Not Even A Snow Storm Stops The Nissan Z From Being Fun

Test Drive / 1 Comment

The universe tried to stop us but fun prevailed.

Getting the 'Hot New Car Of The Moment' as someone that does what we do is always exciting. For a minute, you can forget you need to be Mr. or Ms. Serious Objective Journalist and just be a car person about it. That usually gets set aside once the car shows up in our drive. From there, it's about doing a job. The new Nissan Z is one such car that got us very, very excited.

Our time with the Z was limited; just three days instead of the standard five to seven. Normally, that would be OK. You spend all three days driving it; allocate a day to photos, then another finding a great driving road, and one doing regular commuter things to see how a car fares in regular use. But these three days were unlike what we were expecting.

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The weather forecast in the days preceding delivery called for light rain, then sleet, and by Thursday afternoon - the car arrived on Friday - the Denver metro area and surrounding Rocky Mountains were in for a late-season snowstorm set to dump six or more inches in the high country.

The car was going off to Salt Lake City the week after to film a commercial, and our job was to ensure it got there without tires and with plenty of miles on it. And in one piece.

We got to experience the Z in just about every possible condition an owner might in a year, all in the space of a few days, from rapid driving on clear, clean, warm roads in the Rocky Mountains to dealing with the weather in a 400-horsepower, rear-wheel drive sports car.

Mercifully, it all ended well. But it wasn't without challenges.

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A 400-HP Snow Day? In May? Must Be Colorado

After snapping a few shots late on the first day, we thought we'd have the opportunity for an early morning shoot the next. We were wrong. We shot out of bed like the Manchurian Candidate in the morning. It was already cold and overcast. We paid little mind until the tire pressure light came on. Occasionally, that happens here in CO. Cold snaps drop tire pressures, resulting in the sensor tripping. That is not what it was.

It was instead a big fat nail in the Z's big fat 275-section rear tire. That was it; our weekend with the Z was done, we thought. Our nearest Nissan dealer couldn't get us a tire, despite the admiration the Z got from the staff, but our "guy" from Nissan's fleet told us he could. But he was clear on the other side of Denver. It was snowing now. Properly. And our Nissan Z was on summer tires.

What followed was possibly the sketchiest 57 minutes of driving we'd done in a sports car (below 60 mph at least). With 350 lb-ft of torque and cold, flat summer tires, the Z was a handful, and the traction control was just about useless.

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Nothing Puts A Damper On The Z

Eventually, we made it to our guy. We also call him our dealer, simply because the man feeds our addiction to all that's new and fast. We fitted a new tire to the Z; The nail was about the size of your middle finger and about half as thick. It was a big one, and we're genuinely shocked (so shocked we forgot to get a pic) that the car made it without going totally flat, or worse, taking us on a quick trip to the nearest guard rail.

When we were in better conditions, the Z wowed us. It also made us realize the Nissan Z actually starts life at $50,000 - not the $39,990 starting price - simply because we couldn't live without the diff included in the Performance trim. It engages in the most lovely and progressive of ways, constantly feeding you communication through the seat. The same can be said of the suspension, which also is not harsh during daily driving.

We wouldn't want to be stuck in a snowstorm, or any high-speed scenario, without that diff.

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Before we heap more praise on the Z, we might as well point out its largest pitfall: electronic steering. It's not as numb as some of BMW's stuff (looking at you, M240i), but it's close.

Still, it didn't slow us down. With 400 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque coming from its twin-turbo V6, the Z positively rips. Thanks to modern turbo tech, it doesn't run out of gas at the top end either. The Z wants to be high in its rev range, with the shifter buzzing away in your right hand.

That shifter, by the way, is a fantastic one. Nissan did an excellent job making the Z's transmission engaging, and the whole unit feels bolted right to the chassis. We even enjoyed using the car's auto rev-matching function, something Nissan pioneered, and a feature that makes daily life with a stick as easy as it gets. It could use some better shift feel, but the aftermarket will have a solution in no time. This is a Z, after all.

But perhaps the best part of the Z (at least when it's dry out) is that you can play within its limits. The traction control will let you show those next to you the car's 300ZX-inspired tail lights before reining your childish drift antics back in. The stick car isn't about 0-60 times either, which is why we were more than happy it'd light up the rears. This car is, in a sentence, fun to drive, which is exactly what Nissan wanted from it.

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The day that followed the ill-timed storm was wet, but at least it wasn't snowing. With precious little time left, we put as many miles on the Z as we could, simply because we wanted to. That's how good the Z is. Even after a hellishly unfortunate weekend, the Z hadn't lost its shine.

All told, the weekend spanned 480+ miles of Colorado high country, highways, and side streets, many of which were actively being covered in snow.

Despite what many would consider a stressful, hectic, cold, brutal weekend, the Z ensured our spirits were never dampened. It was fun to drive, fast, comfortable, and, aside from circumstances outside our control, composed. If we have to go through car journalist hell week again, we'd be sure to do it in the Nissan Z. Maybe this time with some run-flats.

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