A wild throwback to the heroes of yesteryear, is the gnarly Nissan 370Z too much sports car for most men to handle?
THE Modern Man is becoming soft. Feminists may beg to differ but it seems that we men are becoming less and less manly as this millennium rolls by. Especially when it comes to fashion. I don’t know about you but I shudder when I see some of the outfits society deems acceptable for us to wear.
Delicate button-up cardigans are de rigueur. You’re just not with it if the cuffs of your skinny jeans aren’t turned up above your ankles. And how could you possibly face the summer heat if your wardrobe wasn’t stocked with at least three pairs of those suspiciously tight, thigh-length shorts. Back when I was a kid, any dude worth his Y-chromosome would have flipped these trends the middle finger. But today they’re lurking on every corner, inside every coffee shop.
It doesn’t end there though. Far more alarming is The Modern Man’s growing affinity for things that should be the exclusive domain of the fairer sex. Tanning beds. Spa visits. Facials. Heck, just the other day I happened to walk past a beauty salon and inside spotted a chap having a manicure.
There he was (with one of those foppish side-part hairdos I might add) chatting and laughing with the therapist as she happily prodded his digits with an array of small wooden instruments. Yep, caught in the middle of a cultural gender-bender made worse by the rise of the satchel, The Modern Man is in an awkward state of flux. One that probably has the likes of John Wayne and Paul Newman shifting uncomfortably in their graves.
Of course there is now a similar phenomenon afflicting The Modern Sports Car. You see, not too long ago, sporty motor vehicles were hairy-chested and woke up with morning coughs from smoking way too many unfiltered cigarettes. They were mean and lean and demanded a fair amount of respect. Because if you became too familiar, lowered your guard just a little too much, they would quickly bite the hand that fed them. The first Porsche 911 Turbo is a perfect case in point, with its snappy behaviour earning it the nickname “Widow Maker”.
Real enthusiasts could drive around these quirks, but for many yuppies they were responsible for inciting some spectacular meetings with the roadside furniture.
And this meant that as the years trickled by The Modern Sports Car would (like The Modern Man) become a far more genteel beast. Things like traction control and torque vectoring and active suspension and clever double-clutch gearboxes got baked into the mix; electronic aids that help flatter even the most ham-fisted of drivers. Great for those who don’t really know what they’re doing but for those who do, well, all this techno-wizardry tends to dilute the experience a little. You know what I mean?
Fortunately there is one member of The Modern Sports Car ilk that approaches life with an unusually old-school slant. It has been around for a while too — something that makes it seem even more macho when stacked up against the latest and greatest in refined performance exotica. In fact, compared to the Porsche Cayman or BMW Z4, the Nissan 370Z comes across like a loud, lager-swilling hooligan. One that enjoys pinching your girlfriend’s bottom and then challenging you to a fight soon afterwards.
Yeah, bugger the facial routine, mate, if this car were human it would swagger around with all sorts of stubble on its weathered chin — an attitude that immediately becomes evident the moment you open the door and strap in behind its leather steering wheel.
For while many of its German rivals feel like low-slung saloon cars, this Japanese coupé is unabashedly hardcore. The seating position, for example, is upright and hard and bordering on being cramped. And then you’ll notice the stubby gear-shifter knob. Ergonomically challenged by being positioned far too close to your elbow, it requires a considerable amount of force to fire through the cogs with any accuracy.
The same goes for the clutch. Most of the left pedals I stomp on are feathery light but the one doing duty in the 370Z requires a fair bit of calf muscle. Let it out, stamp on the gas, and the car jumps forward with a surprising degree of drive-train clunk. You know for a machine born in the digital age, this Nissan feels positively analogue — and I like it.
Ditto the driving experience. I will be the first to concede that the suspension is ridiculously firm (hit a bump at speed and grimace as the top of your spine slams into your skull) but on smoother tracts of asphalt the 370Z handles like a proper street-bred racing car should. Steer it with consideration and Nissan’s coupé cracks along at a surefooted pace, that feelsome steering and chassis setup helping you decode the road’s surface like a blind man reads Braille.
There’s even a clever SyncroRev Match system that automatically blips the throttle on downshifts to ensure smoother and more stable gear changes. Absolute genius. Yet for all this polish it still comes infused with some of the dark side that made past sports-car masters so very enduring.
Oh yeah, thumb that traction control button and the big Z suddenly becomes something of an animal. A rumbling beast of a car that wants nothing more than to turn its expensive Bridgestone tyres into smoke and go sideways. Fun? Absolutely. But also a little bottom-clenching if your reactions aren’t on point as that rump is all too eager to switch places with the bonnet.
Rest assured that failure to catch it will result in more than just a dented ego. Get it right though, ride that drift, and the Nissan 370Z is one of the most satisfying cars you can drive on the edges of adhesion.
Topped off with menacing architecture and a peach of a V6 engine (one that sounds like a hellhound serenading the devil), and you wonder why we don’t see more of these coupés tearing across our South African mean streets. But then, after taking the questionable characteristics of The Modern Man into account, I’m not really surprised.
Fast Facts: Nissan 370Z Coupé
Engine: 3696cc V6
Power: 245kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 363Nm @ 5200rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
0-100km/h: 5.3-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 250km/h (limited)
Fuel: 13.6l/100km (achieved combined)
Price: From R530 800
Old-school sports car values
Nice and leery on the limit
Storming performance and well-specced
Very hard ride
A bit of a guzzler
Love them a true driving machine but the badge will stop many enjoying a great car but if ur not a snob the rewards are immense!
Great article Thomas. Thanks for the Friday morning fun read.
Great article, can’t agree more. All those badge snobs are really missing out on an awesome drive!
What I really did not like about the car is the fuel that it consumes at such a quick rate. Fuel prices aren’t cheap these days, and this car is not exactly cheap too. I guess on the other hand, you get a car with great performance and looks. It will bound to get heads turning on the streets. It kind of reminds me of the older Fair Ladys. Those were my favourite.