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Catchin' Some ZZZs: The 2009 Nissan 370Z

Some years ago—decades actually, now that I think about it—a guy I worked with bought a new 1972 Datsun 240Z. This was just the coolest car I’d seen for a number of reasons: a) I never figured that anybody, including me, could afford such a car working at the job we had at the time (it cost a mere $3,526 at its 1970 introduction); b) if this car wasn’t a chick magnet, I don’t know what was; and c) see “a” and “b.” I started looking at my own financial situation, and just a year-and-a-half later I found myself sitting across the desk from a salesman, factory-ordering my very own first brand-new car—a dog-crap-brown metallic 1974 Ford Pinto. It cost just under three grand. What was I thinking? Would another 700 bucks or so have killed me?

Anyway, the 240Z Ronnie bought was a car that changed the whole sports car picture, which up to then consisted of: a bunch of British two-seaters, which were dying a slow sales death; American “pony cars,” which were getting larger and larger and less and less sportier; a few unreliable but fun Italian cars; and the expensive Chevy Corvette, which was selling for around five grand. The 240Z was a closed coupe two-seater with a 2.4-liter (hence the name), six-cylinder engine, which in 1970 was about two cylinders fewer than performance-car buyers were used to seeing. This engine was mated to a five-speed manual transmission, which again was unusual for American buyers, whose muscle-car V-8s were usually attached to three-speed automatics or four-speed sticks. The Z’s fully-independent suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, and 151-horsepower engine, combined with a relatively light weight, made the 240Z a real sports car.

1970 240Z

Unfortunately, as many things go in the auto industry, over the years the 240Z grew to the larger-engined (but less powerful due to smog controls) 260Z, 280Z (which grew in size to include a 2+2 model), and eventually the 300Z. Prices by this time put a huge dent in sales. Eventually the Z was gone from the marketplace.

Then, in 2003, Nissan introduced a totally new 350Z—a really nifty-looking sports car that brought back many memories of the original. In 2009 we get an update to the 370Z. The name, as with the original cars, indicates engine displacement, with the newest car sporting a 3.7-liter V-6, rated at 332 horsepower. As is so often these days, the Z’s total restyle is barely noticeable from a block away, but up close, parked side-by-side, the changes are both obvious and pleasant. Bucking current trends, the new car’s wheelbase is almost four inches shorter, overall length is down by almost three, and height is also down while the width is up. This all makes for a handsome appearance, especially from the three-quarters’ rear view. Also, to reduce weight, the hood and doors are made of aluminum panels. As Nissan puts it: “The exterior design incorporates intentional 240Z styling cues, a sleek aerodynamic shape, a ‘dynamic motion’ feel with a dramatic cantilevered roof (with Nissan GT-R styling cues) and a ‘low visual gravity.’”

I myself am not too keen on the GT-R’s styling, but I’ll admit that whatever cues the Z has taken from it, they seem to work well.

The sharp interior is still the traditional two-seat cockpit, designed mainly with the driver in mind. The rear cargo area has been made much more usable than that of the 350Z by a redesign of the rear suspension structural components, leading to removal of the rear strut brace, which had intruded into the space. A little fancier than the old 240Z, the 370Z has standard air-conditioning, push-button starter, four-way power adjustable suede and leather seats, and an eight-speaker Bose sound system. Pricing starts at $29,930. A 370Z roadster will be available some time this summer.

Read more You Auto Know on Artvoice Daily.

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