by Jared Rosenholtz
Have you ever hopped into a new car and been completely overwhelmed by the number of buttons or screens? Well, Nissan still builds the perfect car for those that prefer a more basic approach. Having been introduced way back in 2009, the 370Z is now in its 12th model year and the car is virtually unchanged. It still features the same engine, transmission, and interior as the car that debuted more than 10 years ago, giving the 370Z a modern collectible type of feel. This is great if you are a technophobe who is afraid of change but seriously limiting when you stop to think about how much other cars have changed since the 370Z was first introduced.
Think about it this way - the 370Z has lived long enough to see three Corvette generations, two Miata generations, two Z4 generations, the return of the Supra, and the death of the S2000. Buying a 370Z in 2020 is a very different proposition than it was back in 2009 but Nissan still sells a few thousand of them every year and a replacement is only an enthusiast's dream at this point. Nissan sent us a 2020 50th Anniversary Edition for testing to see if it still have a few tricks up its sleeve after all these years.
The 2020 Nissan 370Z has been updated with a few feature updates, exterior appearance alterations, and a new trim level. The most noticeable change to the 370Z offering has to be the addition of the 50th Anniversary Edition, which is intended to celebrate half a century of the iconic sports car. The Anniversary Edition features a lively graphics pack, black outside mirrors, and yellow interior trim as well as two new colors; Pearl White and Deep Blue Pearl, and looks like it means business. An auto-dimming mirror and rearview camera are now standard.
The shape of the 370Z bears an almost identical resemblance to its predecessor, the 350Z - which was launched in the US 18 years ago - and by now, the shape of this Nissan sports car can be described as iconic. The 2020 370Z hasn't changed much but looks as crisp as ever thanks to the new headlights and taillights as well as reworked rear fascia from the 2018 refresh. Standard exterior features on the base model include 18-inch alloy wheels finished off in Black Aluminum and wrapped in Yokohama Advan Sport tires, Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED taillights. There are a set of Z fender emblems on the front corners of the car, and a one-touch hatch release improves trunk access. Higher up in the range the wheel size grows to 19-inches and the 370Z gains some aerodynamic upgrades in the form of a chin aero deflector and a rear spoiler.
We tested the 50th Anniversary model, which gets a unique set of 19-inch RAYS wheels, side marker decals and a bunch of model-specific badges. It is not an understatement to say we have never received more confused stares when testing a car than we got in the 370Z. Some onlookers (mainly children) loved the Motorsport-inspired livery while others (mostly sane adults) gave us angry looks of disapproval, questioning our life decisions.
The 370Z's stubby looks are part design quirk and part performance-minded; the short and wide design pushes the wheels into the corners of the body, which in turn gives great feedback and response when carving corners. The Z measures 167.5 inches in length and is 72.6 inches wide when you include the side mirrors. The whole show rolls on a 100.4-inch wheelbase, making it a hair longer and wider than the 2020 Audi TT Coupe which drives on a 98.6-inch wheelbase and measures 164.7 inches in length. Weight is kept relatively low, but is not class-leading: the 3,333 lbs curb weight can be felt, but a balanced chassis and suspension setup overcomes any weight disadvantage.
Two new colors, namely Pearl White and Deep Blue Pearl have been added to the 370Z's palette for 2020. Pearl White TriCoat is available on the base model through to the Sport Touring spec car, but not the 50th Anniversary edition. The same goes for Brilliant Silver Metallic, Gun Metallic, Passion Red TriCoat, Deep Blue Pearl and Magnetic Black Pearl. 50th Anniversary models get an exclusive livery with a set of color options: Two-tone Pearl White TriCoat and Solid Red or two-tone Brilliant Silver Metallic and Magnetic Black Pearl. The 370Z in two-tone looks ready for the track and goes a long way to add to its sporty image and heritage. Nissan says the design of the 50th Anniversary Edition was inspired by the 1970 Peter Brock BRE Datsun 240Z.
Finding a car that delivers a raw performance driving experience while offering a maintenance warranty is hard to come by these days, but the 370Z waves that banner proudly. Nissan designed its first Z car back in the sixties, with the idea of offering a no-frills, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car experience that delivered back-to-basics driving enjoyment. Absolutely nothing has changed in the past fifty years.
The 370Z still has an engine in the front that sends its power to the rear and manages to do it in a way that makes drivers think they've been teleported back in time. The 3.7-liter V6 found under the hood features a twin-intake system and delivers 332 horsepower, 270 lb-ft of torque, and a soundtrack that wouldn't seem out of place at a 1960's Goodwood Hillclimb event. Zero to sixty times around the five-second mark can be expected, but nail the perfect launch and the 370Z will dip below that barrier and will continue on to a top speed of 155 mph.
The 370Z is powered by the tried and tested 3.7-liter VQ37VHR V6 engine which features continuously variable valve timing, a twin intake system and pushes out 332 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque available at 5,200 rpm. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission which features automatic rev-matching in the Sport and 50th Anniversary models for improved downshifts. A seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode comes standard in the Sport Touring model.
Compared with modern turbocharged competitors like the Supra, the 370Z feels sluggish when being driven at anything other than full throttle. The engine doesn't reach peak power until around 7,000 rpm, so the car basically begs you to rev it out every chance you get. There is a joyous feeling to nailing the perfect gear change while the engine screams at high rpm but it certainly isn't faster. The manual transmission and clutch both feel heavy, so the 370Z can be slightly tiresome to drive in traffic. Having driven the automatic, we can still say without a doubt the manual is the transmission to get.
Driving the 370Z feels like being transported back to 2009 before nearly every performance car had a turbocharged engine and an endless array of driver assists. Aside from a clever rev-matching system, the 370Z only boasts simple traction control with two modes - on and off. With the system disengaged, it becomes easy to smoke the rear tires on a launch while you hastily attempt a quick shift into second gear. In a straight line, the 370Z feels brisk, but competitors have it outclassed in terms of outright acceleration.
Through the bends, the 370Z lacks the playfulness of a Miata or the composure of the new Supra, though it is still enjoyable to toss around. The steering is still hydraulic, though it lacks the feedback we remember from other cars of its era (like the NC Miata). All of the controls - such as the steering and shifter - feel heavy like shaking hands with a bodybuilder, so the 370Z is best enjoyed by experienced drivers who like to feel highly connected to the car. If among the people who complain about new sports cars lacking feel and driver involvement, the 370Z might be your perfect car.
Enjoying the rawness of that V6 engine comes at a price: the 370Z will return an EPA estimated 17/26/20 mpg city/highway/combined in six-speed manual guise, while the seven-speed automatic will improve that number slightly to 19/26/22 mpg. With a 19-gallon gas tank, strict adherence to the light-foot philosophy should yield around 418 miles rang in mixed conditions. In real-world testing, the 370Z proved to be more frugal than the EPA predicted and we managed to squeeze over 30 mpg from it on the highway.
The ethos of back to basic motoring with driver enjoyment at the top of the priority list is noticeable as you take a seat inside the 2020 370Z. From the simplified dashboard design to the spread of analog buttons, the 370Z's interior offers the basic features most modern cars should have in their arsenal, but not much else. Getting in and out of the 370Z isn't troublesome, but as with any serious sports car, the Z sits low to the ground, necessitating a few grunts when getting in. Getting into a comfortable seating position can be an issue due to the lack of a telescopically adjustable steering wheel. Once seated, the 370Z offers poor visibility in virtually all directions, but a special mention should go out to the massive blind-spots on offer. Despite these issues, the 370Z is well put together and drives down the road with minimal squeaks and rattles.
During our time with the 370Z, we were mostly satisfied with the seats but found it difficult to get comfortable on a number of occasions. This might be due to a lack of lumbar support and a lack of a telescoping steering wheel. We suggest trying the 370Z for yourself but overall, the low driving position is ideal for sporty driving without feeling cramped.
The 370Z is available with a selection of cloth and partial leather options but our 50th Anniversary tester was equipped with a uniquely-themed interior motif. Nissan wrapped the outside of the seats with leather while the inserts are a cloth mesh with a Z-logo stitched in. Elsewhere in the interior, there are several plaques and logos to let you know it is a 50th Anniversary Edition.
As with the C7 Chevrolet Corvette, the 370Z features a hatch-style liftgate which in theory should add to its daily practicality, but unlike the Corvette, the 370Z's sloping rear hatch and suspension placement negate any benefit; it actually makes the rear cargo space a hassle, and renders most of the space at the rear end unusable. Without the optional cargo cover, stuff in the back will be on display for all to see. Only 6.9 cubic feet of space is available in the coupe, the lowest in its class.
Small-item storage is severely limited by an already tight interior. There's a cupholder, a center console that offers barely enough space for a cellphone and the extra storage compartments behind the seats don't offer much. If you get any of the lower-trim models, Nissan does give you a small cubby where the navigation screen would live.
In a last-ditch effort, Nissan has thrown a number of features at the 370Z that help keeps its head above water, but only barely. Exterior features worth mentioning include auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, as well as an aluminum hood, doors, and hatch. Inside, the 2020 370Z comes equipped with automatic climate control, push-button ignition, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. A HomeLink universal transceiver and rear cargo cover are standard features on the Sport Touring model. A sporty three-gauge cluster sits atop the dashboard and displays oil temperature, voltage and includes a digital clock, and a single USB port is offered for all your charging needs. It is clear to see that the features list, barring the infotainment system, is sparse, but offers enough to keep the driving enthusiast comfortable between sections of twisty roads.
Infotainment? What infotainment? Unless you opt for the Sport Touring trim, all you get in the 370Z is a base radio with AM and FM, a CD player (yes, those still exist), Bluetooth (for calling, not music streaming), and that's about it. There's no Apple CarPlay, no Android Auto, and even the legally required back-up camera lives in the rearview mirror rather than its own screen. We'd say things are better in the Sport Touring trim - which gets navigation and Bluetooth audio streaming - but that head unit hasn't changed much since 2009 and is more difficult to replace due to its odd fitment. We recommend just getting the base radio and swapping it out with an aftermarket unit.
Nissan has gone through enough trial and error with the 370Z to ensure it is one of the most reliable modern sports cars on the market. The bulletproof V6 under the hood has been abused by first-time drivers and professional drifters alike and has stood the test of time. The same goes for the rest of the car, which seems to enjoy a good beating. According to the NHTSA, the 370Z has only been recalled once in the past three years. The 2018 recall was issued for an incorrectly installed airbag system that could deploy incorrectly in case of an accident. This recall affected certain 370Z models manufactured in 2018. Nissan offers an industry-standard three-year/36,000-mile warranty which includes a five-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty, and a three-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance plan.
It is disconcerting to note that the Nissan 370Z has not been rated by any of the major crash test rating agencies, including the IIHS and NHTSA. What is even more worrisome is the fact that the previous generation 350Z was named the deadliest car by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; the figures showed an average death rating of 143 per million registered vehicles. The 370Z has however gone through a complete redesign, and most of the safety issues that plagued the 350Z have been ironed out of the current generation Z car.
Nissan has done the bare minimum to protect occupants in the 370Z, with even basic driver assistance tech, found in most modern sports cars missing from the list. What you do get is dual front airbags with seat belt and occupation sensors, side-impact airbags and roof-mounted curtain bags. Active head restraints should keep heads from rolling, and a tire pressure monitoring system will let you know when you've hit a nail. Other than the above mentioned, the 370Z offers no other safety features such as blind-spot monitoring or automatic emergency braking.
The Nissan 370Z is still an enjoyable sports car with a notable focus on drivers who hate modern technology. But Nissan hasn't done enough to change it over the past 12 model years, meaning it is a much smarter purchase to get a used 370Z over a brand-new one. Nissan continues to sell the 370Z because it occupies an empty space in the sports car market above the cheaper (and slower) Mazda Miata and Toyota 86 but below the more expensive (and much faster) Toyota Supra and Chevy Corvette. If you don't fit into a Miata and don't have enough for the Supra or Corvette, the Z starts to make some sense, but we still think you are better off shopping elsewhere.
The Nissan 370Z offers a great deal of performance for under $40,000 where it competes with the likes of the Dodge Challenger T/A, Subaru WRX STI, and Chevy Camaro SS. The most affordable 370Z in the range is the six-speed manual which starts out at an MSRP of $30,090 and Nissan asks an additional $895 for destination and handling. The seven-speed automatic transmission adds $1,400 to the asking price. The Sport model which is only available with the six-speed trans costs $33,820, while the Sport Touring comes in at $39,490. The 50th Anniversary edition starts from $36,420 for the manual and rises to $37,670 for the auto. Ford's Mustang Ecoboost starts at only $26,670 for the 2.3-liter Ecoboost, and a GT Premium Fastback with over 450 hp will come in at $39,630.
Nissan offers its old school brawler in three different trim levels, excluding the Nismo tuned version: Base, Sport, and Sport Touring.
The base model, simply named the 370Z is offered in both manual and automatic guise and shares most of its features with the higher trims. Powered by a 3.7-liter V6 producing 332 hp, the 370Z sends its power to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto tranny, continuing through a carbon fiber composite driveshaft. 18-inch wheels wrapped in Yokohama sport tires keep the Z in contact with terra firma. Automatic climate control, a rear-view monitor and push-button start and a USB charging port are some of the mentionable interior features.
The Sport model adds a limited-slip differential, upgraded sport brakes and 19-inch custom-designed Rays wheels amongst other changes.
The Touring model gets a seven-inch infotainment display, navigation, Bluetooth, and leather seats.
The 2020 370Z comes with a full house of features, so Nissan hasn't even bothered with optional packages. What they do offer is a series of accessories that include a set of splash guards for $255, a Nismo rear decklid for $850 or a Nismo cat-back exhaust system for $1,850. Nismo offers a wide range of performance-enhancing accessories that makes the 370Z even more pleasurable to drive. If you're looking for something a bit more special, the 50th Anniversary Edition package is only available on Sport models and offers unique exterior styling, and interior touches such as a different tachometer design and suede insert on the seats.
If we had to recommend a 370Z trim, it would be the Sport model. It adds important performance features like a limited-slip differential and upgraded sport brakes without the silly livery and added cost of the 50th Anniversary Edition.
Modern American muscle cars offer extraordinary value for money, and the Mustang GT is a prime example. The GT starts at an MSRP of $35,630 which puts it level with the 370Z Sport Coupe. Powering the Mustang GT is a brawny 5.0-liter V8 that pushes out 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, which makes the Nissan's 332 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque look like child's play. The GT will accelerate to sixty in a blistering 4.2 seconds, putting it in a different league to that of the 370Z. All that performance comes at a price however: the GT manages to return 2 mpg less on the combined cycle for a total of 15/24/18 mpg city/highway/combined. Inside, the Mustang GT is a noticeably bigger car, and offers more interior space in general. The trunk of the GT is also significantly larger at 13.5 cubic feet. Unlike the 370Z, the Mustang GT has been tested by the IIHS and performed well. The Mustang GT offers a whole lot more at the same price, and then some.
The base model 370Z picks up where the Subaru BRZ lets off in terms of performance, but with a greater focus on daily usability, the BRZ offers more practical and user-friendly features. The most glaring difference between the two has to be the power difference: the Subaru is powered by a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine co-engineered with Toyota and develops 205 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque. The 370Z clearly has the power advantage, but that's where Nissan's superiority stops. The BRZ is more fuel-efficient, safer, and offers more features. Some will argue that the BRZ is one of the best driving cars of the last century, and there are thousands of car reviews that back that up. The 370Z is a muscular brute when compared to the nimble Subaru. For those who place driver engagement above power figures, the BRZ should do the trick, not to mention it's much safer and offers more features.