A lot of the attention being focused on Nissan recently has centered on the new GT-R, and since the GT-R has 480 horsepower under the hood, that’s no surprise. While the GT-R is certainly a marvel of modern engineering, its little brother, the 370Z, is no slouch either.Nissan’s Z-car performance coupe has been around for more than four decades, premiering in 1964 with the 240Z. Over the years the Z-car has undergone both refinements and radical changes. The new 370Z is a refinement of the 350Z and represents the sixth generation of the model. So what has changed between the two models?
The obvious change is the engine. Nissan’s lauded 3.5-liter V6 has been retired to make way for a 3.7-liter version. In the Z, this new engine pumps out 332 horsepower, as opposed to the 3.5′s 300. While this increase in power is definitely welcomed by the speed-freaks, the Z pulled off something rarely seen: an increase in gas mileage. The manufacturer specifications stated that the 350Z would get 19 mpg city and 25 highway, but most drivers found that numbers to be more in the neighborhood of 15 city/20 highway. The 370Z is set to deliver 18 city and 26 highway, and initial testing of the car has found these numbers to be pretty accurate. So how can you have 32 more horsepower and better gas mileage?
The answer is simple in theory but difficult to implement: lightweight materials. The lighter a car is, the easier it is for the engine to make it move, meaning higher gas mileage. The use of lightweight materials has been around for awhile, with carbon fiber body panels being particularly popular, but these materials are pricey and aren’t normally seen in your average car. So, instead of counting on an expensive body to drop the weight, Nissan engineers decided to make little trims all around the car. The wheels are made with a super-lightweight alloy that makes them 20% lighter than the 350Z’s wheels, the frame is made of a lightweight aluminum alloy.
One of the best examples of weight loss is the driveshaft. Made from a carbon fiber composite, the driveshaft retains all the strength of a traditional alloy design but weighs a lot less. This not only decreases the vehicles overall weight, but it also allows the shaft to spin faster. That means that the engine can reach higher revs in a shorter period of time and also reduces stress on the crankshaft. One little change makes the car lighter, faster, and more resistant to wear and tear.
Usually this laundry list of refinements and new features is accompanied by a fairly large price tag, but a base model 370Z will be available for around $30,000. An optional sport package (which includes those lightweight wheels) is an extra $3,000 and a touring package (which is essentially the sport package plus luxuries like a Bose audio system, heated seats, etc.) runs about $4,500. The GT-R may be the new flagship sports coupe, but those who can’t afford its $80,000 price tag, the new Z is a great option.