THE RIDE: Two-door, two-passenger 2009 Nissan 370Z Touring sports coupe.
DOWN THE ROAD: This year, the Z undergoes its first major redesign since returning as a 2003 model. Based on a unibody structure, the rear-wheel-drive vehicle still is quite affordable. The 2009 version sees a larger engine as well as a jump of 26 horsepower and 2 pounds-feet of torque over its predecessor. Translation? Abundant power is a mere throttle away as you take off.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 3.7-liter DOHC V-6 engine cranks out 332 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 270 pounds-feet of torque at 5200 rpm. It is mated to an all-new 6-speed manual transmission, which comes with an optional synchronized downshift rev match system that smoothly shifts gears. An independent double-wishbone front and a multilink rear suspension are capable of absorbing bumps and potholes. Boosting the car's handling prowess is a three-point front strut tower brace and stabilizer bars at both ends. The vehicle's speed-sensitive, rack-and-pinion steering system is swift and accurate.
LOOK & FEEL: The exterior of the long-nosed Z has been overhauled with an increase in inches of 2.7, 1.3 in width and 2.2 in rear track. However, the width is down by 1.3 inches and the length by 3.9 inches over its predecessor. The icon retains the traditional vertical door handles though the HID bi-functional xenon headlights and taillights acquire a new 'boomerang' appearance. The fender-mounted Z emblem/side markers, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and dual exhaust tips enhance the car's bold look. The insignia on the three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel and the three-bay gauge pods for oil temperature, voltmeter and digital clock atop the dashboard are true to the vehicle's tradition. A mix of synthetic suede and leather on the eight-way driver and four-way passenger seats conveys a rich ambience. Aluminum trim on the center console and pedals is eye-pleasing. Other standard amenities are a push-button ignition, automatic temperature control, center console knee pad and tilt steering column.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Dynamic Control, traction control, front and rear crumple zones, energy-absorbing steering column, three-point seatbelts, active-head restraints and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.
OUT THE DOOR: $34,480, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P225/50R18 front and P245/45R18 rear; wheelbase, 100.4 inches; length, 167.1 inches; weight, 3,278 pounds; fuel capacity, 19 gallons; city, 18 mpg; highway, 26 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: Nissan likes to tout the Z as a passionate performer at an excellent value. This thriller of a ride should get even more exciting when its cousin, the roadster, rolls out this year as a 2010 model. Like other Z enthusiasts, we are waiting with bated breath to slide behind the wheel of the convertible.