The Nissan 370Z Is a Classic-Car Bargain Masquerading as a Current Production Model
It’s the old car you say you want, but you can buy it fresh. And when it goes away, we should all be sad.
I was walking past a rack utter of magazines when I eyed it in the corner of my eye: the latest issue of Retro Gamer, a British journal faithful to movie gaming in the 8-bit. In the upper left-hand corner, there was a rainbow graphic and a word, in all caps and featuring an exclamation point afterwards: OLD! I had to stifle a laugh. Not only was it absolutely adequate for the subject matter at mitt, but in a world where almost every magazine at the newsstand has “Fresh!” somewhere on the cover, what better way to stand out than to proclaim, fearlessly and forthrightly, that you’re suggesting something OLD!
I can think of another product that could benefit from being explicitly labeled as yesterday’s goods: the often-overlooked Nissan 370Z. Two thousand seventeen marks the coupe’s ninth year on the market. Not much has switched in Z-town since 2009; there have been a multiplicity of special editions, and the hyped-up Brembo brakes that were standard equipment on certain models have been substituted with Nissan-branded Akebono calipers, but otherwise the 370Z you can buy in a showroom today is pretty much identical to the one sold in the previous decade.
Normally, this sort of benign neglect is a recipe for obsolescence and irrelevance. But the Z has benefited from a duo of otherwise unpleasant market trends. The very first one: the disappearance of manual transmissions. This is particularly significant as it relates to the sibling competition from Infiniti. The G35 and G37 Coupes were always hugely compelling alternatives to the Z, suggesting more room, tastier styling, and similar spectacle for just a little extra money. And you could get them with a stick shift. But the fresh Q60 coupe is a thicker, plusher affair that can’t be had with a clutch pedal—and it’s not alone in that. There’s no manual option in the Lexus RC, either.
The other unfortunate reality of the modern marketplace: naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engines are going the way of the dodo. The entry-level sporty cars from BMW, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti, and Cadillac are now tooled with these agricultural little turbo four-bangers, as is the two thousand eighteen Mustang. The list of manual-transmission, six-cylinder coupes available under forty-five grand or so is now very brief: there’s the Camaro, which can be had for slightly less than the Z, and the Accord, which costs slightly more.
Which leaves the 370Z in what is basically a class of one, because the Camaro is a battleship compared to the Nissan and the Accord is aimed at a different, more sedate market that happens to include your decidedly middle-aged author. Once upon a time, the Corvette was considered the natural enemy of the Z-car, but it’s now half again as powerful and more than half again as expensive. It’s indeed no wonder that Nissan hasn’t bothered to update the car; you can’t have evolution when you don’t have competitors or predators. The 370Z is like the Komodo dragon, bereft of enemies and pretty much identical to its prehistoric self.
Had Nissan discontinued it a few years ago, the 370Z would be liking healthy resale values
Had Nissan discontinued it a few years ago, the 370Z would be loving healthy resale values and slew of secondary-market interest right now. How else could you get a Japanese-built two-seater that looks aggressive, sounds appropriately mean (with the right harass options), runs a mid-thirteen-second quarter mile, and still features most of the modern power and electronic conveniences? We would lament its loss and beg Nissan to bring it back, just the way it was.
Just like the song says, however, you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone. The minute you can’t walk into a showroom and pay Toyota Camry money to get a bona fide two-seat sports car with a big-bore six and forged alloy wheels, the enthusiast world is going to let out a collective wail that will be heard from the forums to the Saturday-morning meetups. Until that moment arrives, however, we’re all going to pretend the Z doesn’t exist. That’s a shame.
Think of the 370Z like the best vintage Japanese sports car you could possibly buy, only it’s brand-new and selling at a very reasonable price. Keep in mind, you have to buy the right one. The Sport model that’s one rung up from the bottom is most likely the car to get. It’s $33k or so and it features the nice brakes. The Nismo is still awfully eye-catching but it’s priced unnervingly close to a base Corvette, particularly if you get the Tech package.
Best to get one of the more affordable models and spend a few bucks on tuning it up just the way you want it. With the decent brake pads and fluid, a 370Z is a faithful, fairly rapid companion at open-lapping days. This is particularly true in warmer parts of the country where the deepthroated fours from BMW et al get a little hot during long sessions on track. There’s a tremendous amount of aftermarket support for this platform as well. No matter what you want to do, whether it’s exchange swaybars or install an Chevrolet LS7 engine, it’s already been done and documented somewhere.
I know that many of you will nod your goes at all of this, thoughtfully consider what I’ve said, and still go out to buy a BMW 2-Series, Lexus RC350, or Ecoboost Mustang. That’s fine with me. But when the 370Z vanishes, and you’re howling in your happy-hour margarita about how you missed the chance to buy one with a utter factory warranty and a fresh clutch, you will not be able to say that I did not warn you. Ten years from now, we will all recognize how excellent the bulbous, slightly-darty Nissan was. Today’s your chance to get on the train before it leaves the station. And if Nissan wants to actually put the Z in an advertisement sometime, may I suggest that they steal a page from the folks at Retro Gamer and attempt something like this: The Nissan 370Z! It’s OLD!
Born in Brooklyn but banished to Ohio, Jack Baruth has won races on four different kinds of bicycles and in seven different kinds of cars. Everything he writes should most likely come with a trigger warning. His column, Avoidable Contact, runs twice a week.