Sporting style and substance
Pit it against its closest rivals and the Nissan 370Z will win every time. But who's counting? Martin Love reports
YOU don't have to be car-literate to understand the point Nissan is driving home with its advertising for its new two-seater, the 370Z.
Beneath the banner line "Kaisers chiefed" -- a layered reference to the Kaiser Chiefs and the fact that this masculine niche of the motoring market is dominated by German roadsters -- the 0-100kph times of the Audi TTS, BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster are listed. At the bottom, picked out in orange, is the 370Z's time and, oh my goodness . . . the Nissan is the fastest at just 5.5 seconds.
It means that if you and your Teutonic buddies were to race to reach 100kph -- a distance of a couple of hundred metres -- you'd have to sit for a whole 10th of a second twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the others.
Car statistics are a testament to the essential gullibility of the car lover. We put so much store in them, yet we never challenge them. We are told a vehicle's top speed is 248kph (in the 370Z's case), and we simply accept it. My car can do 248kph. Brilliant! But when was the last time you drove at 248kph -- other than on a PlayStation? We also know a car's emissions (262g of CO2 per km for the 370Z). How are you going to check that? Seal up your garage? Better not . . .
We have access to a car's fuel consumption (8.9km per litre). Easy to check, and always wrong. We seem to happily accept that the figure is ludicrously high and that we'll only ever achieve it if we drive off a cliff with a following wind.
What about the 0-100kph figure? That sounds like something that could be checked quite easily. And so it was that my teenage son, Rufus, and I pulled into a lay-by on a dual carriageway early one Sunday morning. Rufus held the stopwatch and I waited for a gap in the traffic, gunning the engine. The idea was simple: I'd shout "go" the moment I stamped on the gas, and as soon as the needle hit 100 I'd shout "stop".
Despite the futuristic styling of the 370Z, the Nissan is a refreshingly no-nonsense sports car. There are no turbo- chargers on its throaty 3.7-litre V6 engine. There is, of course, electronic traction control, but it can easily be switched off. It also has a folding cloth roof, which gives it a gloriously old-fashioned feel and means it has a decent-sized boot.
An insight into the target market of this car can be found inside the boot's lid: a sticker revealing the best way to load a bag of golf clubs.
The car handles well, it feels grounded and precise. The interior finishing, from the touch screen info-tainment console to the leather steering wheel, is upmarket and shows Nissan is keen to take on its German rivals not just in performance. Price wise, it certainly comes out on top. The Nissan starts at €56,795, while the Audi TTS is €66,350, the Boxster is €72,783 and the BMW Z4 €58,350.
And so to the road test. The first go had to be aborted as Rufus failed to press the stop button. On the second attempt we hit 5.9 seconds. But on the third, I manage a dizzying 4.97 -- a new record for the 370Z, or maybe just dodgy timing from my 13-year-old assistant. Either way, this is a very fast car and, to misquote the Kaiser Chiefs, everyday I loved it more and more . . .
The Nissan 370Z is one of the 10 finalists in the Continental Irish Car of the Year 2011 award, which will be announced on November 25. The cars are being reappraised by members of the Irish Motoring Writers' Association on their test day tomorrow