Car Review: 2012 Nissan 370Z Coupe

Highlight: Nissan’s two-seater performance-oriented coupe is also available as a convertible.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $36,150 (Before Options, $32,510)

Seating Capacity:  2 occupants

Standard Safety Features: Side impact and curtain airbags; ABS; traction control system; tire pressure monitoring system; electronic brake force distribution system; and vehicle dynamic control

Standard Equipment: 18-inch wheels; a 6-speed manual transmission; manual adjustable cloth seats; an automatic temperature control keyless system; illuminated vanity mirrors; automatic headlights; heated outside mirrors; starter; touch pad to lock (unlock) doors and trunk; and a tilt steering column with integrated steering wheel and instrument panel cluster

Standard Audio: a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Bluetooth Compatibility: Available

ipod Capability: Available

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 3.7-liter, 6-cylinder/332-hp

Recommended Fuel: Premium

Standard Fuel Mileage: 18-city/26-hwy

Trim Levels:

Base model (coupe or convertible)

Touring model (coupe or convertible)

NISMO (an extreme high-performance coupe)

What’s New: For the 2012, the 370Z is a carryover. Changes for the 370Z are forthcoming for the 2013 model year.

Pros: The 370Z still evokes passion and excitement no matter if it’s the base model or the Touring model. The Porsche-like design of the 370Z is still fresh today, although some changes are in store soon. The optional 19-inch high-performance tires on our test vehicle, with the almost seamless six-speed transmission, made this one fun-to-drive vehicle. Not only did the double-wishbone front suspension, with the rear multi-link suspension, hold this vehicle in place with its large diameter front and rear hollow stabilizer bars, the vehicle firmly stayed planted to the road when cornering, too.

And we noticed that when we were behind the wheel of the 370Z, the speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering made it extremely easy to maneuver this road runner, whether it was cruising the back roads of scenic Georgia or pushing the vehicle too its limits on Atlanta’s open highways.

Also to enhance the driving experience, Nissan  outfitted our Z with a front and rear spoiler, which were both apart of the optional Sports package, which also included a synchroRevMatch, viscous limited slip differential and sports brakes.

Furthermore, the vehicle was equipped with standard body fitting sports seats too, allowing us to be inspired by the three-gauge instrument panel, which resembled the gauges of an airplane.

Moreover, for those looking for an upgraded audio system, leather seats and the like, it’s available on this sports car. Enthusiasts can also opt for the Touring model or the extremely high-performance NISMO model.

Cons: This stylish, performance-oriented two-seater coupe lacked a standard Satellite radio system in the non-Touring model. Also in the base model we reviewed, there was no place to hide our cargo, since everything is open and exposed. To us, it’s worth the small investment to add-on the optional cargo cover. Furthermore, the 370Z can seem extremely noisy, since there is nothing to buffer the exposed rear cargo area from the road noise.

The Verdict: Although and updated 370Z is coming next model year, the current model is still the perfect two-seater sports car to wheel around in. It’s priced right and it still has a super-fresh design flair! Yes, even a base model Z, like the one we reviewed, without some of the thrills, starts out in the low $30,000 range and can zoom to a respectable $40,000, with the higher trim levels.

And, while the Z may not offer the same prestige as a BMW Z4 3.0-liter or a base Porsche Boxster, it offers more horsepower at thousands less. So, if you’re yearning for an affordable sports car that won’t break the bank, the current-generation Z should be at the top of one’s shopping list.

Competition:  Audi TT, BMW Z4, Chevy Corvette and Porsche Boxter

Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him http://twitter.com/#!/JeffCars/.