2013 Nissan 370Z review:

Nissan Z-car eats up the road, beats up the driver

Starting at $33,120
  • Available Engine Gas
  • Body style Coupe

Roadshow Editors' Rating

6.7 Overall
  • Cabin tech 6
  • Performance tech 8
  • Design 6

The Good The 2013 Nissan 370Z is a fantastic performer with great power and handling. The Sport Package further sharpens that edge, enhancing the Z's handling.

The Bad The Z's ride can be brutally rough over road imperfections. Cabin tech options that should be standard are bundled into expensive packages and trim-level upgrades.

The Bottom Line The 2013 Nissan 370Z makes many comfort compromises in the name of performance. If that's what you're after, skip the pricey Touring trim level and grab a base model with the Sport package.

We first met this generation's Z-car from behind the wheel of a spanking-new 2009 Nissan 370Z. Almost four years later to the day, I find myself behind the wheel of the 2013 Nissan 370Z Touring, and let me tell you, not much has changed.

The Z's 3.7-liter V-6 is essentially untouched, outputting the same 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. That power still flows through a six-speed manual transmission before heading to the rear axle. (A seven-speed automatic gearbox is available, but I will call you a poseur if I catch you driving it.) The Z still sports the same classic sports car proportions. Even the 18 city and 26 highway EPA-estimated mpg fuel economy is unchanged over the last four years.

Almost nothing has changed under the Z's hood.

James Martin/CNET

Z-car aficionados and sharp-eyed car nuts will notice a few changes in this 2013 model. The revised front bumper removes the two angular protrusions from the intake opening that gave the previous model its "catfish mouth" look. I sort of miss them, as the new lower grille is a bit dull by comparison. LED daytime running lights (DRLs) have been added to the new front bumper, and at the other end of the vehicle, the rear lighting setup has been nearly imperceptibly tweaked. Beneath the surface, a slightly revised suspension tune for our vehicle's Sport Package rounds out the upgrades.

Outstanding performance...
The sharp performance of the Nissan Z is made even sharper with the addition of an optional $3,030 Sport Package that will be worth nearly every penny to drivers with any sort of motorsport aspirations, whether they be participating in local track days, autocrossing, or just carving a canyon at questionably legal speeds.

For your money, you get a set of "Euro-tuned" sport shocks that firm up the Z's ride and reduce roll when cornering, Nissan sport brakes with red-painted calipers that shave off the mph's at a staggering rate, and 19-inch Rays forged aluminum-alloy wheels with staggered and sticky tires. A viscous limited-slip differential helps with getting power to the road and a front chin deflector and rear spoiler augment the aerodynamics at speed. The Sport Package also adds the SynchroRev Match function to the manual gearbox -- a feature that you'll either love and praise or hate and curse, depending on your driving style and mood at the moment.

The six-speed manual transmission gains a SynchroRev Match feature with the addition of the Sport Package.

James Martin/CNET

SynchroRev Match works like this: When shifting into a gear with the clutch depressed, the Z's computer will blip or hold the engine speed to match the wheel speed of the chosen gears. So, for example, when shifting from third to second gear, you'll hear the engine speed jump slightly and hold for a moment, allowing you to release the clutch for a smooth, perfectly matched shift.

After years of driving manually shifted vehicles properly, I'm used to blipping the throttle myself, so occasionally SynchroRev Match and I butted heads on just who was in control of the throttle. After getting used to it, I found that, if I let the computer handle the blipping and I handled the clutch, the shifts were smooth. The system seems to work best when in aggressive driving situations near the top of the tachometer's range. At lower speeds, I found it to be...well, a bit annoying, but we'll come back to that shortly.

The 370Z's heavy steering feels just a bit numb and didn't communicate very much to me through my fingertips, but it is definitely responsive and direct. The Z also makes up for its untalkative steering rack with a chassis that communicates plenty about what's happening where the rubber meets the road though the driver's spine.

And with over 330 horsepower on tap and gobs of torque available at reasonably low engine speeds, the Z-car's power delivery is absolutely amazing. When the road opens up or you round the bend onto the back straight and can really put the hammer down, the V-6 engine howls and you'll find yourself howling right along with it.

...with Touring and Tech upgrades...
When we last met the Z, we met it at its Base trim level and found it to be rather spartan where cabin tech and appointments were concerned. Our current Touring trim level adds a number of upgrades to the coupe's interior, including Bluetooth hands-free calling, an eight-speaker Bose audio system that includes dual subwoofers, and power-adjustable leather seats with heated surfaces and synthetic suede inserts. For the $4,700 price hike between the base and Touring trim levels, you also get a cover you can use to obscure the rear cargo area from prying eyes, aluminum pedals, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a HomeLink universal garage door opener built into it.

The Z's navigation system is, frankly, a bit outdated and expensive.

James Martin/CNET

With a Touring Z you have the further option of the tech-laden Navigation Package for $2,150, which adds a 7-inch touch-screen display (like many Nissan/Infiniti models, the Z features both touch and physical controls) through which to interact with the hard-drive-based navigation system and its NavTraffic data. This is Nissan's older navigation system, the very same one that the Z debuted with, and not the newer Web-connected system that is available in the 2013 Nissan Altima.

Along with navigation, the Navigation Package also adds a USB connection for iPods and mass storage devices, Bluetooth audio streaming, and a rearview camera that, given the Z's poor rearward visibility, should almost definitely be a standard feature. You also lose the Bose audio system's six-disc changer in favor of a single-slot DVD player and the 3.5mm auxiliary input jack.

...but there's a catch.
The Nissan Z is a great canyon carver and won't disappoint you as a track tool, but there's a catch and it's a big one: the Nissan 370Z is not a very good daily driver.

The combination of the Z's already stiff ride and the even stiffer upgrades added by the optional Sport Package gave our coupe a disturbingly rough ride over San Francisco's streets. If you live in an area with glass-smooth roads, this may not be an issue for you, but I found the ride to be so rough that it was difficult to even use the touch screen accurately when rolling down the highway. The Z transmits more road noise into the cabin at legal speeds than engine sound, and passengers complained about the rough ride as we crashed over highway expansion joints and bounced around in our seats.

The heavy clutch pedal that makes for quick SynchroRev Match shifts at speed quickly becomes tiring in stop-and-go traffic, where SynchroRev can't mask the fact that the clutch behaves a bit like a toggle. This is compounded by the V-6 engine's tendency to float its revs at low speeds, even with SynchroRev Match disabled, making it difficult to time shifts at neighborhood speeds without either shifting excessively slowly or causing the vehicle to jerk.

If you're not a fan of SynchroRev Match, you can disable the feature, but know that it will automatically re-engage every time you restart the vehicle. Likewise, the automatic climate controls of our Touring model reset themselves to the fully off position after every trip. So, you'd have to remember to reactivate the heater every morning, which sort of defeats the purpose of having automatic climate controls in the first place.

The wide Z's poor rearward visibility and massive blind spots are just the tip of the annoyance iceberg.

James Martin/CNET

Consider also the massive blind spots at the vehicle's rear quarter that make every rush-hour lane change a tricky one, the ridiculously small storage space beneath the rear liftback, and the fact that -- after four years of people complaining -- the 2013 Z still uses the same dumb LED fuel and temperature gauges that are difficult to view in direct sunlight. What's good for the track is certainly not good for the commute. As a 30-something bachelor and driving enthusiast, I'm quite possibly the poster child for the Nissan 370Z's target market, but much as I love the Z, I don't think it could be my primary ride.

Is it worth your money?
The 2013 Nissan Z Coupe starts at $33,120 for the base model, but pricing for our 370Z Touring starts at an MSRP of $37,820. Adding the Sport and Navigation Packages, $125 floor mats, and a $780 destination charge brings you to our rather lofty as-tested price of $43,905. Is the Z a great performer? Yes. Is it worth nearly $44K as tested? Nope. Now before you fire off that hate mail, allow me to explain.

If you're looking at the 370Z Touring with Navigation, you're probably also looking for a daily driver -- a vehicle that's sporty but easy to live with. It's probably going to be your primary set of wheels. The Z does daily driving poorly. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec, for example, doesn't quite match the Z's performance, but it's so much easier to live with, with its (small) rear seat and larger trunk. The ride is more controlled and less punishing over public roads. Think of it as getting 80 percent of the performance with 120 percent more comfort. If you're determined to buy a Nissan, spend a few extra bucks and look at the Infiniti G37 Coupe, which offers the best of both worlds with similar performance to the Z on the street with fantastic comfort and tech.

For the performance driver's money, the best Z is the base model with the Sport Package. Don't bother with the Touring trim-level upgrades.

James Martin/CNET

On the other hand, if you want an impractical and pure-performance car -- comfort be damned -- the 2013 Nissan 370Z will not disappoint, but do yourself a favor and go bare-bones. Skip the comfort pretenses of the Touring trim-level upgrades, skip the Navigation Package, which is frankly outdated anyway, and get yourself the stripped-down base model with the Sport Package for $36,150. You'll have to plug your iPhone into an auxiliary input, but you'll have a fantastic sports car that you can occasionally take to the track for a savings of about $7,755 over the nearly $44K Touring model. You can buy a lot of tires and track time with that money.

Tech specs
Model2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe
TrimTouring with Sport package
Power train3.7-liter V-6, 6-speed manual transmission with SynchroRev Match, RWD
EPA fuel economy18 city, 26 highway, 21 combined mpg
Observed fuel economyn/a
Navigationoptional Nissan HDD navigation system
Bluetooth phone supportoptional with address book sync
Disc playersingle-slot DVD
MP3 player supportoptional USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection
Other digital audioSiriusXM Satellite Radio
Audio system8-speaker Bose audio with 2 subwoofers
Driver aidsn/a
Base price$33,120
Price as tested$43,905

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