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May 092010
 

Introduction

The Nissan 370Z really needs no introduction. Selected as our pick for our overall best car of 2009, the new Z represents a phenomenal package that any motoring enthusiast can appreciate. But wait. Could Nissan really take things to yet another level with variants of this FM platform? Would the successful formula that is the Z34 be diluted in any way by offering something for the left and right ends of the spectrum?

Nismo 370Z – The “Left End”

Simply put, the Nismo 370Z is the “normal” 370Z’s evil brother. One quick glance at the exterior accrutrements says this particular 370Z is something a little different…

  • The extended front bumper and deep chin spoiler look very purposeful, perhaps intended to act as a splitter to increase downforce on the front end
  • The rear is much more tasteful than the previous generation Nismo Z – the previous generation’s rear bumper looked like it was trying too hard to mimic the looks of race-prepped Zs found in Japan’s Super GT racing series
  • The rear spoiler is aggressive without looking like a “shopping cart” wing; it does, however, hinder visibility out the rear
  • The forged alloy wheels made by Ray’s Engineering are much more open in design that those found on the “regular,” perhaps emblematic of greater airflow and cooling of the brake system

Frankly, we believe this is the way the Z should come from the factory, Nismo or not. Sure, it has a strong “boy racer” influence in its looks, but you really shouldn’t drive a Z if you don’t understand concepts such as throttle-induced oversteer, opposite lock and trail braking. To not drive this car HARD is a complete and utter injustice.

The interior is a different story. You won’t find anything particularly special. You get a very basic stereo system and not much more. Even the seats are the same as those found in the regular Z, albeit covered in different fabric and “Nismo” sewn into the backrest for good measure. As we’ll discuss in a bit, the Nismo Z needs a different cockpit environment. The handling characteristics of this vehicle require better shoulder and thigh bolstering and firmer seat cushioning to deal with the stiff suspension settings – our rear ends felt as if it was bottoming out.

These niggles aside, the steering wheel position is excellent. Deep footwells also allow the drive to sit comfortable close to the steering wheel while still maintaining enough leg stretch.

Now that you’re inside, what’s next? Push the keyless start button and bring the VQ37VHR engine to a roar. Slipping into first gear is more notchy and mechanical than we’d like. It’s just not as buttery a transmission you’d find inside a Honda. You’re forced to muscle gear shifts a bit and during very spirited driving, missed gears shifts are definitely a possibility. You won’t, however, find any fault with the SynchroRev Match system. It makes any driver a rock start behind the wheel, the ECU automatically blipping the throttle between every downshift. Heel-and-toe downshifting is an art form that takes much practice to master, but the Nissan system eliminates any need for it. We could call it cheating, but it works so well we can’t say anything to detract from it.

The power output, on the other hand, is strong from idle to redline. The VQ simply does not quit in laying down power to the ground. The VQ in the Nismo has a slightly higher rated horsepower rating than the standard Z but this is offset by the added weight of the body kit. No matter. This car is fun to drive. Stoplight to stoplight drag races are disposed of with ease. Is it any wonder that the VQ38DETT found in the GT-R is based on this engine? Absolutely fabulous.

Handling is pure bliss on the Nismo Z. By combining the gummy Bridestone tires, a limited slip diff and properly stiff suspension settings, this rocket holds its line and then some on smooth roads. When the road turns a bit rough, however, you truly realize just how stiff the suspension is. With much more aggressive compression / rebound settings and a very stiff spring, the Nismo Z WILL toss you around when traveling over rough, urban streets. And as mentioned before, better seating accommodations would have come in very handy in this driving situation.

370Z Roadster – The “Right End”

Indeed, if the Nismo 370Z is the tattooed brother, then the Roadster is the pinstripe wearing sibling. The moniker alone implies this car is meant for grand touring. It’s for open top motoring in the country side, with the wind blowing through your hair with an unrushed destination in mind.

On the outside, there’s not a whole lot to distinguish the Roadster from the Coupe until you look at the back half of the car. The antenna mounted smack dab in the middle of the trunk is a dead giveaway that this car is a little different – we think this is a rather poor aesthetic choice. Indeed, looking at the posterior of the Roadster really reminds us how big and wide this car is. While we don’t notice the bulbous rear section on the Nismo and Coupe renditions of the Z – perhaps the lines being broken up by the rear spoilers present on both – the Roadster continued to remind of us of the song “Baby Got Back.”

The fabric convertible top opens and closes in about 25 seconds each way. The operation is a choreography in moving parts, the top and hard tonneau cover adjusting, opening and closing with a degree of precision. Although the action is very smooth – save for the big thunk of the tonneau cover closing or the top sealing itself over the same over when the top is up – we wished it would work a little faster.

Climb inside and you’ll find familiar territory – interior accroutrements are the same as those you find in the coupe.

  • Seating position is fine save for the tallest of drivers; for my 6’3″ frame, the steering wheel was situated directly in front of my chest, mimicking the kind of steering position found in a touring race car
  • With the top up, getting in and out of the car required a bit of contortionist-like moves; getting in required the head going in last, while the opposite was required when exiting the vehicle
  • Speaking of the top, it left very little headroom for yours truly, although I suspect most “normal” sized individuals would have no headroom issues
  • Legroom was still substantial thanks to the deep footwell design found in all Z34 models
  • Our tester was equipped with the 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters; somehow, the automatic seems more appropriate for this model and we’re guessing that it is probably the more popular option

Firing up the engine and flicking the paddles elicits nearly the same level of acceleration found in the Coupe. Throttle response is excellent, thanks to the throttle-by-wire system. Downshifts are fairly smooth courtesy of rev matching on the down cycle, but when engaging 1st from 2nd under aggressive driving, there is a noticeable amount of shudder and engine braking. We don’t see this as a problem for 99% of prospective Roadster buyers out there as we suspect they are more than happy to let the ECU figure out the downshifts in fully automatic mode. We just can’t see the same owners downshifting with aggressive abandon as they enter a 1st gear corner “hot” and punch it at the apex to generate maximum corner exit speed.

Unlike its sister car under the Infiniti brand – which we would describe as “noodly” over railroad tracks and uneven terrain –  the Roadster was firm and displayed none of the cowl shake and noise we’ve noticed in other open top variants. Taking the car to limits of adhesion presented no problems for the Roadster and we were impressed at how hard it would bite the pavement. Tail-out maneuvers were never a surprise, as it was very progressive and didn’t snap out the rear in unpredictable fashion.

Conclusion

With the addition of the Nismo and Roadster models, Nissan has created a powerful trio of sports car options. With a truly ready-to-race Nismo Z, the “civilized” Roadster and the do-everything-well Coupe variant, the 370Z line is a powerful offering like no other on the market today. We can’t think of a common platform line up from any other manufacturer that offers the same level of performance, value and ownership experience that the 370Z brings to the table. It’s truly worth your purchase consideration if you care for a car that inspires you as a driver.

Sourcebox

Nissan North America
P.O. Box 685003
Franklin TN 37068-5003
(800) NISSAN-1

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forged alloy wheels

May 062010
 

Whatever you want to call it, the green movement seems here to stay. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric and hydrogen power are monikers that seem to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue whether they know something about cars or not. But to us at RevdCars.net, it’s the same story. Oh yes, they are going to be the be-all, end-all solution to our reliance on fossil fuel, clean up the environment and turn back the tides of global warming / greenhouse gases.

Bollocks.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I reject the notion of global warming. All scientific facts point to it and we support any movement that helps reduce the impact of mankind on the environment. But what really is the truth? The fact remains that the majority of electricity produced via “green” methods in the United States amounts to only about 15%. That means that for every mile driven in an electric vehicle, 85% of it was based on fossil fuels of one sort or another. Probably electricity produced by a coal burning electric plant. And what sort of carbon footprint do the batteries represent? Can we dispose of them in an environmentally sound manner? How much fossil fuel was burned to make the batteries themselves? Of course, no manufacturer is going to pony up this bit of information.

Then there’s the matter of sheer driving exhilaration. The performance numbers don’t amount of much (well, nothing at all really). Handling is probably hampered by the heavy batteries and styling is a snooze fest at best. And the total driving range? What about the infrastructure necessary to recharge batteries as one’s driving along the highway? Who will pay for this? Tax payer?

Here’s our idea. Drive less by combining errands into one trip. Live closer to work, school or wherever else you need to be on a frequent basis. Purchase a more fuel efficient car – there are vehicles like the Honda Fit which are pretty fun to drive, practical, CHEAP and get great gas mileage. What else? Car pool. Take public transportation whenever it’s possible and or efficient to do so. Park the car and walk your fat ass into the fast food joint instead of idling and wasting gas in the drive thru lane. These are just some of the simple behavioral changes that we all can make to spend and pollute less. Technology isn’t going to change human behavior nor have an impact on the environment when it’s still burning fossil fuels.

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Dec 172009
 

Daniel Lewis

As the year of 2009 nears its end, there are a number of  cars to look forward to next year. The cars below are some of the cars that are likely to excite both automotive consumers and those who are in the automotive industry. Which new cars in 2010 are you waiting to hear about?

Sports Coupe: 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe
The Cadillac CTS Coupe was officially unveiled on November 23rd, 2009. In 2008, the Cadillac CTS was supposed to be the model to uplift the Cadillac brand. It looks like Cadillac is on the ball again, launching their next two-door vehicle since 2002. The only parts that the CTS coupe shares with the sedan are the instrument panel, console, headlamps, front fenders and grill. Another thing that makes this generation’s CTS apart from others is the optional between RWD and AWD. This will definitely be a Cadillac to check out.

Hybrid/Electric Car: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
With the current mid-sized hybrid sedan market ruled by Toyota and Honda, it is always refreshing to see how other manufacturers answer back. So what you ask did Hyundai do, to take their Sonata one step further? Current hybrids use nickel metal hydride batteries, where as the Sonata will use lithium polymer batteries. Hyundai states that the lithium batteries weigh 30% less, have a 50% less volume, and are 10% more efficient. It will be interesting to see how this new battery, from LG Chem, will hold up against nickel batteries.

Compact Car: 2011 Mazda 2

2011 Mazda2
In 2008, the Mazda 2 was awarded World Car of the Year. Why do most of us not know/remember this? Well, apparently, World Car of the Year, was not good enough for sale in the U.S., mostly because Mazda thought that such a small car would not offer much profitability. Well, with the boom in sales from Nissan’s Versa, and Honda’s Fit (and also partially due to the economy and rising gas prices), Mazda was definitely pounding their foreheads on that decision. It makes one wonder, is Mazda 2 late?

Exotic Car: 2011 McLaren MP4-12C

2011 McLaren MP4-12C
When McLaren teamed up with Mercedes to build supercars, they awed us all with the McLaren F1 and the SLR. That was the past, and the future will be without Mercedes-Benz. McLaren is now their own automotive division. So what does the McLaren MP4-12C offer that the Ferrari 458 Italia or Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 doesn’t? The entire frame is one piece, which makes it lighter and more rigid. We can’t wait to see how the McLaren will compete against Ferrari and Lamborghini.

Luxury Car: 2011 Hyundai Equus

2011 Hyundai Equus
Hyundai did great things with the Genesis sedan, which went after the Lexus GS and Mercedes E-Class. We are hopeful to once again be surprised by Hyundai’s quality, that will excel the Equus above the Lexus LS, Mercedes S-Class, and the rest of its competitors. Hyundai may have to bring back that commercial of different “manufacturer executives” yelling the name Hyundai.

SUV: 2011 Land Rover LRX

2011 Land Rover LRX
With India’s Tata Motors recently purchasing Land Rover and Jaguar, it will be interesting to see Tata’s future plans for these automotive brands. Apparently, the 2011 Land Rover LRX will be Land Rover’s first more fuel efficient Land Rover.

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Dec 132009
 

Michael Schumacher1

Dear Michael,

You will always be a legend and probably one of the best we have ever seen in motorsports (although we contend that Ayrton Senna was THE best). With that being said, staging a comeback at this point in your life seems trivial at best and we don’t feel it’s the best move for Formula 1. 2009 was a pretty crazy year, with teams dropping out at the end of it all, Renault “convicted” of shady practices and several drivers really putting the best foot forward. All this makes us want to forget this past season and really look forward to 2010, when we can start fresh. What’s there to look forward to?

  • Jenson vs. Lewis
  • Fernando at Ferrari (and probably a Fred vs. Massa battle)
  • All the new F1 teams – Campos, Virgin, Lotus, USF1
  • No refueling

Does F1 really need the distraction that is Michael Schumacher? Wouldn’t the empty seat at Mercedes, formerly Brawn, be better served by a younger driver who has the talent but may not have had an adequate car to shine? Coming back to try to win again seems very much like teams who never had real passion for racing but doing it for the sake of doing and creating a storyline with which to sell cars. I’m sure your wife and kids would appreciate you staying retired as well.

Although Bernie would probably love to see you come back to sell tickets, that’s not in the spirit of racing, is it? Please give us an opportunity to remember you as the 7-time World Champion with countless records under your belt, not as a Mickey Rourke-like wrestler pining for a last bit of glory.

Your Sincerely,
RevdCars.net

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Dec 112009
 

As 2009 winds down, here’s our look back at what we deem as the top cars of 2009. Despite the complete meltdown of the automotive industry, or “carpocalypse” as some have deemed, manufacturers still managed to unveil some strong offerings, packed with value, performance and style. Without futher ado, here are our picks for the top cars of 2009.

Nissan 370Z – Editor’s Top Sports Car & Overall Best of 2009

nissan370z

We love cars that put a smile on our face no matter what we are doing. Whether it’s undertaking the usual, boring commute or pushing the edges of grip on a backcountry road, we love cars that can do it all. The new 370Z delivers in every facet possible – incredible value starting at under $30,000, a V6 with gobs of torque and horsepower available at all revs and style that catches even the untrained eye. Throw in the available SynchroRev system, and you’ll look like a racecar driver with every

downshift. As if this isn’t enough, there is an almost unlimited level aftermarket support to satiate the need to personalize. Considering this overwhelming list of credentials, the Nissan 370Z deserves our pick as the top sports car & overall best car of 2009.

Visit Nissan’s 370Z website

Honorable mention – Mazda RX-8 R3

Audi TT-S Roadster – Editor’s Top Convertible of 2009

audi_tts_roadster

When Audi launched the second evolution of the TT, we absolutely embraced the new styling. Whereas the previous iteration leaned very heavily toward softer lines and, frankly, offered more estrogen-driven appeal, the 2nd generation went the other way. With harder bodylines, the signature LED daytime driving lamps and more powerplant options, the new TT became a more legitimate contender against the likes of the BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLK.

With the TT-S, even greater power was squeezed out of the 2.0 FSI turbo engine. With the retractable top, it became something even more. The open air driving experience is quite awesome and the style is just sexy. We desperately want one in our garage.

Visit Audi’s TT-S Roadster website

Honorable mention – Mazda MX5 PRHT

Infiniti FX50S – Editor’s Top SUV of 2009

infiniti_fx50s

What do you get when you combine the a car known as the “Atomic Catfish,” a myriad of technology and drop in a 380bhp V8 engine under the hood? You get the Infiniti FX50. Let’s face it. Our expectations from SUVs are rather low. Sure, you can carry cargo and passengers in relative comfort, but you give up pretty much everything else – agility, acceleration and, most importantly, fun. The FX50 changes the equation altogether with performance that gives many sports cars a run for their money. Sure, the cost of entry is not cheap, as the FX50 starts at $58,000, but nothing ever worth having is ever cheap.

Visit Infiniti’s FX website

Honorable mention – Audi Q5 3.2 Quattro

Acura TSX V6 – Editor’s Top Sports Sedan of 2009

2010 Acura TSX V-6

By taking a very successful and sporty platform and giving it the engine it really deserves, Acura has elevated the popular TSX into a completely different segment. An excellent and silky engine, typical Acura fit & finish and tremendous value for the dollar, the TSX V6 gives the BMW 3-series, Audi A4-series and Lexus IS-series a run for their money.

Visit Acura’s TSX website

Honorable mention – Nissan Maxima

Honda Fit Sport – Editor’s Top Compact of 2009

2010 Honda Fit Sport

Why pay a premium for a hybrid when you can get a fully equipped and ROOMY subcompact for less than $20,000? That’s the question we asked after experiencing the wonderful Honda Fit Sport. With well over 30 miles to the gallon on regular (87 octane) unleaded, navigation, interior space that belies its exterior dimensions and a very high level of fit and finish, we can’t think of a subcompact that comes even close in terms of value.

Visit Honda’s Fit website

Honorable mention – Mazda3

Chevy Camaro – Editor’s Top Domestic Car of 2009

2010 Chevrolet Camaro LT with an RS Appearance Package

While the Ford Mustang may have reignited interest in the domestic hot rod, the Chevy Camaro takes it over the top. As witnessed at the recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the Camaro is set to take over the Mustang and Dodge Challenger for modern hot rod supremacy.

Visit Chevy’s Camaro website

Honorable mention – Ford Taurus SHO

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Dec 032009
 

The 2009 edition of the Los Angeles Auto Show kicked off today with a slew of new vehicle launches for the world and North American markets. With the auto industry experiencing a virtual implosion this year, 2010 is shaping up to be a critical year for many makes. Speaking of which, a few brands weren’t in attendance this year, including Nissan, Infiniti (Nissan’s sister brand) and Ferrari. You can bet that they will be at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

Here are some of the highlights:

MINI Coupe Concept

MINI Coupe Concept

MINI Coupe Concept (North American debut) – The MINI has always looked a bit stubby and, frankly, a bit too feminine for certainly our tastes. This concept, however, turns things upside down with a sleek roofline that is definitely more appealing for the XY-chromosome set.

Cadillac CTS Coupe

Cadillac CTS Coupe

Cadillac CTS Coupe (world debut) – Caddy takes their performance-oriented sports luxury sedan, chops off two doors and presents a sleek alternative to the 4-door. With that being said, however, we feel GM needs to take this car back to the drawing board as the design execution leaves much to be desired.

la_auto_show_amg_sls

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (North American debut) – An homage to the original SL gullwing Merc, the new SLS AMG is an “affordable” supercar from the German make. They went at this car without McLaren’s involvement. Can’t attest to how it drives, but it looks oh-so-good.

la_auto_show_lexus_lfa

Lexus LF-A

Lexus LF-A (North American debut) – After what seemed like decades, the LF-A is finally a reality. It looks great on paper and they seemed to have gotten ALMOST everything right. The gripe? A pricetag somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000. Toyota can claim the engine was derived from F1, albeit they never won a single race after spending reported billions. For our money, we would take an Audi R8, a Porsche GT3 RS and a couple of Ducatis. Even after that, you would still have money left over for some other goodies for the same price as the LF-A. Or just buy a Nissan GT-R and buy a decent house with the rest of the money.

Dodge Viper SRT10

Dodge Viper SRT10

Dodge Viper SRT10 (world debut) – Wait, hasn’t this car been out in the market for, like, ever? We’ve heard numerous rumors that Chrysler was trying to spin off the Viper and dump it on an unsuspecting buyer. So why introduce a “new” Viper at this stage in the game?

The LA Auto Show opens to the public on December 4 and remains open through December 13, 2009. For more information, please check out www.laautoshow.com.

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Nov 242009
 

Aside from the almost ubiquitous presence of the Chevy Camaro and supporting aftermarket companies at SEMA, it was hard to pinpoint any particular trend or direction the aftermarket is taking. We did notice a dearth of aftermarket body kit companies (thank goodness), but this alone doesn’t say much about where the industry is nor where it is headed. We hold our breath, hoping for some innovation in 2010. With that being said, there still was plenty of cool cars to admire from afar. Here’s our best pic(k)s of SEMA 2009.

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