THE adrenaline rush of driving has existed since cars first took to the road.
Toad of Toad Hall’s famous fictional exclamatory shout, “Poop! Poop!” as he shot down country lanes in his brand new motorcar is an expression of unfettered joy similar to that experienced by many car enthusiasts at one time or another.
And this feeling — the actual thrill of driving — is communicated to the driver through his or her “connection” with the car, which in most cases starts with the engine. This might come from the humblest runabout but a tuned, beefy V6 displacing copious brake horsepower is going to reach parts of the human body quicker than you can think: hence the rush of adrenaline.
I have fallen under the spell of this jump-start to the system while at the wheel of this week’s drive, the Nissan 370Z Nismo Coupé.
This car is no Ferrari, but it pushes all the right thrill buttons at a fraction of the asking price of the Italian stallion.
Different drivers, of course, handle such cars in different ways. I like to feel I am more mature these days and less headstrong at the wheel. I fully endorse the real common sense argument of only racing on a track. Yet the 370Z is such a beast that you have to play its game — at least for some of the time.
As with any high performance car (or motorcycle for that matter) you have to be doubly disciplined to enjoy all its possibilities on public roads. And enjoy I did: with a 0 to 62mph in just 5.2 seconds capability and a top speed of 155mph (on unrestricted roads) this is a car to savour.
It is a driver’s car with its 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine raring to go at your command.
An extra joy for me in this 370Z — the latest in the brilliant Z series — was the manual gearbox (there is a seven-speed paddle shift automatic option). In recent weeks I have been so inundated with cars with automatic and paddle gearshifts that it was great to be able to get more control over this lively sports car through a positive manual gear change.
Often with cars with multi-option transmissions, the computer management system takes over so that your involvement in driving is even less.
On some cars this can be a blessing but not on performance sports cars such as the 370Z. I’ll take the fun factor any day while I can, thank you very much.
And then with this car, there is the all-important Nismo factor.
Nismo, formed in 1984, is the motorsports division of Japanese giant carmaker Nissan. As with the Nismo Juke, the added bonus for the car buyer is the sports styling of the car. This works, too, I think on the 370Z because it is not over-the-top and gives the car the required super sports look usually associated with much more expensive cars.
The ride is in keeping with this image and when driven hard the passenger needs to be a bit of an enthusiast too, especially with the super-lightweight alloys on the test car that afford superglue-like contact with the road.
I have been going on about the rush associated with such cars as the 370Z. I thoroughly recommend a film of this name, currently available to watch, which though maybe an extreme example, illustrates perfectly how great cars set the heart pumping. Rush, under the exemplary direction of Ron Howard, tells the story of two rival racing drivers of the Seventies, James Hunt and Niki Lauda. They had entirely opposite takes on the rush: Hunt was brave and brash while Lauda cool and courageous.
While hybrids may be good for the heart, sports cars like the 370Z are surely good for the true motorist’s soul.
Nissan 370Z Nismo Coupé
* On the road price: £36,995
* Engine: 3.7 V6 Petrol compliant with Euro5 emissions regulations
* Optimum front-engined, rear-wheel drive set-up provides authentic sports car driving experience
* Ventilated disc brakes
* Front and rear ani-roll bars
* Electric power speed sensitive steering
* Nismo aerodynamic body kit
* 19in Nismo super-lightweight RAYS alloy wheels
* Nismo dual exhaust
By Nigel Wigmore