Nissan 370Z

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Nissan 370Z auto

Road Test

Nissan 370Z auto

Driven November 2009

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If you read our Stig-fest in Top Gear magazine, you'll know the manual 370Z didn't do especially well. In isolation it's a great car, but against all that hardcore metal, it felt a bit soft.

But Nissan acknowledges that it buffed some of the edges off the 350 to make the 370, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn the new Z-car is now available with an optional £1,400 automatic gearbox. And it suits the 370Z well. It's not a token effort: this is a top-spec Nissan-engineered unit with seven gears and a feeling that the car and gearbox have been designed with each other in mind from the start.

Which actually means it's not the smoothest auto in the world. Other auto ‘boxes will slush between cogs better, melt into the background more. The changes here are less subtle than a traditional auto and the 370Z drops into the next gear with a bit more of a clunk when you're just cruising in auto mode.

Don't think of it as a criticism. Even though the 370Z is more grown-up than the 350, it retains a muscle-car attitude that goes well with a slightly more manly change strategy. The more mechanical-feeling shifts suit the underlying sensation that beneath the softer, more considered responses, the 370Z is still a brawler at heart.

There is no fashionable ‘sport' button, so the two modes are auto or paddles, the latter fixed to the steering column behind the wheel. If you're really pressing on, the full auto will change up mid-corner, so you'll need to be in the manual paddle mode. Thankfully, it's not a wishy-washy override - if you don't pull the paddle to select the next cog it'll hit the rev limiter for a bit. Accelerate hard and it won't kick down for you either, although the perfect downchange blips suggest skills you might not actually have.

The best thing about this car remains the amazing 3.7-litre V6. It can tootle or go ballistic without feeling strained doing either. There's so much torque (270lb ft) that you never feel like the 'box is having to make constant gear changes to keep up - it'll happily sit in a higher gear and let the V6's torque do the work. And yet when you do decide to push, it still feels happy being thrashed to the limiter.  

Of course, tradition dictates that a ‘proper' sports car should have a manual gearbox - and the 370Z manual with the SynchroRev is still probably the one you'd go for, especially when you can save nearly a grand and a half in the process. But this is a well-sorted, characterful automatic gearbox that runs the traditional choice closer than you'd have thought possible.

Piers Ward

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