FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE 405
in a 2014 Nissan 370Z
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Nov 10, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Zoran Segina It is early morning and I am travelling to a car-testing event in Willow Springs, some eighty miles away. My mode of transportation is the 2014 Nissan 370Z, a high performance roadster with rocket-like acceleration, incredible handling, and awesome braking power. The trip should be a delight. The thick steering wheel has indentations for proper hand positions. Adjusting of the wheel moves the entire instrument panel so that the instruments are never obscured. Although the Z is designed for the pure driving pleasure, I managed to stuff the trunk with one small and one medium size bag, a driving helmet, a briefcase, a pair of shoes, a warm jacket and even a folding chair. Despite light morning traffic, the excitement of driving the Z vanishes within the next several minutes, or to be more precise, until I reach the 405 freeway. To call the roadway uneven is charitable. There may be a construction going on, but even on the sections that have been completed years ago, the trip borders on torture. The sport seats are firm, and hug the body well, and the driver' seat even has a lumbar adjustment. But these are no match for an abysmal condition of the road surface, jagged breaks the concrete plates, poorly patched potholes, and - my favorite - the realigning of the lanes, which places the wheels on former lane dividers. The only good thing is that I am wide awake despite only few hours of sleep the night before. I sit in the three-thousand-pound bouncing alarm clock. By the time the Z and I reach the race track complex, I have the consistency of a James Bond martini, with a particular emphasis on shaken. And yet, on the smooth, i.e., properly paved sections of the 14 freeway, the ride in the this car is sensual and aesthetic joy. The leather-accented seats can be cooled and heated through a mesh in the center. Driving a superbly handling roadster into a pale orange light of the Mojave desert sunrise. It's the essence of Southern California motoring. Several hours later I am behind the wheel of the NISMO variant of the 370Z. The 1.4 mile curvy and technical race track known as the Streets of Willow provides a unique opportunity to test member of the Z family in their natural habitat. The very first corner makes it clear that these guys are bred with the track performance as their primary DNA. The handling of the NISMO Z with its short wheelbase and wide sure-footed stance is remarkable. The car has plenty of power, especially with the manual transmissions, and allows the driver to toss the rear end around the corners with abandon. The sliding and loss of control - once the pedals are pushed too hard - are progressive and easily anticipated, and the Z will never leave its driver wondering what is going to happen next. Pedals, including a dead pedal for the left foot, are brushed stainless steel with the rubber accents. Should the hands get sweaty during longer stints, strategically positioned vents blow cold air at the steering wheel. A red band stitched on top - to provide a visual clue when the Z is pointed straight - completes the picture. At the end of the first day one, I take a trip to the hotel with the top down. Folding the roof on the roadster is a veritable ballet performance. As long as I keep the control button pressed, the windows will lower, followed by the opening of the rear cover, lowering and folding the roof, and the shutting of the rear cover as a grand finale. A distinct beep warns me that the operation is completed. At full freeway speed, even with strong Mojave crosswinds, the inside of the cabin was pleasantly calm with both windows up, and the rear glass protector doing its work. The truck noises on the road, however, were hard to bear. On the hot afternoon the seat cooling feature proves to be very handy. While checking in and handling luggage, I am grateful for the remote control keys. The fob is safely tucked into my pocket allowing me to open and lock the car by pressing buttons on the doors and the trunk. Driving the Z with a top down is a communal experience. There are appreciative nods from passersby's who understand the reason to have a vehicle designed for pure pleasure of driving. A nice women in the parking lot wants to have her picture taken with the car. The 2014 model has not changed much from its earlier iterations - the shape is substantially the same, and the headlights with LED- accented sides provide great visibility in the dark. Once you get it right, it is hard to start changing things around. The head-snapping acceleration and incredible braking power makes the Z a very safe car on the freeway. When approaching clusters of cars slowing the traffic, the driver can accelerate in a split second, find an opening, safely pass the cluster, and it is back to cruise control. Being able to maintain steady pace on the road significantly shortens travel time even in busy traffic. The 370Z roadster was made for the enjoyment on the road. Unfortunately around Southern California, most of the roads are not made for the enjoyment of the Z. The trip back home requires negotiating the bone-jarring sections of the road. Any Southern California car aficionado should be outraged that this center of car culture is paved with roads that make driving the Z, or any other stiffly sprung performance car, a compromising experience. My friend David, a car mechanic who owns a Porsche and a Ferrari, tells me that the only solution is to have a car with electronic suspension adjustment—a feature not available on the 370Z. There is a better solution. Fix the damn roads, California. For everyone's benefit. For more information about Nissan products, go to nissanusa.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2014 Nissan 370Z Touring Sport Roadster Price: $45,470.00 (base) $51,365.00 (as tested) EPA fuel economy ratings: 18mpg/city, 25mpg/highway (with six-speed manual) Engine: 3.7 liter DOHC V6 with Variable Valve Event & Lift (VVEL) Horsepower: 332 at 7,000 rpm Torque: 270 pound-feet at 5,200 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel drive Transmission: Seven-speed shiftable automatic Front suspension: Independent, double wishbone, die cast aluminum subframe, twin-tube shocks, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent, multi-link, steel subframe, twin-tube shocks, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: Ray’s lightweight, forged aluminum wheels-19X8 front/19X9 inch rear 245/40R19 front/275.35R19 inch rear Bridgestone Potenza tires Brakes Front: 14-inch vented with four-piston calipers Rear: 13.8-inch vented with dual-piston calipers Nissan Sport Brakes with NISMO Performance Brake Pads/ABS/EBD/BA/VDC/TC Dimensions Total length: 167.2 inches Total width: 72.8 inches Total height: 52.2 inches (with top up) Curb weight: 3510 pounds