Nissan's Z has been an icon since its debut in 1969. Lyra remembers seeing the first-generation "Fairlady Z" in Japan, where she grew up. Back then, the design was groundbreaking. Fast-forward several decades and Nissan is still on the cutting edge with the sixth-generation 370Z. So don't be surprised if other cars challenge you . . .
Appearance: The Z has the look we've come to associate with sports cars – Muscular Modern. You can see echoes of the original 240Z, with its signature long nose. The 370's contemporary overhaul includes arrowhead headlights and taillights. Peter thinks it's even Porsche-like.
Performance: Nissan took weight out of the Z by using lighter materials. That boosts performance and, unfortunately, road noise. You can hear every pebble in the wheel wells. But once you get accustomed to such intrusions, you can appreciate the exhaust note of the 3.7-liter V-6. Then there's the SynchroRev Match transmission, which automatically blips the throttle when you downshift. Peter found it helped him corner faster. And, boy, the Z is made for cornering: It even comes with a padded center console so you don't bang your knees during "sporty driving." We both liked the way you push down on the short-throw shifter to go into reverse. You can't accidentally grind the gears. We also liked the firm feel of the clutch and shifter. To the transmission engineers at Nissan, we thank you. The optional sport brakes were firm and steady, too.
Interior: Peter liked how everything in the cockpit says "sports car." He especially liked the trio of angled gauges on the dash above the center stack and the nicely done storage bin in the dash that can be replaced with the optional navigation system. The Z also has features seen in more expensive cars, such as auto temperature controls, speed-sensitive power steering and push-button ignition. There's even an illuminated "Z" emblem on its kickplate. The synthetic suede and leather seats are contoured to hug you while you whip through turns. A few nits, though: Why are the seat controls on the inside front? And it's difficult to get to the storage compartments behind them. Isn't there an easier way to drop your purse back there? The armrest storage is small. Peter's one big complaint: Whose idea was the digital gas gauge? It's hard to decipher at a glance (Lyra liked its futuristic look). The storage in the rear was plentiful for a sports car, too. It comes with a retractable cargo cover.
Our 3 favorites
Rev-match tranny: We can all be closet racers.
The interior: It only looks expensive.
Fuel mileage: You still get decent highway MPG and great performance.
Cornering: Its low center of gravity allows for precise handling on turns.
The clutch: Firm but smooth. You don't feel like you're clutching air.
Tradition: It's great to see how much it has grown up.
Bottom line: Because of its longevity, the Z may get lost in the buzz over newer and more expensive sports cars. Yet the Z delivers performance that rivals cars costing twice its price. To top if off, the Z is civil enough to be a daily driver.