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Road Test and Review - 2013 Nissan 370Z Coupe

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
October 6, 2012
8 min. Reading Time

The 2013 Nissan 370Z coupe is somewhat of an elder statesmen in a segment of the market that suddenly seems more crowded than it has in years.  With upstarts like the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ offering performance fans a choice of affordable rear-wheel drive coupes, and former Detroit-muscle-turned-sports-cars like the recent Ford Mustang V6 providing a credible alternative to traditional hot handlers, the Nissan 370Z finds itself swamped with competitors. 

Fortunately for Nissan, the current-generation Z car has more than a few tricks left up its sleeve, especially in the styling department, which allows it to carve out its own unique space in the face of its rivals.  The question then becomes how many buyers, exactly, are looking to share that space with the 370Z from within the snug confines of its two-seat cockpit?

2013 Nissan 370Z: Competition

As mentioned in the introduction, the 2013 Nissan 370Z is up against no shortage of would-be pretenders to the affordable sports car crown.  Undercutting the Z car in price are the new-for-this-year Scion and Subaru entries, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and the six-cylinder Mustang with the Performance Pack installed.  Spend a few more dollars and you are looking at the Ford Mustang GT and the Chevrolet Camaro SS, coupes that destroy the 370Z from a horsepower perspective but aren't quite as nimble in the corners.  Pushing past the Nissan in sticker price are the base Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche Cayman, and the BMW 135i.  It's important to note that out of all of these vehicles, only the 'Vette and the Cayman match the 370Z's two-seater design.


2013 Nissan 370Z: Pricing and Trim Levels

The base model of the 2013 Nissan 370Z coupe starts at an MSRP of $33,120.  Two additional trim levels can be had: the Touring (MSRP $37,820) and the track-tuned NISMO (MSRP $43,020).  The version of the car that we drove for a week was provided by Nissan Canada, and after adjusting for the various options packages that were installed with the vehicle, its equivalent U.S. model would retail for approximately $43,000.


2013 Nissan 370Z: Exterior

It's difficult to express in words just how stunningly attractive the 2013 Nissan 370Z is in person.  The Z is a sports car that attracts a surprising amount of attention from both other drives and passersby given its relatively modest price point, which is a true testament to the time taken by Nissan stylists when gently massaging the automobile's sheet metal for its 2013 refresh.  The most significant change to how the Nissan 370Z presents itself is the deletion of last year's 'catfish whiskers' from the front grille and the inclusion of new LED daytime running lights that have been deeply inset into the forward fascia just ahead of the fenders.  Our tester, which was equipped with the Sport Package, also came with a rear spoiler and an additional black plastic air damn that hung underneath the bottom lip of the coupe's bumper, an aerodynamic affectation that made its presence known by scraping its way into and out of each and every driveway in the Z car's path.

Also part and parcel of the Sport Package are a set of 19-inch RAYS wheels, which look outstanding when matched with the 370Z's elegant curves.  A new-for-2013 red driving light is centered below the back bumper, framed by the vehicle's dual exhaust outlets, and the vehicle's signature blocky door handles are made of aluminum, not plastic.  There are few sports cars in its price range that are as visually appealing as the Nissan 370Z, and 2013's upgrades have managed to make a polished package look that much cleaner from almost every angle.


2013 Nissan 370Z: Interior

The inside of the 2013 Nissan 370Z is predictably small, which is appropriate given its two-seat design and its fist-in-glove sports car philosophy.  It would be a mistake, however, to label the Nissan's passenger compartment 'cramped.'  In fact, we were quite impressed with how much perceived room is offered within the 370Z, with both driver and passenger blessed with more than adequate head and legroom.  It's unlikely that any shoulder-rubbing would ever take place in the Z car either, thanks to the supportive, adjustable leather-wrapped sport seats that our tester was outfitted with.  Suede inserts help to keep occupants in place while thrashing the coupe from side-to-side, and although we weren't enamored with the combination hand dial / electric adjustment system employed by the 370Z, we can't argue with the results.

The functional character of the 2013 Nissan 370Z's interior extends past its seating arrangements, as the vehicle offers a number of easy-to-read analog gauges positioned both directly in front of the driver and arranged in a dash-mounted pod above the center stack's LCD navigation display.  We were happy to have voltage and oil temperature featured so prominently, although devoting one of the pods to the time seemed like somewhat of a waste.  We were less-than-enthralled with the use of twin rows of orange LED lights to represent both the amount of fuel remaining inside the Z car's tank as well as its engine coolant temperature, as the effect struck us as low-rent compared to the rest of the spiffy analog readouts.

The Nissan 370Z's switchgear offered a heft concomitant with the coupe's working person's sport car market position, which we found quite pleasing.  Knobs and buttons were placed in locations that were logical and quick to reach, and as always Nissan's Bluetooth system and navigation functions were top notch.  One small complaint: the need to hold down on the S button to turn on and off the SynchroRev feature that came with the car's Sport Package was not obvious, and had us initially wondering whether the 370Z had someone become stuck in Sport mode.

Utility and comfort abound inside the Nissan 370Z.  Practicality and peace, unfortunately, are two very different stories.  Although Nissan has made an effort to provide the Z car with storage cubbies and pockets tucked into the doors and behind the seats, the fact of the matter is that the shape and size of the two-seat automobile restricts the amount of gear that can be carried along with driver and passenger.  More troubling than a lack of in-car storage is the 370Z's shallow under-hatch trunk.  When the vehicle's cargo cover is deployed the lid threatens to crush even grocery bags placed in the upright position, and with the cover out of the picture the situation is not much better.  Traveling light is the name of the game with the 2013 Nissan 370Z, and one shudders to think about transporting anything more than a few modest bags for a weekend getaway inside the automobile.

While the Z car's lack of cargo carrying capability is somewhat disappointing, no one expects an affordable sports car to be much of a mule.  Less forgivable is the amount of sound intrusion into the Nissan's cockpit while the vehicle is underway.  The 370Z is a very noisy car to drive, with the sound of its tires on the pavement, its engine, its exhaust system, and the wind passing over its body work all coming together to create a cacophonic symphony.  Sure, the open hatch area directly behind the driver contributes to the lack of isolation in the Nissan's passenger compartment, but the amount of racket that surrounds 370Z occupants while underway is eyebrow-raising.


2013 Nissan 370Z: Powertrain and Fuel Economy

The 2013 Nissan 370Z is motivated by a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that is tuned to provide 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque.  Hailing from the VQ family of six-cylinder motors that has propagated throughout much of the Nissan lineup, the unit is yoke to either a six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed automatic.  Fuel mileage for the 370Z coupe checks in at 18-mpg in stop and go driving and 26-mpg on the highway.  Extra power is available in the NISMO trim, which manages to squeeze an additional 18 ponies and six lb-ft of torque out of the same mill.


2013 Nissan 370Z: Driving Impressions

From behind the wheel, the 2013 Nissan 370Z is ultimately defined by two very important components: its chassis, and its drivetrain.  Let's begin with the Z car's suspension system, which we found to be an absolute delight.  The 370Z presents drivers with a perfectly balanced, rear-wheel drive platform that is equally at home sticking to the tarmac like fly paper as it is drifting maniacally through the corners with its tires smoking like a mid-summer BBQ. 

The secret to this split personality is the coupe's ability to respond with precision to steering wheel commands and throttle inputs without ever getting itself out of sorts.  The limited-slip differential and stiffer shock absorbers provided with the Sport Package were welcome additions to the car, and played a significant role in punching up our confidence in its willingness to go exactly where we pointed it, without hesitation.  Upgraded brakes (including four-piston fronts) also come with the Sport Package.

As enamored as we were with the 370Z's chassis, we can't say the same about its engine and transmission combo.  Something happened when the VQ engine was punched out from 3.5 to 3.7-liters that seemed to coarsen its throttle response and exhaust note to the point where it almost feels as though the mill would be more at home in an SUV than a sports car.  There's nothing pleasurable about running the 370Z through its rev range, which is disappointing in a performance coupe - doubly so when considering that the Sport Package's SynchroRev Match feature automatically blips the throttle when downshifting the six-speed manual transmission.  Despite not offering the kind of aural candy that we would prefer from such a striking coupe, the throttle blipping performed by the SynchroRev Match system is nothing short of magical.  It works perfectly, every single time, which lets you focus more on your driving line and less on your heel-toe footwork when out on the track.  Purists might complain that this high tech magic makes the car's driving experience less engaging, but there's no arguing with the results.

Downshifts might be smoother with automatic rev matching, but the Z's transmission isn't quite as slick from throw-to-throw as we would have liked.  Part of this has to do with the clutch pedal's tricky engagement, which seemed to have two distinct zones of resistance that made it difficult to be smooth off of the line in the car.  What about power?  The Nissan 370Z is certainly no slouch when it comes to performance, snapping off a zero-to-60-mph time in the neighborhood of five seconds when properly launched.  The 3,200 lbs curb weight of the car, however, keeps the car from feeling as quick as it really is when accelerating from a stop.  A better appreciation for the Z car's output can be achieved on the highway, where the coupe hustles over the center line and passes with aplomb.

Don't get us wrong: we very much enjoyed spending time behind the wheel of the Nissan 370Z.  The vehicle's handling is truly excellent, and the two-seater deserves to be flogged on the race track in order to garner a true estimation of its capabilities.  Our caveats regarding its engine and power production are simply drawn from the high expectations that its chassis asks its drivetrain to meet - a high bar that perhaps requires more than 332 horses to hurdle.


2013 Nissan 370Z: Safety

The 2013 Nissan 370Z offers a full range of modern safety features, including forward airbags, side impact airbags, electronic stability control, and traction control.  Side curtain airbags are also offered with the coupe, providing significant protection for both vehicle occupants.  Active head restraints that work to prevent whiplash, and an anti-lock braking system are also included free of charge with the Nissan 370Z.


2013 Nissan 370Z: Final Thoughts

The 2013 Nissan 370Z is facing an identity crisis of sorts, one that was not brought on by any design malaise on the part of Nissan but instead triggered by shifting market conditions affecting the sports car universe.  The Z car suddenly finds itself a bit of a tweener, book-ended by cheap, lightweight sports cars on one end and much more powerful coupes on the other.  Where, exactly, does the 370Z fit in?  It's not fast enough to take on the likes of the more expensive Corvette (which is also more livable on a daily basis), but it's not fleet of foot to the degree where it can challenge the Toyobarus of the world based on the purity of its driving experience.

It's unlikely that Nissan intends for its flagship sports car to morph into a GT, as it already has the Infiniti G Coupe to fill that particular niche.  The future of the Z car is more likely to include a downsized, lightweight platform that will see it move further out of Corvette territory where it can play to its top tier handling and avoid becoming a casualty in the horsepower wars.  As it stands now, the Nissan 370Z is certainly the most beautiful sports car you can currently get your hands on for under $50,000, but it's one that must be driven back-to-back with the competition in order to fully understand its strengths and limitations.

What We Like About The 2013 Nissan 370Z

  • Drop-dead gorgeous styling
  • Supportive sport seats
  • Excellent handling
  • Attractive price for base model
  • SynchroRev Match feature works exactly as advertised
  • This car turns heads wherever you go

We Aren't So Hot On

  • Quick, but not fast from behind the wheel
  • Coarse V-6 engine
  • Loud interior
  • Lack of cargo space, even under the hatch
  • Difficult-to-master clutch pedal
  • Curb weight and horsepower seem unevenly matched


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