2009 Nissan 370Z review:

2009 Nissan 370Z

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Our car lacked any cabin tech options and had no navigation or cell phone integration, so we were stuck with a basic stereo head unit with a single CD slot. As the CD player couldn't read an MP3 CD, the only saving grace to this system was the auxiliary input on the face plate. The audio system itself was pretty weak, producing muddy sound from two tweeters on the dashboard and four woofers around the cabin. The system had some power to it, giving some oomph to the bass, but overall it lacked separation and clarity.

The stock stereo in the 370Z's only saving grace is the auxiliary input in the face plate.

Normally we would slam a car with such limited cabin tech, but we give the 370Z credit for its optional navigation and audio system. Where some automakers limit the cabin tech option on their sports cars, Nissan makes its newest suite of tech available. We used a similar system in the 2009 Nissan Maxima, so got a taste of what's available in the 370Z. That includes a hard drive-based navigation system with traffic and weather, music storage on that hard drive, a good iPod connector, Bose audio system, and Bluetooth cell phone integration.

Under the hood
As a two-seater, the raison d'etre of the 2009 Nissan 370Z is sport driving. Nissan actually shortened the wheelbase by almost 4 inches and lightened the car compared to its predecessor. And they put a bigger engine in it. Nissan has won awards for its 3.5-liter V-6 engine, and used it in many Nissan and Infiniti models. The 370Z gets a tuned and bored-out version of that engine with displacement increased to 3.7-liters. Its 332 horsepower comes at 7,000rpm, and 270 pound-feet of torque peak at 5,200rpm-- more than enough to break grip on the back tires in a fast start.

The VVEL stamp on the engine stands for Variable Valve Event and Lift, one of Nissan's valve technologies for optimizing engine performance.

When we ran the revs up over 6,000 in second gear, the engine sounded rough, making an unpleasant whine. With a redline of 7,500rpm, the engine shouldn't have trouble at these speeds. Nissan uses its latest valve-timing technology on it, which includes variable lift on the intake valves.

We mentioned the six-speed manual above. Its SynchroRev Match option makes attacking corners extraordinarily easy, especially coupled with the gear indicator on the tachometer. Similar to how the Nissan GT-R is a supercar for moderately skilled drivers, Nissan seems to have designed the 370Z as a good beginner track day car. It makes it hard to screw up in a fast corner. Although the 370Z seems like a pure sports car, an automatic transmission is available. But this automatic has seven gears and paddle shifters, so we expect it performs better than a traditional slushbox.

The S-Mode button engages the SynchroRev Match feature.

The steering feels very solid, with no drift in the wheel during long stretches at speed. But you have to be ready for oversteer, as each movement of the wheel translates immediately to a new direction for the car. We threw the car into some turns, and were impressed by its grip and the lack of body roll. The 370Z's oversteer meant we could use minimal input on the steering wheel to negotiate a corner. The car has a big brace across its front shock towers, along with a brace under the rear of the car, helping rigidity.

Our car was equipped with the Sport package, so it had big, four-piston calipers on the front discs. The rear two-piston calipers looked inadequate by comparison. We also had 19-inch RAYS wheels on the car, which looked particularly good, the spokes allowing a clear view of the wide inner rim.

There are no EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2009 Nissan 370Z as of this review, but in our testing we averaged around 18.5 mpg--not a great number, but not surprising for this engine. Emissions ratings also haven't been published for the 370Z.

In sum
We don't have full pricing information for the 2009 Nissan 370Z at this point, but the car should base at about $29,000. Expect to add around $2,500 for the navigation and Bose audio system, and probably a similar amount for the Sport package. It would cost about 10 grand more for the BMW 135i, a car with some similar performance aspects to the 370Z. For about the same money as the 370Z, you could get a Honda S2000, but that roadster lacks any decent cabin tech.

Although we had a few criticisms, there is a lot we like about the 370Z. It not only performs well in sport driving, it uses some interesting tech to help the driver. As for cabin tech, Nissan has been making great strides in this area over the past few years. Our test car might not have been impressive with its basic stereo system, but we give the 370Z plenty of points for the available cabin tech. Design is also a win, as we like the looks of this car, especially in comparison to its predecessor.

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