06-30-09 - Nissan 370Z

I finally went and drove a 370Z this morning. I skipped it in the earlier car testing because I think it's really ugly and I thought the G37 was just a better version of the same thing. I was wrong, the 370Z is fucking fantastic.

It feels small and tight and powerful, the steering feeling and response is excellent, the throttle is responsive. Obviously I didn't push it too hard on a test drive, but it just felt *fun* unlike any of the other cars I've driven. It's the lightest car I've driven at around 3200 pounds (still no featherweight by a longshot, but 300 less than the 135 and 400 less than the G37 and 800 less than the Audi RS4 or S5), and you can feel the difference.

There are some ridiculous things about it though. The seats suck, they're not very adjustable and they're just uncomfortable and cheap. If you lean your head back on the headrest, you can feel the lower inside bars of the headrest get levered forward and poke you in the back. The seats have sporty side flanges to pinch you, but they're not adjustable and are apparently made for very narrow people (the BMW's for example have power adjustable seat pinchers that lock you in very nicely).

The visibility is just absurd. Like dangerous. In fact I seriously think it should be illegal to make cars with such bad visibility. There's not really so much of a "blind spot" as you just can't look behind you *at all*. You have to use your side mirrors. The rear window is tiny, and the extreme angle of it means that you get bigtime fresnel effect so the glass is more reflective, and you actually can see the contents of your own trunk better than the cars behind you. Parallel parking in it would have to be done by closing your eyes and using The Force. Even ignoring the rearward visiblity problems, the front and side visibility isn't awesome either. Those windows are small too, and the hood and doors feel very high.

This is a common trend on lots of modern cars. The proper proportion for a car (says me) is about 50/50 body panel height to cabin glass height (more like 55/45 is ideal). Lots of modern cars are more like 65:35 or even 75:25. The hoods and doors are too high, you can't see the ground around you; it's claustrophobic and shitty. I think part of the reason is safety vs. the fucking big trucks and SUVs with their high bumpers, but I also think some people like the styling of it.

The 370Z also has lots of shitty plastic fit & finish. Whatever, I don't really care about that. The ergonomics of the console is actually better than BMW or Audi. The buttons are pretty simple and right at your hand and easy to use and well labelled. One thing that pisses me off in many news cars is fucking (+) and (-) buttons for things like air vent speed or stereo volume. That's fucking retarded. They need to be dials or wheels or knobs. I've ranted about this before, but look people - you want a few things from a control like that - you want the full range to be displayed physically, you want it to be easy to go instantly to any position, you want it to be friendly to muscle memory so that you can do it with your eyes away from it, and you need to be able to read the setting from the control. All of that is satisfied by the well known device of the knob (and I mean an absolute knob with the range and current value marked, not a digital knob that just spins forever in both directions). Stop fucking trying to reinvent the knob, you fail. Anyway, as cheap as the 370Z interior is, it actually has knobs FTW.

(while I'm ranting about nobs - fucking push button toggles are awful too, especially when the only indicator of what state it's in is from a dim LED that you can't tell if it's lit or not on a sunny day; switches should be actual physical switches, for all the same very obvious reasons - you can tell the state it's in by touching it with your eyes closed, and you get physical feedback so you know when you've switched it, and aside from all that it just feels cool. It's fucking awful that shit like the "M button" or the traction control buttons are little digital push button toggles; they should be big giant lever switches like something Nicola Tesla would switch so that when you are ready to tear it up you say "engage!" and flip a big fucking switch). Anyhoo, back on track...

It has a little more headroom than the G37, but less than the 135. I can just barely sit all the way up in the 370Z but it's certainly not comfortable to just sit in. The interior and trunk space is in general just ridiculously small, like you would have trouble getting a big load of groceries in it, and if you ever buy even the smallest piece of furniture you have to have it delivered.

So, I'm a little torn. It's the first car I've driven that got me hot and bothered when I floored it around a corner, but the bad seats and shit visibility are pretty big problems. It is $10k cheaper than a G37 or 135 so I guess that goes in the equation somewhere. Maybe I could spend that $10k getting the body panels replaced with a Jaguar E-Type body.

In general I'm disappointed with all these new cars. The engines in all of them are phenomenal, but all the other bits are stupidly messed up. In many ways they are all inferior to my old Prelude, which has delightful big windows and very simple functional ergonomically friendly dash controls, and fantastic raw steering feel, and everything is delightfully manual and non-computer-involved and simple. After every one of these fancy car test drives, I've been pleasantly happy to get back in the Lude. Granted, after mashing the hungry throttle of a modern engine the Lude feels incredibly slow and impotent, but least I have a nice view and no fucking beeping while I take 10 seconds to accelerate to 60.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. In my dreams people would just take their product and only change it in ways that are definite improvements, and leave alone the things that work just fine, but of course they don't do that. It all makes me think of MS Office or Visual Studio or something. Yes, the newer version are fundamentally much better at their core, they have better engines and some features that I really want, but they also completely fucking change the user interface and move the menus around and rename things for no god damn reason, and add all kinds of bells and whistles that I don't want and just kludge it all up. Modern cars remind me of that.

A 370Z

Psyche! That's what it should look like.

This is what it does look like


Wouter said...

told you so :)

Test drove a cayman/boxter yet? I found I have about an inch more headroom in the cayman than in the Z (I am 6ft5). The visibility is worse, probably. But if you liked the handling on the Z, the cayman is just one more step up.

Sly said...

But they're quite costly too.

Older Porsche could be a good bet, but that would go against the primary goal of your car search if I recall your previous posts correctly.

Still some 944 & 968 ("Porsche for the poor"), 928 or previous 911 definitely have the sport spirit and perfs, none of the electronic stuff.

Lots of them (mostly the 924,944,968...) looks quite old, while 928 and some series of 944 still have some appealing:

Funny, looking for pictures of the old 928, I learned a new 928 is supposed to come in a few years:

2nd crazy idea: what's about Japanese cars?

Aaron said...

Could give the 400hp Lexus IS-F a try if you can find one. It's an automatic, but at least a paddle-shifting one. Probably mushy toyota nonsense, but hey worth a sit in it to find out yeah? One review said "We can't remember a car in recent times that rides as badly as the IS-F over rough Michigan roads." That's a good sign, right?

A bit pricey at 57K?

cbloom said...

I am curious to try the IS-F because the engine is phenomenal, but it's very heavy (4000 pounds), it supposedly feels even bulkier and more numb than the new M3 which IMO is unacceptably lumbering.

I think Lexus screwed up the IS-F design a bit. It's too big and heavy for someone who really wants a sporty car, but they also tweaked it too tight and aggressive for somebody who just wants a luxury sedan with a ton of grunt. They sort of hit between the two points in a way that makes neither one happy.

One big appeal of the IS-F is that I have literally never seen a single one on the road, which means I don't have any association of it with douchebag old man balding midlife crisis dentists and mortgage brokers the way I do with BMW's or Porsches.

Pavel Tumik said...

I would suggest to try Mazda RX-8. Definitely fun to drive. Though it has it's own problems, like engine is kinda weak on low RPMs, but really responsive and powerful on high RPMs.
Would be interesting to read your thoughts. :)

Aaron said...

Wow that's 580 lbs heavier than my civic. But of course they left the engine out of my civic :(

If you did get the IS-F, the first thing to do would be to go get some shop to rip out the goofy fake stacked exhausts and put a proper exhaust there.

Why didn't you want the 135 again? The seats? C'mon just throw some cabbie beads on them or something.

Just get a different color than Ryan, or slam it low or something. Fuzzy dice?

cbloom said...

No the 135 seats are very good, actually the best in any car I've seen.

I like the 135 very much, I may still get one, it just feels a bit too much like the computers are doing everything for me. It just also feels a bit too easy for it to get up to 100 mph; like you just touch the gas and you're suddenly going 100 but it's so smooth that you don't even realize it.

cbloom said...

Plus the way BMW intentionally willfully fucks up the 135 in America really pisses me off. I want fucking cloth seats and brushed aluminum interior, but you can't get cloth in the US because it's not "luxury" and you can't get brushed aluminum because they really just want you to get a 335.

And I don't love that it's a turbo. Even though it is an amazing turbo that you hardly notice, you do feel it and I don't like it.

cbloom said...

Small correction :

the ISF is 3800 pounds.

The new M3 is 3700 pounds.

The 135 is 3400 pounds.

The old M3 is 3400 pounds.

The old "M coupe" is 3000 pounds (same engine as old M3)

The Audi RS4 is around 3700
The S5 is around 3550

The G37 is 3600 pounds

The 370Z is 3200 pounds

The Cayman S is 3000 pounds

old rants