We were appalled when the 2010 Nissan 370Z review car showed up in our garage equipped with an automatic transmission. This generation 370Z is one of the best dedicated sports cars available, with the capability to pivot in a corner like a ballerina en pointe, and having a six-speed-manual transmission makes the driving experience visceral.
If Nissan had included its navigation option on in the 370Z instead of leaving the yawning empty storage compartment at the top of the dash, we would have understood. If you're going to tone down the car's sporting character, Nissan might as well give it its latest cabin tech. However, instead of having the $1,800 optional navigation system, this car had the $3,000 Sport package, which consists of a limited slip differential and 19-inch Rays wheels, among other performance pieces.
It was then that we realized Nissan may be trying to make a point about its automatic transmission. Nissan gives 370Z buyers the automatic transmission for no extra cost, but that is not a compelling reason to get it. When looking at the cars specs, two things caught our eye: the automatic is a seven speed and it has a rev-matching downshift feature.
After looking at the column-mounted paddles, the same parts you find in the Nissan GT-R, we decided to give it a chance.
The 2010 Nissan 370Z is a short, wide car with a wheel base at a little larger than 8 feet and width of 6 feet, giving it excellent cornering characteristics. Although weighing only 3,314 pounds, Nissan powers it with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that makes 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.
The 370Z has a unique style, too, and looks like nothing else on the road. The Nissan is a coupe with two doors and a hatchback, but no rear seat. It is also low to the ground, which requires a little leg bending to get behind the wheel, but we didn't find it tortuous. From the driver's seat, the hatchback's deeply slanted glass and the wide B-pillars compromise your rear visibility. But with this car's speed, you should only worry about what's ahead.
Driving the 370Z with the automatic transmission initially felt numbing to us. In urban areas, we hoisted the car around corners and performed the usual stop and go at every block, as dictated by traffic lights, all while the transmission continually short-shifted, keeping the engine speed low.
When we put the hammer down on a freeway onramp, the car didn't feel as if it was giving us everything it had. The V-6 engine has power to spare, but the transmission leaned toward fuel economy instead of our desire for exhilarating speed.
Part of the numb driving feel came from the car's well-damped suspension. Instead of a typical sports car rough ride over city asphalt, the 370Z delivers a very civilized experience, in keeping with its almost luxury cabin appointments. It felt more composed and calm than it did fast and furious.
The automatic transmission's short shifting and seven gears lead to an expected bonus in fuel economy. According to its EPA estimates, it should get 26 mpg on the highway. We got 21.6 mpg in mixed freeway, city, and mountain driving, which is not a bad number considering the Nissan's big V-6 engine.
With the 370Z's stock cabin tech--Nissan didn't include navigation or iPod support in our test car, just a basic Bluetooth phone system and an MP3 compatible six-disc CD changer--we didn't want to spend much time getting between points A and B. For one of our drives, we loaded three CDs into the Nissan's changer, and realized how much we've grown to hate dealing with CDs in a car. Taking CDs out of and putting them into their respective cases and the changer is a tedious task.