2012 Nissan 370Z NISMO - FROM $41,660
Affordable high-performance sports cars don't get any better than the 2012 Nissan 370Z.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Nissan 370Z returns with no major changes.
Carrying on a legacy of affordable fun that stretches all the way back to the 240Z of the early 1970s, the 2012 Nissan 370Z is proof that you don't have to be rich to drive a cool sports car.
With its gutsy engine, athletic handling, sexy styling and driver-oriented two-seat cockpit, the rear-wheel-drive 370Z has all the sports car bases covered. The fact that you can pick one up for about the price of a top-line family sedan makes owning one just that much easier to rationalize.
If the standard 370Z coupe isn't quite your style, you'll find the 370Z Roadster delivers the same entertaining driving dynamics with the added bonus of a power-folding soft top that makes it possible to enjoy al fresco motoring in about 20 seconds. If it's more muscle you want, the high-performance 370Z Nismo model features a more powerful engine, 19-inch alloy wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.
While the 370Z has a lot of strong points, it has a few notable shortcomings. For one thing, the 3.7-liter V6 sounds coarse and almost trucklike when pushed hard and lacks the pleasing exhaust note you'd expect from a car like this. The coupe's interior is also downright loud, especially with the optional Sport package's 19-inch wheels and tires, a condition that becomes tedious on longer drives.
For some enthusiasts with children, the lack of a backseat might be an issue, and that could make a number of four-person sport coupes more appealing, such as the BMW 1 Series, Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the mechanically similar (though much more refined) Infiniti G37 coupe. For about the same amount of dough, you could also pick up the performance versions of three American icons: the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang.
Ultimately though, the 370Z continues to excel at its time-honored mission: delivering strong sports car performance at a relatively reasonable price.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Nissan 370Z is offered in two-seat coupe and soft-top convertible body styles. The coupe is available in base, Touring and Nismo trim levels, while the convertible (a.k.a. Roadster) comes in base and Touring only.
Standard features for the entry-level 370Z coupe include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic bi-xenon headlights, heated outside mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, automatic climate control, an eight-way manual driver seat, a tilt-adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth upholstery and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Moving up to the Touring coupe gets you leather and faux suede upholstery, heated four-way power seats (includes four-way driver lumbar adjustment), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cargo area cover, Bluetooth phone connectivity and an eight-speaker Bose sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer and satellite radio. The Nismo coupe adds 19-inch forged aluminum wheels and high-performance tires, stiffer suspension tuning, upgraded brakes, a limited-slip rear differential and a more powerful V6, plus unique front and rear fascias, a larger rear wing and special Nismo interior trim details.
The 370Z Roadster comes standard with a power-operated soft top, but is otherwise equipped similarly to the coupe. Likewise for the Roadster Touring model with the addition of heated and ventilated power seats.
Coupe and Roadster Touring buyers looking for more performance can add an optional Sport package that includes 19-inch wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, upgraded brakes, front and rear spoilers and the SynchroRev Match feature for manual-transmission-equipped cars. Touring models can also be fitted with a navigation system with a touchscreen interface, real-time traffic and weather updates, voice controls, digital music storage, Bluetooth audio streaming, an iPod interface and a rearview camera.
Powertrains and Performance
In base and Touring trims, the rear-wheel-drive 2012 Nissan 370Z and 370Z Roadster are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that puts 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque to the pavement through a standard six-speed manual transmission. When equipped with the Sport package, the manual transmission comes with the SynchroRev Match feature, which automatically matches engine rpm to wheel speed during downshifts to make clutch re-engagements super-smooth. A seven-speed automatic transmission with steering-column-mounted shift paddles and rev-matched downshifts is available as an option.
In Edmunds performance testing, a 370Z coupe with the Sport package accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a quick 5.1 seconds, while the Roadster did it in 5.5 seconds. The fuel economy penalty for such hustle isn't devastating, with EPA estimates for the coupe coming in at 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with the manual and 19/26/22 with the automatic. The Roadsters are nearly as good, at 18/25/20 with the manual and 18/25/21 mpg with the automatic.
The 370Z Nismo model has a specially tuned version of the same V6 engine that produces 350 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed manual with SynchroRev Match is the only transmission offered.
Standard safety equipment for the 2012 Nissan 370Z includes antilock brakes, traction and stability control, side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags (roof-mounted in the coupe and door-mounted in the Roadster) and active head restraints.
In Edmunds brake testing, a coupe with the Sport package's upgraded brakes stopped from 60 mph in an outstanding 101 feet -- about the same as the Nissan GT-R. A Roadster with the Sport package took only 5 more feet to stop.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Nissan 370Z's interior features an attractive design and quality materials, especially in the upscale Touring models with their leather and faux suede upholstery. Seats are comfortable and supportive, and despite the lack of a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel, the driving position is near ideal. One downside to the car's styling is that its thick roof pillars make for limited visibility out the back.
Those who opt for the Roadster won't have long to wait when they want to catch some rays, as the fully lined soft top folds itself neatly under a color-matched hard tonneau cover in roughly 20 seconds. As in most sports cars, luggage space is scarce, with just 6.9 cubic feet of storage under the coupe's hatchback and a slightly smaller than average 4.2 cubic feet in the convertible's trunk.
Behind the wheel, the 2012 Nissan 370Z delivers all the thrills you'd expect from a true sports car. The standard sport-tuned suspension delivers excellent handling and a surprisingly smooth ride. As you'd expect, the Nismo model's firmer suspension, larger wheels and performance tires means you'll be trading away a good bit of ride comfort in everyday driving for outstanding cornering ability that's well-suited to weekend track days. Pervasive road noise is also an issue for the 370Z coupe.
The 3.7-liter V6 manages to deliver grin-inducing acceleration while still remaining tame enough for tooling around town. Both transmissions are equally likable, and the SynchroRev Match's blip of the throttle on downshifts is bound to make you feel like a driving champion. One downside to this powertrain is that it just doesn't sound very good, with a notably coarse nature at high rpm.