By Bradley Hasemeyer
on 9.10.09

bradley-hasemeyer-nissan-370z-drive

When the engine-ears at Nissan heard they were charged with refocusing the highly successful and storied Z-line, they did something remarkable, they listened.

The launch of the new 370Z in January along with the NISMO and roadster versions in June and September, respectively, sees a number of small tweaks from the great, but sometimes flawed, 350Z. However, as everyone with a cell phone bill knows, a bunch of little additions can make a huge difference.

To wit: Nissan began with their already successful 350Z. They cut off four inches lengthwise, widened it an inch, and starved the Z of 150 lbs. All this, while giving it a bigger engine, more safety features and increasing the body stiffness by ~45%. The result? A faster, lighter, stronger and more attractive car in either coupe, roadster, or the track-ready NISMO.

Recently, GearPatrol was invited to San Jose, CA and “burdened” with the task of driving a track-ready 370Z NISMO and roadster through the twisty wooded roads and oceanside interstates as spiritedly (read: balls-out) as I wanted. Ugh. The life of a GP crew member is hard.

Our video, review, and photos after the jump.

First up: The 2009 370Z NISMO

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NISMO stands for Nissan’s specialty vehicles group (NISsan MOtoring). Like the engineers at BMW’s M and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG, the mad engineers got their hands on the new Z and made changes, major changes. An extra 18hp and 6 lb-ft of torque were barely noticed but thanks to 19-inch RAYS rims, track suspension, and an integrated body kit with a spoiler that looked like we had a candy-red whale in the trunk, we were far from incognito. Subtle, this is not.

Getting to drive this out of the box track-ready machine kept my heart racing, my senses popping and my ride-partner hurling. Actually, she never needed to do the technicolor yawn literally, but we did need to stop a number of times for fresh air. The considerate gentleman I am, I tuned down the driving style… a bit. A very little bit.

The coolest feature on this $40,000 road stormer is the 6-speed manual with SynchroRev Match. This new technology (also available on the non-NISMO) allows the driver to drop down a gear (or two) by simply shifting down—no extra rev. The computer calculates the exact RPMs that you will be “jumping into” and you slip right into gear. It’d be like if you were jumping off a train (normal, right?) and landed on the ground and ran bionically in stride – no missteps, no fumbling.

Awesome.

Hello Sky | The 2009 Nissan 370Z Roadster

2009-nissan-370z-roadster

After a relaxing lunch overlooking Half-Moon Bay, we were handed the keys to the “brilliant silver” roadster. Now I must say that I am skeptical of convertibles and cabrios in general. My first and only experience was in a vintage Porsche 911. I was going to a wedding in the mountains of East Tennessee in August. It was cool… for about two minutes.

My friend and I arrived with surfer hair, sweaty backs and wrinkled suits. Not so cool. Another problem with modern day convertibles is their lack of rigidity. Without a roof, a lot of the vehicle’s performance (in the twists) is compromised as well as a the weight of a portly retractable roof. Manufacturers have, thankfully, wised up to the woes of structural loss… case in point: the Nissan 370Z Roadster.

Maybe it was because I had eaten and stretched my legs – the 370Z is about as tight as Lindsey Lohan’s jeans. Maybe it was because the sun had finally come out and we were near the Pacific Ocean. Or maybe it was because the seat was padded, the suspension was more forgiving and my ride-partner’s stomach was not suffering from my LeMans style driving. I don’t know exactly what made it different. But it was. And it was good.

Riding with the top down (hey-oh) the cabin was quiet, the ride was smooth, the wheels and tires with vice-like grips and the seats were cooled. Yep, cooled. Each seat had it’s own control switch that blew either hot or cold air through the mesh backing and it’s a feature Californians will love just as much as New Englanders love heated seats. Like ‘put a ring on it’ love. Like yell from mountaintops, doodle her name, stalk research her on Facebook. THAT kind of love.

And about this new top. The Nissan 370Z Roaster’s cloth top keeps the weight down and allows for (imagine this) trunk space, albeit small. There is even a sticker in the trunk that shows you how to load a set of golf clubs. Hey, it’s better than nothing.

Overall

The range on the 370Z goes from a base of $29k to the NISMO’s $39k. That’s a pretty aggressive up-charge for the NISMO and in my mind, not quite worth it unless you’ve got track aspirations. Use your money on the 370Z Sport. With it’s Porsche Boxter challenging performance, classic looks, this truly is the Z of our generation.

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Special thanks to Kym Backer of Atlanta’s Upscale Magazinein Atlanta for the extra video help. Oh and being a great sport while I took the Z to the, ahem, legal boundaries of driving.

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