(All photos: Bill Griffith/Boston.com)
As we were leaving the Newport Concours D’Elegance last Sunday, Mrs. G asked, “If you could have any car here, which would you choose?”
Hmmm. The question doesn’t really work because I’d need to have a garage first, and then get something worth garaging. Certainly a Ferrari, any of the many on display in Newport, would be nice. So would one of the museum-quality Duesenbergs or the Bugatti. But those deserve even better accommodations, something along the lines of climate-controlled secure storage.
These vehicles are worth more than my house – thus they don’t belong with me.
No. These concours cars were to be ogled but not owned. However, there was that better-than-new 1970 Datsun 240Z parked next to the 1965 Lincoln Presidential limo brought by John Lawlor of NPR’s “Car Talk.”
The ‘70 240Z still looks contemporary, and we’d have loved to be able to pull today’s test car – a 2009 Nissan 370Z Touring edition – alongside to show how the direct descendant takes its styling cues from the original, including its overall shape, its big rear window and hatchback and the vertical door handles.
Our tester was the “Touring” model, which adds four-way power adjustable heated seats, Bose sound system with auxiliary plug and XM and Bluetooth. Our Z started with an MSRP of $34,460, added the sport package for $3,000 plus lighted kick plates (doorsills) for $200 and carpeting throughout ($210). With destination, it topped out at $38,810.
That puts it in the Audi TT category, though you can certainly shop it against the new Mustangs and Camaros or the BMW 1 and 3 series. Another to look at is the new Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
Also available in the 370Z is a navigation system ($1,850.) We’d have liked to try it. Instead we had a nice leather-covered, lined storage box that may have been more useful most days than the nav system. The only drawback was that the engineers didn’t let the lid open quite high enough. Still it was a great repository for cell phones, transponders, MP3 players, and sunglasses.
The other major storage area is in the center console. It has a removable shelf and a power outlet inside. It also has a drawback. The latch is right where I rest my right (shifting) elbow. As a result, I opened the console top every couple of trips through the gears.
While we’re dwelling on the negatives, and there weren’t many, add in road noise. Nissan cut 95 pounds from the curb weight as compared to the previous Zs. Part of that must have been in insulation because there was enough road noise that Mrs. G had trouble hearing on her cell phone while at highway speed. Trust me, she easily made herself heard about that once we’d stopped.
OK, so now that we’ve piled up some “cons,” be advised that the pros include the engine, handling, “wow” factor, and much-improved interior.
Outside visibility started out as a problem. However, judicious seat and mirror adjusting took care of any claustrophobic feelings as well as most of the blind spots, though backing up in parking lots requires lots of head-swiveling. Likewise, it took a few times on the road before we really got used to the handling. After that, a fun game became gradually speeding up on curving country roads until persistent tailgaters got the message and backed off.
The 3.7-liter V-6 puts out 332 horsepower and 270 lb-feet of torque. When it got cranked up, the exhaust note was quite nice. Nissan has mated it to either a 7-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. They’ve also programmed the computer to rev-match engine and transmission on any downshifts – in effect “blipping” the throttle for you.
Gone from the previous Z is the visible cross member in the cargo area. That gives the rear cargo space a roomy look that allows a couple – after all, it is a two-seater – to bring just enough luggage and “additionals” for a weekend away.
Nice touches abound:
- The combination fuel and engine temperature gauge has parallel lines that go from E-to-F or C-to-H as a row of orange LED lights.
- The theme of orange interior lights is consistent throughout the instrument panel and all controls.
- The nice Z design of having the speedometer, tachometer and associated information areas move up and down with the adjustable wheel so the driver always has a clear view of that information through the top half of the (very comfortable to grip) steering wheel.
- Another Z tradition remains with the oil temperature, voltmeter, and clock in a three-pod cluster at the top center of the dashboard.
- More from that "lights-done-right" department. The vanity mirror lights were nicely diffused; the xenon headlights gave a nice rectangular lighting pattern, and the illuminated "Z" on the doorsill reminded you that you were driving something special.
One of the problems in vehicles with so-called smart keys and on/off/start buttons is "Where do you put the smart key?" Nissan has provided a slot in the lower left side of the dash for the smart key to be safely stowed.
Getting back to Mrs. G’s question: Which car? I was quite happy to be driving home in the 370Z – just enough of the retro and plenty of today’s upgrades.
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