Los Angeles Motor Show 2008Update: the new Nissan 370Z has made its debut at the Los Angeles Motor Show and although it's unmistakably a Z-car, it's shorter, more feline and less butch.
Farewell 350Z, hello 370Z
At the Los Angeles Motor Show, Nissan has unveiled its new Z coupe. Christened the 370Z, Nissan's new affordable sports car has, surprise, surprise a 3.7-litre V6 in lieu of the previous model's 3.5-litre V6. The new Z will go on sale in the US in early 2009.
Putting power to the rear wheels is a six-speed SynchroRev Match manual transmission, which is the world's first synchronised downshift rev matching system. The system "blips" the throttle on downshifts and upshifts, matching engine speed to the next chosen gear, smoothing out gear changes. The driver still has to engage the clutch and move the gear lever, but the computer handles the rest. For those who can't even handle that much, a seven-speed fully automatic transmission is also available with paddle shifters.
To Infiniti and beyond
One of the most frequent criticisms of the 350Z was its interior, which was full of hard grey plastic and an oppressive bunker-like feel. The new model seeks to alleviate this with, what seems to be, an interior filled with much richer materials. The centre console, with its large LCD screen and nearly horizontal controls, seems to be taken straight from Nissan's line of luxury Infiniti cars.
Power to the people
The 370Z's 3.7-litre V6 is a version of the engine that powers much of the luxury Infiniti range in the US, but in this incarnation it outputs 248kW of power and 199Nm of torque. In official US testing the 370Z drinks 9L/100km.
Influences on the new Z's design include: the 350Z (overall shape and profile, vertical door handles), the original 240Z (downward sloping window line), the current US Maxima (L-shaped lights at both the front and rear) and even the GT-R uber-supercar (roof that instantly slopes downward from the windscreen).
It was good knowing thee (part I)
Released in 2002, the 350Z signalled the end to Nissan's boring, snoring years where most of its products were competent but hardly ever exciting — Skyline GT-R and 200SX being notable exceptions — and nearly lead to the company demise.
It was good knowing thee (part II)
Renault gobbled up a large stake in Nissan in 1999 and installed Carlos Ghosn as its chief. He slashed and burnt his way through the company's workforce, partners, processes and programs, and in turn freed its designers from corporate straight jacketing. By turning the company around and releasing a raft of exciting cars, including the 350Z, the asymmetrical Cube and eventually the re-born GT-R, Ghosn gained cult hero status in Japan — there was even a comic book series based on his life.