DRIVING home from the West Midlands at the weekend I was reminded of everything I love
DRIVING home from the West Midlands at the weekend I was reminded of everything I love about motoring.
Any Saturday night at a certain hour is a good time to travel. Most people are tucked up in restaurants, cinemas, pubs or simply at home slumped in front of the television — anywhere but on the road.
On this particular Saturday night’s drive from Solihull, the M5 stretched south, long and dark before us, all the way to Bristol and beyond.
I was reminded of my unalloyed love of cars — that has been sorely tested by modern traffic conditions in Britain in recent years — because I was at the wheel of this week’s drive, the Nissan 370Z Nismo Coupé.
Its burbling 3.7-litre V6 engine transformed the drive from routine to a simple pleasure. Gone for a moment were thoughts of electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and other forms of fuel-sipping green vehicles — the political correctness wing of motoring we all have to take notice of.
For an hour or two as we drove home all other aspects of driving today that inhibit that long-forgotten joy of being at the wheel of a motor car and the freedom it represents faded from sight.
I remember reading a magazine feature where the British actor Sir Anthony Hopkins spoke of his love of just driving alone for miles at night on roads in the United States — something he celebrated with a 3,000-mile drive across country.
We of course do not have the luxury of travelling on American highways or Continental autoroutes that disappear over the horizon for miles on end — and are thinly populated by vehicles — yet just occasionally we are presented with an open road and what a treat that is!
I make no secret of the fact that the Nissan 370Z is one of my favourite cars, as was its predecessor, the 350Z. Somehow these Z-cars combine a great sounding engine with a great feel for driving.
This model connects the driver as I was on Saturday night with the car — something that is so often missing nowadays as we plod to and from work or the shops in cars that are merely functional.
As I pointed out when reviewing the Nissan Juke Nismo recently, the Nismo tag is the official motorsport arm of the Japanese carmaker. Nissan has integrated this racing ethos into some of its production cars to great effect, I feel.
Part of the reason the new 370Z Nismo now feels a more complete car is that it is more of a grand tourer. It has the beef to perform — 0 to 62mph in 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 155mph — yet it has the comfort as well. This less Spartan approach pays off because although you desire the power and sheer brute force of such a car you also need to feel relaxed and comfortable on a long drive.
To that end, there is better cabin insulation all round and new Recaro seats that do their job well.
Any sports car requires some body manipulation to get into, and the 370Z Nismo is no exception. But once in and settled, you can be sure that both driver and passenger are better catered for than in the past.
I think it is worth noting at this point that this is a muscular car in every sense, so therefore might not suit those who like their sports cars to be lighter of touch.
When you first drive the 370Z Nismo, you find yourself gripping the substantial steering wheel just a little too tightly. But that’s because this is a lot of car to handle.
My other important thought with the 370Z Nismo is that it is great value for money. For this kind of meaty performance from other carmakers — and throaty sounding engine — you would probably have to step up to sports cars costing far more.
That’s the beauty of the 370Z and has been the attraction of all the “Zeds” down the years. (The first Zed was sold in Japan in October 1969 with the wonderful name of the Nissan Fairlady Z.)
She has certainly proved to be a fair lady since then: there have been successive generations of 240, 280, 300, 350 and now 370 Zeds, all of them collecting a strong band of enthusiastic followers along the way.
I cannot help myself: I am hooked. And this latest Nismo-inspired Zed just about puts the icing on the cake.
Nissan 370Z Nismo Coupé
Price of test car (including Storm White metallic paint at £550): £38,135