This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday August 19, 2009
Around the age of 40, many men lose the plot. Some drop out of their jobs to follow impractical dreams, some abandon their marriages to take up with 20-something bimbettes, and others just go to seed.
The Nissan Z-car is, however, not a man. Turning 40 this year, Nissan’s iconic two-seater returns stronger, safer, leaner and more muscular than ever.
With engine capacity increased to 3,7 litres, power is up six percent over its predecessor. It is shorter, lower and wider than the 350Z. It also shed 80 kg of body mass, including 1,6 kg off the purpose-built 8-speaker Bose sound system. To pacify the green lobby, it is 11 percent more economical in its use of fuel than the outgoing model.
It is also as sexy as your favourite person served up naked on a bed of crisp new currency.
Occasionally, as you get into a new car, adjust the seats and steering and look around for the first time, it just feels right. You simply know that you and this machine were destined to meet, share outrageous times and grow old together. The Nissan 370Z is one of these.
While well equipped, it is not quite the final word in luxury. It is also not practical, being a two-seater without any hint of rear accommodation. Its boot is big enough only for a couple of soft bags holding a weekend’s luggage.
It is not squishily comfortable either. The suspension is compliant but firm, as befits kit set up to straighten country roads, corner without leaning and keep on gripping, apparently forever. Aiding and abetting are 19-inch Bridgestone tyres – 245/40s in front and 275/35s at the back, fitted to stylish Ray’s Engineering forged aluminium alloy wheels. Obviously, the spare can only be a space saver.
But it’s gorgeous. The big quad-cam 24-valve V6 gurgles throatily, response to the accelerator is instantaneous and steering is precise and quick. It feels like a stripped-down version of any one of the world’s really great sports cars, but for less money - a lot less money. At R499 000 for the six-speed manual or R516 200 for the seven-speed automatic, it could be the bargain of the year for what it delivers.
With 245 kW at 7 000 rpm and 363 Nm of torque at 5 200 rpm, the figures might make the engine look peaky, but Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) technology helps to spread the good times throughout the rev range.
Power is delivered via a carbon fibre propellor shaft to a viscous limited slip differential, sited where such things belong, at the rear. The optional seven speed automatic ‘box as fitted to our test car can be left to its own devices when burbling through urban traffic or manually SMGed by means of the usual stick, or with nice big paddles behind the steering wheel.
Most of us have seen the ad demonstrating Nissan’s Synchronised Rev Control software that mimics double-declutching, on manual Zs. It increases engine speed to match the requirements of the new gear when downshifting, so you don’t run the risk of upsetting the balance of the car just as you dive into a corner. Good news – the auto ‘box does it for you as well. They call it automatic rev matching and it’s quite startling the first time you hear it.
Add to this 50/50 weight distribution that changes to 53/47 on turn in, placing more weight over the front wheels to maximise grip and steering response, and you have one helluva ride.
The Zee car may have reached its Big Four-Oh, but it’s far from boring. You could, in fact, say that life begins at 40 and the best is yet to come.
Price: R516 200
Engine: 3 696 cc V6
Power: 245 kW at 7 000 rpm
Torque: 363 Nm at 5 200 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 5,6 seconds (claimed)
Maximum speed: 250 km/h (governed)
Average fuel consumption: about 12,0 l/100 km
Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km
Service plan: 3 years/90 000 km
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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