Since its launch in 2008, the Nissan 370Z has established itself as a performance car bargain, wowing all comers with its agile, balanced handling, high performance and relatively low price. To mark its success, and to celebrate 40 years since the launch of the original Z car, Nissan has built a tricked-out 370Z GT edition.
The car features a host of improvements designed to make it more pleasant to drive and to live with on a day-to-day basis. The specification now boasts a DVD player, a reverse parking camera, uprated suspension and a couple of minor bodywork tweaks. The 370Z retails for a basic price of £35,000.
Witness the fitness
Aesthetically, the Nissan 370Z GT is very similar to the standard non-GT model, but that's no bad thing. It's a relatively tall but sleek sports car with a sloping, muscular rear end and a cute, if oddly menacing-looking front. There are some flourishes unique to the GT package, however, including special edition paint finishes (metallic black, pearl white and black rose), GT stripes running just above the car's side skirts and some absolutely gorgeous darkened 19-inch RAYS lightweight forged alloy wheels.
The 370Z GT is less impressive on the inside. The cabin is nicely laid out, but Nissan has clearly cut a few corners to keep costs under control. There is abundant use of cheap-looking plastics, particularly on the dashboard and steering wheel, which features a tacky Z logo and faux metal switches. The car's instruments are a disappointment, too, particularly the petrol and temperature gauges, which are formed of two rows of naff-looking LED dots.
We can forgive Nissan's use of cheap materials in the 370Z GT's interior, as the company has equipped the cabin with enough tech to satisfy all but the most demanding of geeks. The star of the show is a seven-inch display that can be controlled via your meat stylus or a knob-cum-joystick just below the display.
The screen provides access to the 370Z GT's comprehensive entertainment features, including a Bose stereo that delivers a loud, powerful, though not particularly well balanced, sound. The car caters for a healthy range of audio sources including AM and FM radio, USB mass storage, auxiliary, CD and -- if you don't wish to carry your entire CD collection in the car -- a built-in hard drive on to which it is possible to rip audio CDs.
Sadly, the hard drive is a mere 9.3GB in size and is also used to store the navigation system's mapping data. As a result, Nissan only allows users to encode their music at 105kbps or 132kbps bit rates to keep file sizes to a minimum. This is lower than we'd like but, in practice, the slightly muddy-sounding speakers meant it was difficult to tell the difference between uncompressed CD audio and tracks ripped at 132kbps. Ripping a 12-track CD took approximately nine minutes and it's possible to rip audio while listening to tacks.
The 370Z GT handles video, too. Slam a DVD into the slot below the screen or connect your own video device to AV inputs in the centre console and it'll start playing your films in impressive fashion. Sadly, it will only play video if the car is stationary with the handbrake up. Once you pull away it cuts the video feed and only play the DVD's audio track in order to reduce the chances of the driver becoming distracted.
As much as we like having a DVD player in the car, it seems a bit pointless in a vehicle of this ilk. Passengers can't enjoy the system on long journeys and we can't think of any reason we'd want to sit in a parked 370Z GT watching a two-hour movie.
All mapped out
The DVD screen also serves as the 370Z GT's satellite navigation system, the highlight of which is the most seductive guidance voice in automotive history. The system accepts full UK seven-digit postcodes to simplify destination entry, and the screen is large enough to display letters and numbers simultaneously -- eliminating the need to switch back and forth between screens when entering postcodes.
The nav has plenty of other useful features including a split-screen mode that shows both a bird's-eye (or 3D) view of your route in one panel and a close-up overview showing instructions for your next turn, or traffic and road safety alerts in another. It also includes Michelin Guide points of interest, letting you plot scenic or historic sightseeing routes to your destination.
The 370Z GT uses the same 328PS 3.6-litre naturally aspirated engine as the standard car. That's a bit of a shame in a way, because although the car is rapid in a straight line, its 5.3-second 0-62mph time doesn't quite do justice to the car's exquisite handling.
The 370Z GT is ludicrously easy to drive fast. Its updated suspension, keeps the car even more composed through fast corners than the previous model, helping it glide around bends with near perfect balance. It turns in eagerly and stays glued to the road, resisting the urge to over or understeer when on the limit.
That's not to say you can't get leary with it. Switch the traction control off, squeeze the accelerator mid-bend and the 370Z GT's tail begins to slide out. There's rarely any need to back off the power though, as a handful of opposite lock and even more power sends the car into effortless power slides that will make you feel like the late, great Colin McRae.
The perfect match
The transmissions in the 370Z are a mixed bag. Cars fitted with the paddle shifting seven-speed automatic gearbox are frustrating to drive, as the system puts huge restrictions on when the driver is able to change up or down through the gears. Often, even if you're well below the engine's red line, it will prevent you shifting down a gear to extract more torque. It's a poorly designed system that's actually best left in fully automatic mode.
Thankfully, the GT edition of the car comes as standard with a far superior six-speed manual transmission that works perfectly. It's beyond perfect, in fact, as it uses a very useful, high tech feature known as Synchro Rev Match.
Push the 'S' button by the gear stick and the transmission will automatically 'blip' the throttle whenever you change down a gear, increasing engine revs to a speed that keeps the engine in a position to deliver the most torque when you next press the accelerator.
The system is both fun and useful. Every down change is met by a sudden aggressive spike in engine revs, which lets the driver reap the benefits of 'heel and toeing' without any skill whatsoever.
The Nissan 370Z GT is a fitting 40th-anniversary tribute to Nissan's Z cars. We'd like it a lot more if it had greater straight line speed (how about a couple of turbochargers, Nissan?) but it is filled with some clever tech and is extremely rewarding to drive.
Edited by Jennifer Whitehead