Several new sports cars are praised as "old school" these days. They include the Mazda MX-5, Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. All of them harken back to the British and Japanese sports cars of the 1960s and 1970s, but with modern technologies.
But if you want a genuine old school sports car, there's really only one choice — the 2020 Nissan 370Z. For starters, it is genuinely old. The current version debuted in 2009 and has not been significantly revamped since then. In contrast, the current version of the Mazda MX-5 debuted in 2015 and the mechanically similar first went on sale in 2012.
But the 370Z is a far more serious vehicle, with a choice of much more powerful engines and suspensions that hold the road at higher speeds. You have to move fast if you want a new one, however. This is the last year for the current generation and Nissan is taking it out in style with a limited edition 50-year anniversary edition that has already sold out. Other versions are still available, however, but might not last long.
Being fundamentally unchanged for so long has advantages and disadvantages. For enthusiasts, it is the most back-to-basic sports car on the market, which means it forgoes some modern technologies, making it more of a driver's car. The standard 3.7-liter V6 is relatively unsophisticated, lacking a turbocharger or supercharger, but still pumps out a healthy 332 horsepower in base trim and a more impressive 350 ponies when equipped with the NISMO handling package. It is easy and fun to drive fast, especially with the six-speed automatic transmission.
The starting price of around $30,000 is also a steal, given how serious if unrefined it is.
On the other hand, the interior more dated than intentionally retro. It features a lot of hard plastic and soft plastic that is closer to rubber, and a display screen that may be the smallest on the market these days. It even has a CD player, although for those of you still into CDs, this is a selling point, given how hard they are to find in other vehicles these days.
The exterior styling of the 2020 370Z is a odd by today's standards. It is, of course, the direct descendant of the original Datsun 240Z that stunned the automotive world when it debuted in 1969 with its classic lean and clean lines. In contrast, the now-sixth generation Z car is rounded, as though the designers were inspired by rear-engine Porsches, even though it's a front-engine car.
Nissan has already released photos showing that the next generation Z is going back to its roots, with sleeker fastback styling and pointier nose. Out tester was partly redeemed by its NISMO package, which includes unique front and rear fascia, side sill and a rear spoiler that gave it a more aggressive look. The package also included the more powerful engine, a tuned dual exhaust, and a stiffer suspension that might not be for everyone. Although the increased spring and dampening rates helped it hold the road during spirited driving, the suspension was so still that driving over bad pavement was frequently punishing. Most buyers might prefer the base or Sport model, despite the slightly less powerful engine.
But on smooth roads without much traffic, the 2020 Nissan 370Z NISMO was a joy to drive. The V6 felt stronger than some turbocharged engines that claim more power, and shifting up though the gears was a satisfying experience, especially with the NISMO-tuned exhaust screaming away. It's easy to overlook the cheap interior bits when concentrating on the road in such circumstances — which is what old school sports car driving should be all about.
2020 Nissan 370Z
Base price: $30,090 (base)
MSRP as tested: $47,435 (est.)
Type: Sports car
Engine: 3.7-liter V6 (350 hp, 276 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
EPA estimated mileage: up to 19/26
Overall length: 167.5 to 170.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,333 to 3,486 pounds
Final assembly: Kaminokawa, Tochigi
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