Muscular coupé goes out with a bang as it comes face-to-face with classic Z
It's not only the Porsche 911 that can trace its DNA back more than 40 years – Nissan’s Z-car can too! So as a way of saying goodbye, I thought I’d bring my long-term 370Z face-to-face with its father: the original Datsun 240Z.
At first glance, you might think these distant relations don’t have much in common – but take a look at the long bonnet and stubby tail. Then, factor in the six-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels. Look even closer, and you can see more details such as the identically angled C-pillars and, inside, the trio of gauges on top of the centre console.
I’m pleased Nissan’s designers had one eye on the past, but I’m even happier they incorporated a few classic cues without making the modern Z retro. It certainly turns heads, and its looks remain the feature I like the most. Yet the classic 240Z still stands out even more. You have to love the recessed headlights and neat duck-tail rear spoiler. This stunning Sunshine Yellow 1972 example is owned by Nissan UK and, apart from a few rust bubbles on the wings, it’s in near mint condition.
The 240Z was conceived with the US market in mind, but found a big following in the UK as a well priced alternative to the likes of the Ford Capri and Triumph Stag. Power comes from a 2.4-litre straight-six engine producing around 150bhp. That’s less than half the 370Z’s output, but as it tips the scales at only 1,015kg, the car is very lively.
And it makes for a really involving experience. Inside, you’re hit by a wonderful musty, leathery smell. The driving position is perfect – better than the 370Z’s, even though there’s no reach or rake adjustment on the steering wheel – and you also get to enjoy the long-forgotten skill of pulling the choke out and adjusting the idle speed with two levers on the centre console. Snick the five-speed box into first, and the car responds instantly to the throttle. The engine rasps and loves to rev, thrusting the 240Z forward with real verve.
It requires muscle in corners, but there’s plenty of feedback from the steering and the ride is cushioned thanks to those thick-walled tyres. This car is wonderful to drive, and can’t fail to put a smile on your face.
But can the same be said of the modern-day version? Well, since the 370Z arrived in March, it’s been a mixed bag. I love the looks – and the cabin is a step forward over the car it replaced, the 350Z.
I also like the Synchro Rev feature, which blips the throttle on downshifts. But the firm ride has begun to grate, as has the road noise from the tyres.
The most disappointing aspect has been the engine, however. Its predecessor’s was great fun and sounded superb, but the 370Z’s is dull and lacks involvement. So while I’ll be sad to see the Nissan go, it’s been a bit of a letdown.