"I'm a car guy. I've owned everything from a classic 1970s BMW to a turbocharged Toyota road racer, Nissan 240SX, a mid 80s Toyota Corolla GTS (AE86 - the one that new Scion is supposed to be a successor to), and modified Jaguar along with a few other cars along the way. I came into the buying process with a few simple criteria: the car I was going to buy needed to be a sporty coupe with great driving dynamics that would be just as home on the occasional track day as it would be cruising the interstate. More importantly, it had to cost $45,000 or less and be a suitable daily driver. Finally, it had to look and sound great. Quite a tall order, but a few cars came to mind as suitable candidates. I wasn't particularly concerned with practicality since I am a young single guy. No family or large pets to haul around, so this would be the time to take advantage and get something cool. Beside the 370Z I also considered the Ford Mustang GT, Chevy Camaro SS, a used Porsche Cayman S (2007-2009), BMW 335i sedan, and Hyundai Genesis coupe. I test drove each car and found the Z to be the best combination of the elements I was looking for. The BMW, although not a coupe, was considered due to it's impressive and well known handling dynamics. When it came down to it, once you started to spec it out, the price quickly ballooned out of control. Along with the extra set of doors I wasn't really looking for, that was enough to cross it off the list.
The Porsche Cayman is an incredible machine. It's everything the 911 used to be, without the idiotically placed engine. Brand new this car was far out of my price range but it could be had for well under $45k if purchased used. Unfortunately, there are some problems with this. Even the best examples I could find never had less than 50,000 miles and were already starting to show signs of wear. The interior is also way too clinical and German looking, not to mention somewhat cheap feeling. The rear spoiler extends when you go above 75 mph, alerting all those around you that you are breaking the law and then some policemen will come to write you many tickets. This would not be fun. It blows every other car on my list out of the water in terms of the way it drives but unfortunately, a suitable example couldn't be found for my $45,000 budget within 1000 miles of me.
The Mustang and Camaro were obvious choices as cars that are known for punching well above their weight class. After driving the Camaro I found that I hated nearly everything about it: the steering, the interior, and the fact that you could barely see anything out of it in any direction. The thirsty 6.2 liter V8, while very nice sounding, would not be very kind to my wallet. That and way too many people drive them in southern California and Las Vegas. If comparing these two muscle cars, I thought the Mustang was miles better than the Camaro. It handled amazingly well despite it's live rear axle handicap, the 5.0 liter V8 provided an incredible soundtrack, and the interior was quite a bit nicer looking than the Camaro's. This car came the closest of all to being parked in my garage in the Z's spot.
Lastly the Genesis. It seemed like too good of a potential value to pass on without at least test driving. It looks pretty similar to the Z. It has a big V6 just like the Z (but with less power), big Brembo brakes and sticky wheels/tires just like the Z, and was the cheapest of the bunch. This car reminded me of the older 350Z which I had driven many times; lots of good qualities but lacking in refinement. I think this should be an awesome car in another generation or two of it's development. Overall it just lacked the character, build quality, and that special feeling you get when you really start to wring out a car that I was looking for.
So why did I pick the Z over all the others? It's quite good looking, for starters. The body's curves are much more exotic and sleek looking than any of the other cars. The 3.7 liter V6 delivers it's peak torque at 5200 rpm and peak horsepower north of 7000 rpm which hints at the way this car was meant to be driven. It loves to be revved, and you will always be happy to oblige. Although it doesn't feel as smooth as it could be at the highest points of the rpm range, it certainly delivers the best sounds in the V6 business. Which brings me to my next point: it's a V6, not a thirsty V8 (although it still requires premium fuel). 332 horsepower is more than enough to get you into a fair bit of trouble, but at least there isn't a stupid spoiler that will give you away when you let the speed get away from you a bit.
I made sure that my car was equipped with the sport package and 6 speed manual transmission. The syncro-rev transmission feature is absolutely brilliant and will make even the most lazy driver seem like a superstar behind the wheel. 7000 miles into owning the car, it still works perfectly and I've kept it on about 99% of the time. So the driving dynamics were pretty much what I wanted them to be, and so was the price. It looks especially pretty in the Black Cherry paint that I opted for and 19" Rays forged wheels that came standard with the sport package and draws numerous compliments on a regular basis. If you have ever looked in the trunk of a 350Z, you'll notice that any cargo you may put in it will be quickly guillotined by the massive rear strut brace right in the middle of the trunk. This was moved forward in the 370Z, which makes the trunk space much more usable. I play golf and ice hockey as well as occasionally enjoy weekend camping trips. The large rear hatch easily gobbles up all of my gear without issue.
Now obviously this is not a perfect car and after living with it on a daily basis for the last 6 months and 7000 miles I do have a number of complaints. Here they are:
-Seats and door panels: My car is equipped with the sport package only, meaning no leather seats and no GPS. The door panels are also made of cloth, rather than the much nicer suede of the touring models. That black cloth is impossible to keep clean. Every time you open your door and push against it, your hand leaves a mark on it. You constantly have to wipe it down with a damp cloth to keep it clean. This gets old after about a week of owning the car. While the seats are fairly comfortable even on longer drives, they could use a little more bolstering given this car's cornering capabilities. If you rest your head against the headrest, you can feel the interior support structure slightly pushing against your mid back which makes the seats feel somewhat cheap. The seats and door panels mar an otherwise good looking interior (much nicer than the old 350Z). Some leather door panels and custom leather Recaro seats are in my vehicle's future in order to rectify these issues. They will be pricey upgrades but will make a huge difference in the overall impression the car will give.
-Visibility: there is barely any out of the rear of this car. The rear window is so small that almost half of your rearview mirror is filled with the black trim of the interior rather than a view out of the car. The blind spots are also pretty massive, given that you can't actually see anything out of the tiny windows behind the door windows. Backing out of parking spots is particularly challenging. I am hoping that installing a backup camera will help mitigate some of the visibility problems. Forward visibility and to the sides is very good though, so if you're careful and use those big side mirrors effectively you'll be fine.
-Traction control: While I do enjoy the fact that the traction control is much simpler than the German counterparts in my comparison (it is simply "ON" or "OFF"), I'm not crazy about the way it works. When the traction control is on, it's very quick to jump in and cut the engine's power when it detects even the slightest hint of wheelspin. The result can end up feeling a little jerky when driving around. Turning it off makes the fun factor go up ten fold. This is a car that will understeer if you go into a corner too hot, but that problem is always easily sorted out with a healthy dose of throttle which brings the tail around beautifully into power oversteer. This is all well and good but if you aren't careful, you could very quickly end up wrapped around a tree. One must also consider the price of replacing those rear tires if you spend too much time sliding around all over the place. Typically I drive the car with the traction control off to avoid the jerkiness of having it engaged, I am just careful not to feed it too much throttle on the street because that almost always quickly turns into a spectacular drift. Great on the racetrack and for your ego, not so great when Johnny Law is watching.
-The triple gauges on the center dash: you can't see them very well during the day when they aren't backlit. They look cool at night, but are pointless in daylight.
-The fuel level gauge and water temp gauge: Again, they look cool at night but are totally pointless when daylight is shining on them. I think I'd prefer gauges that matched the speedo and tach rather than the LED layout it uses. Tinting my windows helped with this problem.
Overall, there are very few downsides to this car. It does everything you ask of it beautifully, looks fantastic, and is very quick. There are a few small issues but this car's virtues far outweigh any shortcomings I have discovered in owning it. After having to live with my decision on a daily basis for over 6 months, I am happy to say that I would still make the same choice if given the option. As someone who has had the privilege of driving many amazing cars over the years I can say that the 370Z will undoubtedly go down as one of the greats on the list of cars I've owned."
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