test drivers were unable to match the speed and consistency of SynchroRev Match, which ensures gear changes in half a second, around twice the speed of a ‘normal’ gear change. The currently selected gear is displayed in a digital indicator on the dashboard.
SynchroRev Match mode can be deactivated if required by the driver.
The new Nissan 370Z is also available with a newly designed optional seven-speed automatic. In keeping with the 370Z’s performance potential, however, this automatic also delivers spirited manual shifting with no loss to engine personality.
It can be driven as a conventional automatic. But enthusiastic drivers are more likely to regard it as a clutchless manual, using either the centre shift lever or magnesium paddles behind the steering wheel to effect gear changes.
A high level of lock up prevents automatic up-shifts at high revs at the same time as reducing fuel wastage caused by torque converter slip. Its settings also allow strong engine braking and instant engine response under acceleration.
SynchroRev Match is also a feature of the automatic transmission, which also blips the throttle on down shifts in manual mode to smooth gear changes still further.
Fuel economy is particularly good when cruising a freeway a result of having seven available forward ratios on offer as well as the extensive use of low friction components within the transmission.
Both transmissions run direct in fifth gear with 6th in the manual at 0.7949 and seventh in the automatic being 0.7715.
A totally revised chassis fully exploits the performance potential of the new engine. A shorter wheelbase and wider track, lower centre of gravity plus a new lightweight double wishbone front suspension and re-engineered multi-link rear suspension give the 370Z the agility to match its aggressive looks.
Nissan has re-engineered the front midships rear-wheel drive platform that underpinned the 350Z.
The front midships indicates the engine is mounted up front but as far back into the chassis as possible for best weight distribution, which for the 370Z is the same as the 350Z at 53 percent front to 47 percent rear.
On the move, weight distribution changes. Braking for a corner, the extra weight over the front wheels helps provide better traction for sharper turn-in. But when accelerating away from the apex the weight distribution transfers towards the driven wheels helping to create a 50/50 balance when it is most needed.
The new Z sits on a 100mm shorter wheelbase than its predecessor, now 2550mm – and has a wider front and rear track (15mm and 50mm wider respectively). The shorter wheelbase improves the 370Z’s agility, while the wider track enhances grip.
Nevertheless, the 370Z retains its trademark accessible, engaging and authentically rear-wheel drive handling characteristics.
At the same time, the torsional rigidity of the new body has increased by up to 30 percent, notably at the front where a bracing bar has been mounted on top of the suspension turrets.
Extensive use of aluminium in the doors and bonnet and tailgate – plus other weight saving measures, reduced the body in white by more than 32kg.
These changes are matched by a new double wishbone front suspension layout and a revised multi-link rear suspension both of which are lighter yet stronger than before with greater lateral stability. This gives improved camber stiffness, which better allows the suspension to exploit the grip generated by the tyres.
New forged aluminium alloy links at the front, for example, are 25 percent lighter than used previously, while the revised subframe – a high vacuum diecast alloy cradle – delivers a similar weight saving. Other changes at the front include reinforced steering arms and bigger front hub bearings while the hollow anti-roll bar is not only lighter but also 35 percent more effective.
Weight savings at the rear come through lighter aluminium alloy castings, but the major changes are to the increased stiffness of links and the cradle itself. As at the front, larger hub bearings and a stiffer yet lighter anti-roll bar complete the picture. High response shock absorbers help provide a compliant ride.
Grip is provided by purpose designed Yokohama Advan sport tyres, in different sizes front and rear. The front tyres are 225/50 R18, with wider 245/45 R18s at the rear.
A viscous limited slip differential is standard along with Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) which combines electronically operated traction control and stability systems to reduce engine torque and/or apply individual wheel braking if needed. For track day use, VDC can be deactivated via a dashboard switch.
The rack and pinion steering system has also been revised to provide more communicative feedback and better response around the dead ahead position. With electric speed sensitive assistance, the steering delivers greater agility around town and enhanced stability at motorway speeds.
A new three spoke steering wheel ¬– leather covered and featuring ‘baseball stitching’ – has been designed to provide natural resting places for fingers and palms at the same time as improving the view through to the instrument panel.
Explosive performance needs excellent brakes and again the 370Z doesn’t disappoint. It has large ventilated Akebono sport discs front and rear – 355mm at the front and 350mm at the rear – framed by four piston aluminium callipers at the front and twin piston callipers at the back. The dark silver coloured callipers are inscribed with the Nissan name.
Improved brake feel is helped by the adoption of variable ratio brake actuation which provides improved precision at low speeds and better control at higher G.
The new system has greater resistance to brake fade under sustained usage while new pad material helps reduce stopping distances at the same time as lowering brake dust and reducing brake squeal.
A full complement of electronic safety aids includes the latest generation ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA).
With its shorter wheelbase, lighter weight and torsionally stiffer body, 370Z delivers sharper handling: quicker direction changes are matched with greater stability at high speed, under braking and through turns. At the same time noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are all reduced leading to improved refinement.
The new Nissan 370Z is 4250mm long, 1845mm wide (excl. mirrors) and 1315mm high. A 2550mm wheelbase is matched with a front track of 1550mm and a rear track of 1595mm.
The previous Nissan 350Z was 4315mm long, 1815 mm wide and 1323mm high, with a 2650mm wheelbase and 1535mm front track and 1540mm rear track.
The coefficient of drag is a slippery 0.31.
5. Sports Equipment
As befits a performance machine, the feature list consists mostly of equipment designed to enhance the driving experience. Heading the list is the innovative SynchroRev Match, which automatically matches engine revs, giving smoother, faster gear-changes, every time.
An Engine Start/Stop button is matched by Nissan’s Intelligent Key, another standard feature on 370Z. With the Intelligent Key tucked safely away in a pocket, briefcase or handbag, the door can be unlocked simply by touching a button on the door handle and the engine started by pressing the button.
SynchroRev Match, meanwhile, automatically blips the throttle on downshifts and maintains throttle openings on up shifts to ensure perfect gear changes every time.
Other performance-oriented items of equipment include cast alloy wheels plus advanced electronic driver aids such as VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) and a viscous limited slip differential.
There’s a full complement of safety equipment including sports brakes, ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. Driver and passenger airbags are matched by side bags and curtain airbags, while active head restraints are also fitted as standard.
Also standard on the 370Z, is a safety-plus ‘pop-up bonnet’ which raises itself automatically in a collision. This creates a cushion of air between the bonnet and the engine hard points, to lessen the impact on a pedestrian.
A high performance car needs high performance lights so the new Nissan 370Z has standard projector style self-levelling Xenon headlamps with washers, while the rear lamps sport LEDs.
Highly efficient flat blade wipers clean the windscreen while rain and dusk sensors ensure the lights and wipers operate automatically when needed.
Four-way power adjustable front seats are heated and the driver’s is height adjustable and fitted with a variable lumbar support
The height adjustable leather covered steering wheel incorporates illuminated audio and telephone remote controls: Bluetooth® mobile phone connectivity is standard.
Cruise control buttons are also set into the steering wheel.
Climate control is also standard.
Audiophiles will rejoice at the inclusion of a bespoke Bose® 6CD in-dash auto changer with AM/FM radio and MP3/WMA capability and eight speakers, including two 115mm-Nd® Richbass® woofers in a custom-engineered 7.7-liter ported enclosure mounted in the spare-tyre well.
A seven channel digital power amplifier completes the package providing customised equalisation and signal processing to deliver clear and natural sounding music.
A DVD satellite navigation system with 3D mapping and 7-inch integrated colour display including touch screen and steering wheel controls is also standard in all Australian specification models.
Further standard features include an auxiliary input jack for mobile music, a panic alarm, centre console storage and integrated armrest two 12V power outlets, door pockets with bottle holders, map lights, tie down hooks in the luggage bay and chrome Z branded kickplates. Auto on/off headlights, Z badge indicator lights, front underbody spoiler, electric folding door mirrors and dual chromed exhaust pipe tips complete the package.
The new Nissan 370Z is available in Australia in eight sparkling exterior colours:
Monterey Blue, Eau Rouge Red, Titanium, Shiro White, Chicane Yellow, Carbon Silver, Diamond Black and Brilliant Silver.
Monterey Blue and Chicane Yellow are premium colours and Titanium and Brilliant
Silver are metallic colours, each of which attracts a price premium of $495.
The Nissan 370Z comes with a 3 year/100,000km warranty and 3 year 24-hour roadside assistance.
Pricing for the 2009 370Z is $67,990 for the manual and $70,990 for the 7-speed automatic.
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