When it comes to popularity contests in the Car Showroom garage, Nissan's 370Z was a hands-down winner.
A no-holds-barred 'racer for the street' - like Honda's Civic Type R - the Z-Car captivated us with its stunning performance, robust V6 engine growl and high-tech wizardry.
What You Get
Jettison any mental connection to the old boulevard cruiser Z-cars, this two-seater is the real deal - it's a road-legal weapon that blurs the boundaries between 'race' and 'street'.
Amongst the raft of techno goodies, the world's first automatic 'heel-&-toe' downshift rev stands out. In 'Nissan-speak' it's called SynchroRev Match - what is does is blip the throttle on downshifts to match the engine speed to the lower gear being selected (what performance drivers call 'heel & toe').
Want more tech?
Look underneath where you'll spot a carbon fibre composite tailshaft connecting the longitudinally mid-mounted front engine to the viscous limited slip rear differential. This motorsport-developed technology was actually first seen in the 370Z's predecessor the 350Z.
Under The Hood
As part of the plan to make the 370Z more purposeful and racy than the superseded 350Z, Nissan technicians fettled the V6 engine with 35 per cent of the components being new and the result is a 3.7-litre unit called VQ37VHR with a meaty 245kW and 363Nm.
The engine features Nissan's Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) - the improved valve lift and timing partly responsible for the new redline of 7,500rpm and a strong torque curve.
We tested the 370Z with a six-speed manual transmission (improved over the 350Z with SynchroRev Match and a shorter shift throw). Alternatively you can opt for a seven-speed automatic.
It's not just Car Showroom who was astounded by the 370Z's interior - it's won an award from Ward's Automotive publications in North America.
Make no mistake, the 370Z is a true sports car - for starters there are only two seats. The driver is the center of attention with a wrap-around control zone - while the passenger has more space.
You sit low (10mm lower than the 350Z), almost centralized in the car for optimized weight distribution.
The driver adjusts the steering wheel and instrument binnacle together (the wheel itself is thick, leather wrapped and not perfectly round - just like modern race cars). In front is a large rev counter and speedometer while - just like the original 240Z - to the left are three smaller gauges for clock, voltage and oil temperature.
We liked the LED display for engine temperature and the alloy pedals.
Then there is the quality of materials used for the excellent sports seats, door trims and dashboard - all just like you would see in sports cars costing twice as much.
There is a superb BOSE audio system with six CD in-dash auto-changer, eight speakers and MP3/WMA capability. The DVD Satellite Navigation system has 3D mapping and a seven-inch touch screen. All 370Zs include Bluetooth hands free phone technology.
One thing you won't need to worry about when buying the 370z is choosing the interior trim, as it only comes with one choice - black sports leather with non-slip cloth inserts.
Exterior & Styling
Photos don't do justice to the 370Z - it's not until you see the car that you fully appreciate how significantly better it is than the 350. In fact every dimension has been changed and every panel is new.
It's 65mm shorter overall (4250mm), 100mm shorter in the wheelbase (2550mm), 8mm lower (1315mm) but 30mm wider (1845). Lower, shorter wider sounds to us like a sports car design heading in the right direction.
The long bonnet, truncated rear and short overhangs are there (just like the original 240Z) and the signature quarter windows behind the doors have not been overlooked.
There are bold, flared arches covering the super 18-inch light alloy sports wheels and the 'Z' badges on the side of the front guards cleverly turn into indicator lights.
With its upswept side window profile, deeply sculptured lower sills and brilliant thin, arrowhead Zenon headlights, the 370Z in the flesh is really quite dramatic and delivers big-time curb appeal.
On The Road
We have to admit the 370Z truly captivated us as a driver's car.
Ripping through our mountain test road in the rain, the SynchroRev Match blipped the throttle perfectly on downchanges (with a superb roar as the V6 slipped to higher revs) and maintained the throttle opening on upshifts for perfect changes every time.
The massive Akebono disc brakes (355mm at the front and 350mm at the rear) were equally impressive.
Ride and handling were just as you would expect - pin sharp and firm with great feedback to the driver from the hydraulic power steering. The 370Z runs a double wishbone multi-link alloy front suspension and an independent multi-link rear also in aluminium with an aluminium sub-frame.
Naturally there is a full complement of high-tech driver aids including the latest generation ABS brakes with Electronic Brakforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control (TC).
Inside are active headrests, driver and passenger front and side impact SRS airbags and front to rear curtain airbags.
Like any two-seat sports car, the design of the 370Z does present some challenges.
Reverse three-quarter parking is difficult with the blind spots created by the rear panels (a reversing camera would help).
The luggage area is flat and not especially tall (and of course the two-seat interior doesn't provide any additional suitcase-size space).
And the road noise on course-chip bitumen secondary roads is very loud.
With an arsenal that includes the 370Z and GT-R, Nissan has an enviable reputation for real sports cars.
We have no hesitation in saying the 370Z is a stunner.
Street-cred looks; performance/handling; brilliant technology
Not easy in the city; road noise on secondary roads