The new Nissan 370Z is light, powerful, and beautifully finished
Nissan's 350Z provided a bit of a sports car revolution when it first appeared, by delivering more sporting cred than expected for the money. So what if the cabin materials felt a bit cheap; it went like a cut cat and looked hot-hot-hot.
Can the 370Z deliver the same, only better? Our rapid Dunedin-to-Invercargill-to-Queenstown launch drive suggested it can.
Certainly it looks the part, sharper, and beautifully finished by those GT-R-style alloy wheels - NZ gets the bigger, 19-inch hoops and the sports brakes while the Aussies make do with more pedestrian fare.
Those lines benefit from a lower roofline, a shorter length yet wider track, the combo imparting an even more purposeful air. That's only enhanced when you climb aboard, for the seats are closer to the rear axle.
You'll notice the smarter cabin, with its classier materials and neat touches like the row of round dials so reminiscent of the classic 240Z, and the fact the larger instruments move with the steering wheel as you adjust its height.
What you won't notice are the cuts Nissan has made. To weight, that is. As well as the aluminium bonnet it's now used for the boot-lid and doors too. The smaller fuel tank drops 6.3kg (the car's more economical so range isn't affected); the drivetrain 7.9kg and the exhaust 1.4kg; the smaller body weighs 28.1kg less and even the audio's trimmed 1.6kg of fat.
Overall the car's 60kg lighter. Even better, it's also more powerful. The 3.7-litre V6 powerplant uses a clever variable valve system that's similar to BMW's valvetronic in effect, at 245kW and 363Nm delivering more power and torque for less fuel used.
There's a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed auto that proved impressive, holding the gears, and accessible manually via large steering wheel-mounted paddles.
I'd assumed the Syncro-rev that blips the throttle for you on down-changes would prove to be useless marketing puffery, but it really does effortlessly adjust revs to gear changes; you might heel-and-toe it as efficiently, but few modern drivers can. If you're one of them, switch it off - it's fitted to the manual, but you can opt out.
Meanwhile, hoonery is balanced by safety, Nissan says. There's not much space between engine and bonnet, so the latter pops up if you hit a pedestrian to reduce the severity of the impact. There are six airbags in this two-seat car. There's ESP stability control - which came on more often for surplus acceleration that it did when winter grit interfered with cornering grip. And those massive brakes - as big in diameter as a standard Micra's whole wheel - didn't fade despite the abuse we inflicted.
And I have to admit, we did inflict abuse. The Caitlins road delivers swervery that's demanding at under the speed limit, and this proved the perfect car to hurl through it. The rear-drive chassis is delightfully adjustable on the throttle when understeer does surface - there's a tad more weight in the front after all - and you just drive through it.
Tyre noise on our coarse chip masks the engine noise more than I'd like, but perhaps that was more noticeable on these roads, and I look forward to a longer drive on my home turf.
Compare the Nissan 370Z with other models here.