The 2018 Nissan 370Z Coupe Heritage Edition, with a base price of $30,780, has special cosmetic features that separate it from other Zs offered by the Japanese automaker. The sports car is painted yellow with a black stripe down the hood, has graphics on the doors, and features dark-tinted trim pieces. Under the hood, the Heritage Edition features the same V-6 as other Zs; it is good for 332 horsepower. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Nissan's 370Z clings to the original blueprint
By DANIEL MILLER
Los Angeles Times
The Nissan 370Z is a 155-mile-per-hour anachronism — a sports car you'd be forgiven for forgetting the Japanese auto company even makes anymore.
Released in 2009 and lightly refreshed three years later, the mid-priced coupe has soldiered on largely unchanged, an interminable run in an era of nimble adaptation for mass-appeal sports cars, which have bowed to fuel economy concerns and other industry trends.
The Z's stubborn stasis has translated to lower sales: Nissan sold just 4,614 in the U.S. last year, down 65 percent from the first year of the model's release.
And yet here is the 2018 370Z, though, once again, little is new. The most notable update is a $790 cosmetic package that, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the ancestral Datsun 240Z's debut, pays homage to the original car.
Available in only black or yellow paintwork, the Heritage Edition is differentiated by unique interior accents and exterior decals that are reminiscent of those sometimes seen on Zs from the 1970s.
Otherwise, the 370Z clings to the original blueprint: two seats, rear-wheel drive and a naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine. It's a good formula, one that once made the 240Z a surprising challenger to the Porsche 911 and Jaguar E-Type at about half the cost.
I should know, I own one.
I've had a 1972 240Z for nearly two decades, driving it every day at first but now much less frequently — ordinary automotive ailments and flaky mechanics conspiring to limit my use.
Still, I've always loved the ancient and elemental car, which was once owned by my grandfather and then my dad, who passed it on to me. The 240Z is a no-frills sports car whose visceral nature (think: unassisted steering and crank windows) is so at odds with modern-day driving that piloting it is an alien experience for the uninitiated.
But Nissan continues to sell a Z that in its own way is as much a throwback as its forebear now seems — though I'm not sure that's what the company intended.
Sliding into the manually adjustable cloth seat of our review car, I immediately noticed elements that telegraphed the 370Z's age. Our Heritage Edition tester forwent many options, keeping the as-tested price just below $32,000, within range of a handful of other cars you might comparison-shop.
At that price, you're doing without items such as the navigation system found in sport and touring editions that cost at least $5,000 or so more. And in place of the nav display, there's a cubby.
We need to discuss the cubby.
The bin occupies prime real estate on the center console, and yet its lid opens to an awkward angle and doesn't retract into the dashboard, sadly hanging above the stereo and climate controls.
A similarly vexing compartment could be found on the 370Z's predecessor model, which launched in 2002, and drivers complained about it back then, too. There are entire threads on car enthusiast message boards devoted to figuring out what to put in the cubby. I left it empty. That Nissan has not redesigned the interior to eliminate or more artfully integrate the storage space seems telling.
The cubby notwithstanding, our basic 370Z came with the same V-6 and the same 332 horsepower in pricier editions, and that's been a good thing for the last decade.
Ripping down the 4th Street Bridge, downtown L.A. unfurls in front of me as 60 mph comes quickly in third gear, the V-6's low-speed whine giving way to a feral bark above 5,000 rpm (the 370Z does 0 to 60 in an estimated 5.1 seconds).
Mashing the gas pedal, the engine note turns coarse, though I didn't mind it. Still, what I consider acceptably unrefined in this basic 370Z might feel too crude in the top-end convertible variant, whose base price hovers just below $50,000.
Throws on the six-speed manual gearbox are pleasingly crisp and short, and the clutch engages smoothly and linearly — requiring just the right amount of effort. The steering is light — too light, for my taste — but the car is flingable, feeling less hefty than its roughly 3,300 pounds.
In the 1990s, the Z battled against other traditional Japanese sports cars including the Toyota Supra and the Mazda RX-7. Those challengers are gone now, leaving the 370Z with few direct competitors from Japan.