So I am heading back from a Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) West event at California Speedway in Fontana, and downshift to fourth and accelerate into the winding curve as I take an off ramp from the 10 heading back towards my home in Orange County. The iPod is rocking out the Libertines’ Cant Stand Me Now and I am feeling satisfied–that’s when the lights came on behind me.
I went to pull to the side of the highway–but the CHP car behind me started blurting directions to exit the well traveled road. We took the next exit and he instructed me onto a side road near an office complex. “S#@t,” I thought, “I haven’t been pulled over in a long time.” Considering all the horror stories I had heard about astronomical fines in California–I was terrified but maintained composure. I watched the mirrors as the officer approached and grabbed the steering wheel with both hands at the top, in the “perp” position.
The young officer came up to the side of the aggressive looking Silver 350 HP 2013 370Z–a car Nissan loaned me for the Nissan/Datsun Heritage Celebration at the Riverside International Automotive Museum and the simultaneous HSR West races–greeted me and asked, “Do you know how fast you were going?”
“Actually, No, Officer.”
I was immediately relieved to hear I wasn’t headed for jail and pined “Wow. Really? Dammit! I am soooo sorry. This isn’t my car.”
The cop gave me a puzzled look.
“I am an automotive writer doing a road test and this car belongs to Nissan–and man–it can totally get away from you. I have looked down at the speedo all weekend and freaked.”
I wasn’t gonna tell the nice young badge outside my window, but between you the reader and me, at one point during the weekend while driving from my hotel to the track, going at what seemed a nice clip, I looked down and was shocked to see I was doing 110. Needless to say, I slowed down but was really impressed with the stability of this car. The balance and feel made 100 seem like 65. Nissan really designed a car that was built for speed, but was very easy to drive. This might be the perfect car for the novice sports car enthusiast.
“License, registration and proof of insurance please.” In a kind tone said the officer.
I gave the cop my info and he walked back to his car. “Hail Mary, full of grace…”
Back in the early 90’s I had the pleasure of owning a 1979 Datsun 280Z. Blue and Silver two tone. I really miss that car. The main reason that car is not still sitting in my garage is largely due to the location I owned that car: Chicago. For you Z-philes out there, you probably already know what I am talking about. Datsuns and salty, snow covered roads do not mix–at all. One little spot of rust became a gaping hole–it wouldn’t be long before I was driving down the road and stuff really began to fall off the poor car. Sad, because I really loved it. It was like watching your dog die and not being able to do anything about it.
The current model in my hands, a 370Z Sport, reminded me of what I loved about my ’79–with nothing hopeless about it (besides the cop who had my info and was behind me at his car looking over the paperwork).
The first thing I noticed was the seating position–pure sports car–low to the ground, aggressive support of lumbar and knees. Felt good! The keyless start button was a nice touch. Sit down, strap in, disengage the clutch and press… The 3.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 aluminum-alloy engine comes to life and sends a little shiver down my spine. That whine in the rev of powerful compression and vacuum, with a hint of metallic song took me back 20 years to the sound of my Z’s powerful straight six.
Not realizing it at the time but I was sitting in 3272 pounds of probable cause. The 350 hp @ 7,400 rpm is apparent the second you step on the gas and engage the clutch, lighting up 276 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm–whoosh! Zero to sixty shows up in 4.8 seconds. But–Don’t forget the Screeeech! too. The 4-piston opposed front aluminum calipers with 14.0″ x 1.30″ vented discs and 2-piston opposed rear aluminum calipers with 13.8″ x 0.80″ vented discs bring you to a stop from 60 in just 103 feet. The 19 inch Aluminum wheels showed off those big discs and looked sweet with the low profile Bridgestone Potenza tires.
The body has some touches of redesign from its predecessor including the grille, a lowered stance and wider body, but maintains the basic shape of the series going back to the 350Z–and in some way pays tribute to the many Z bodies that came before. The High Intensity Discharge (HID) bi-functional xenon headlights came in particularly handy as some parts of Riverside and Fontana can get pretty dark at night–certainly compared to LA and Orange County, where I am quite convinced that it is daylight all the time.
The current automotive fad, LED Daytime Running Lights look really dope on this car. Overall the appearance is pure sporty car. It is easy to see why almost every time I pulled up to a stoplight, some testosterone-fueled guy next to me started revving his motor in an obvious challenge. This really happened. I know California’s car culture is amazing, but it got to the point of being ridiculous at how many races were challenged (and yes, choosing a few battles, won a few times).
While the Steering wheel and pedals give the driver ample feedback, driver aids on the car, in my opinion were a little much for the sports car purist in me. However as I mentioned before, this would be a great entry level car for the would-be sports car enthusiast. Blipping the throttle for downshifts is done for you via synchronous rev-matching… I was surprised the first time I really downshifted from highway speed, when a blip sent the tach sky-high for a coronary half second, before I figured out what was going on. The traction control–while optional, thanks to a button under the dash–really came on too early for me and prevented cornering with a hint of drift. On the other hand the TC is a good thing for most drivers as it preserves tires, transmission and most importantly life, as legendary race driver friend, Tony “A2Z” Adamowicz told me “for when you run out of talent.”
“…now and at the hour of our arrest. Amen.”
The cop walked back up to the side of the car. “I need you to do me a favor.”
He handed back my info, “I need you to not let this car get away from you anymore today.”
“Sure thing officer. Thanks and have a great day!” We amicably and m0nertarilly parted ways. “Phew…Thanks Lord!”
I really had a hard time giving this particular 370Z test car back. I liked it. I liked it a lot. This “poor-man’s Porsche” would fit well in my garage. Just not sure if I could afford all the tickets–for when I ran out of talent.