The 2016 Nissan 370Z is a really special car with a crazy loyal following and the coupe has pretty much been cemented in the history books as an automotive icon.
Engine: 3.7-liter V6
Power: 332 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 18 city, 26 highway
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 13.3 city, 9.3 highway
US Price: Starts at $29,990
CAN Price: Starts at $29,998
The problem with being an icon, though, is that the car has a lot to live up to. Does the most recent Z car live up to the hype?
Let’s Start with Some History
The Nissan Z is one of the survivors from the golden era of Japanese sports cars, although it was born in 1969, long before that amazing automotive time that was the 1990s. Many of its counterparts like the Toyota Supra, Honda S2000, Acura Integra, Mazda RX-7, and Mitsubishi Eclipse, among others, have all been phased out. From the get-go, the Z was hailed as a beautiful, lightweight sports car with legitimate performance bonafides that gained a lot of fans for its reliability and affordability.
Hanging out at the ZCon (the annual Z car convention and largest gathering of Z car enthusiasts in North America), Jeff Fox, who owns a 1970 Datsun 240Z, agrees with that sentiment.
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“A Porsche at the time would cost you about $12,000. A Corvette was about $10,000, and this Datsun was $3,400,” said Fox, who also was lucky enough to drive Yutaka Katayama, otherwise known as Mr. K, father of the Z, during a previous ZCon. He likes his Z not only because of the affordability, but the fact he can do a lot of the maintenance himself because the Z is not a complicated car. He also loves how it drives.
“You know you’re driving. You feel the road. They don’t have a lot of power, but they are light and they just drive like crazy. It’s loads of fun.”
Alfonso Mazzarella, who restored a basketcase 1972 Datsun 240Z to original stock condition after finding it rotting in a barn, pipes in. “It’s about camaraderie. It’s about the brotherhood. You see someone break down, and we’re all going to stop and ask how we can help,” he says. “These cars are unique. They are fun. Especially the older ones, they’re super fun to drive. They respond to your movement, it’s like an extension of your body, and you just feel happy.”
A lot of that still holds true for the 2016 Nissan 370Z we have today. Starting at under $30,000, it is still quite the bargain for a V6-powered, rear-wheel-drive sports car.
Powered by a naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V6, today’s Z has 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Being a high-revving Japanese engine, this V6 is a bit pokey to drive in the city, but it comes alive higher up in the rev range. When you have enough road to rev the engine all the way to about 6,000 rpm, the car becomes alive and is a lot more rewarding to drive. This is a sports car, and it’s only happy when it’s driven like one. It feels good to blast into a corner, and it loves winding roads.
The Z makes you work for your fun, but drivers these days seem to prefer the instant gratification of having more torque earlier on in the rev range. For this reason, I can see Nissan turbocharging its next-generation Z. The next Z will also likely make weight savings a huge priority because this Z feels a tad too heavy; it’s not as nimble as it should be. The Z also doesn’t sound like a sports car and the V6 sounds a bit too agricultural.
The Z driven here has a six-speed manual transmission, but a seven-speed automatic is also available. The clutch in the Z takes a lot of getting used to and feels clumsy, making it difficult to drive the car naturally and smoothly. The clutch is very springy and has an awkward take point, which takes away from how sporty the car feels. Luckily, the steering is responsive and heavy, and the shifter is notchy and intuitive, which helps make up for the wonky clutch.
One of the Z’s best features is the automatic rev-matching downshifts. Available with both the manual and the automatic, when you gear down, it blips the throttle for a smoother shift and makes you feel like a much better driver than you actually are. A perfectly executed shift is just one of those things that put a smile on any car enthusiasts face.
The Interior Story
Sadly, the interior of the Z is terribly dated and it feels about 10 years old. There’s a lot of hard black plastic used and the switchgear feels old and cheap. Luckily, it’s not too difficult to use, as the layout is quite user-friendly.
Once nice touch is that the gauge clusters move with the tilting steering wheel so the wheel never blocks your view of the gauges. Z owners also love the padded spot for your right knee.
But There’s More to the Z than That
One of the best things about driving a Z, however, transcends the car itself. That community that Fox and Mazzarella were talking about is really what Z ownership is all about. Those two men were competing against each other in a “Best of Show” contest, and Fox was still trying to help out Mazzarella by giving him spare parts and advice. This type of collective love for a car is the thing that makes Z ownership really rewarding.
The Verdict: 2016 Nissan 370Z Review
So does this Z live up to the hype of its predecessors? Nissan definitely has some work to do, but I’m really excited to see what the next gen Z will offer because I think Nissan will bring it back to its roots.
This 2016 Nissan 370Z feels quite dated, and although it’s still fun to drive, a lot can be done to make the coupe the true sports car that older Z owners are so proud of and one that future Z owners will love showing off.