We first met this generation's Z-car from behind the wheel of a spanking-new 2009 Nissan 370Z. Almost four years later to the day, I find myself behind the wheel of the 2013 Nissan 370Z Touring, and let me tell you, not much has changed.
The Z's 3.7-liter V-6 is essentially untouched, outputting the same 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. That power still flows through a six-speed manual transmission before heading to the rear axle. (A seven-speed automatic gearbox is available, but I will call you a poseur if I catch you driving it.) The Z still sports the same classic sports car proportions. Even the 18 city and 26 highway EPA-estimated mpg fuel economy is unchanged over the last four years.
Z-car aficionados and sharp-eyed car nuts will notice a few changes in this 2013 model. The revised front bumper removes the two angular protrusions from the intake opening that gave the previous model its "catfish mouth" look. I sort of miss them, as the new lower grille is a bit dull by comparison. LED daytime running lights (DRLs) have been added to the new front bumper, and at the other end of the vehicle, the rear lighting setup has been nearly imperceptibly tweaked. Beneath the surface, a slightly revised suspension tune for our vehicle's Sport Package rounds out the upgrades.
The sharp performance of the Nissan Z is made even sharper with the addition of an optional $3,030 Sport Package that will be worth nearly every penny to drivers with any sort of motorsport aspirations, whether they be participating in local track days, autocrossing, or just carving a canyon at questionably legal speeds.
For your money, you get a set of "Euro-tuned" sport shocks that firm up the Z's ride and reduce roll when cornering, Nissan sport brakes with red-painted calipers that shave off the mph's at a staggering rate, and 19-inch Rays forged aluminum-alloy wheels with staggered and sticky tires. A viscous limited-slip differential helps with getting power to the road and a front chin deflector and rear spoiler augment the aerodynamics at speed. The Sport Package also adds the SynchroRev Match function to the manual gearbox -- a feature that you'll either love and praise or hate and curse, depending on your driving style and mood at the moment.
SynchroRev Match works like this: When shifting into a gear with the clutch depressed, the Z's computer will blip or hold the engine speed to match the wheel speed of the chosen gears. So, for example, when shifting from third to second gear, you'll hear the engine speed jump slightly and hold for a moment, allowing you to release the clutch for a smooth, perfectly matched shift.
After years of driving manually shifted vehicles properly, I'm used to blipping the throttle myself, so occasionally SynchroRev Match and I butted heads on just who was in control of the throttle. After getting used to it, I found that, if I let the computer handle the blipping and I handled the clutch, the shifts were smooth. The system seems to work best when in aggressive driving situations near the top of the tachometer's range. At lower speeds, I found it to be...well, a bit annoying, but we'll come back to that shortly.
The 370Z's heavy steering feels just a bit numb and didn't communicate very much to me through my fingertips, but it is definitely responsive and direct. The Z also makes up for its untalkative steering rack with a chassis that communicates plenty about what's happening where the rubber meets the road though the driver's spine.
And with over 330 horsepower on tap and gobs of torque available at reasonably low engine speeds, the Z-car's power delivery is absolutely amazing. When the road opens up or you round the bend onto the back straight and can really put the hammer down, the V-6 engine howls and you'll find yourself howling right along with it.
...with Touring and Tech upgrades...
When we last met the Z, we met it at its Base trim level and found it to be rather spartan where cabin tech and appointments were concerned. Our current Touring trim level adds a number of upgrades to the coupe's interior, including Bluetooth hands-free calling, an eight-speaker Bose audio system that includes dual subwoofers, and power-adjustable leather seats with heated surfaces and synthetic suede inserts. For the $4,700 price hike between the base and Touring trim levels, you also get a cover you can use to obscure the rear cargo area from prying eyes, aluminum pedals, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a HomeLink universal garage door opener built into it.