Sports cars tend to go the longest between redesigns because they sell in such low volumes that it takes forever to amortize the tooling and development costs. The venerable Nissan 370Z, for example, was new in 2009 and hasn’t seen much updating. If I’m honest, I was slightly surprised that Nissan still sells the car when this 2020 370Z 50th Anniversary special edition arrived in our weekly fleet.
As we noted during its New York Auto Show debut, the Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary package is available on the Sport or NISMO trim levels, with a manual or automatic transmission, but it adds no performance. What it does add is $2,600 worth of graphics and retro-reminders that it’s been five decades since Mr. K (Yutaka Katayama), president of Nissan Motor Corporation U.S.A., first brought the Nissan Z-car to America. Believe us, the retro runs WAY more than skin deep. Here are eight positive and negative features of the 50th Anniversary car that struck us as perhaps unintentionally retro.
Racy VQ V-6 Growl
Nissan’s venerable VQ V-6 engine has been in production since 1994, offered globally in displacements ranging from 2.0 liters to 4.0 liters (North America examples always displaced 3.0-4.0 liters). While these engines were state of the art in their youth, the larger displacement ones have felt a bit unrefined in “polite-car” sedan duty of late. But this one’s rough and racy nature and baritone wail totally befit the Z-car’s mission.
It’s SO weird to find the center of any new-car dash NOT dominated by a screen delivering information in crystal-clear iPad resolution, controlled either by touch or some sort of remote twirl-and-push wheel or touchpad. There’s not even a screen in the instrument cluster displaying virtual gauges or trip-computer info. Instead the 2020 Nissan 370Z has a big bin located high on the center stack that seems sure to have been intended as a temporary placeholder for a soon-to-arrive center display screen, but none ever arrived. Instead, there are…
Orange-on-Black Dot Matrix Displays
You may think all such remaining displays have found their way to the Smithsonian’s Electronics of Yesteryear show, but this Compaq III computer technology is how the car communicates info such as average speed and fuel economy, instantaneous fuel economy, range, etc.
Mega-Lo-Res Digital Clock
Stepping down a notch in resolution from the trip-computer display is the clock’s square-dot-matrix “screen.” At least it gets its own prominent location under a dedicated visor, front and center on the top of the dash.
Clock Radio Odometer Readout
The seven-segment LED technology employed in the main and trip odometer looks ripped directly from an old clock radio. We can cut Nissan some slack here, though, as they’re not alone in clinging to this elderly LED technology for tiny odometer displays.
A Glorious Stick Shift
Now that practically every vehicle from econoboxes to supercars has abandoned the third pedal, it’s getting to be a rare treat to row your own. The 2020 370Z heightens that treat, providing a good-old-days mechanical shifter feel, the likes of which you can only get when the stick is stirring gears that are directly below it in a front-engine, rear-drive car. S-Mode rev-matching is a feature added in the twilight of the manual transmission’s life, but it’s one I enjoy and always switch on so pedestrians can marvel at what appears to be my heel-and-toe downshifting mastery.
LED Fuel/Temperature Gauges
Who needs needles—real or virtual—when you can simply light up one of 16 LED light bulbs to indicate temperature, or turn LEDs off sequentially on a gas gauge as the fuel level drops. Very old school…
Wow, cool—it has push-button start! But what’s this down by my left knee, a place to stow the key? Not exactly, but back when this car was new there was a lot of concern about dead batteries in key fobs. So this is an “Intelligent Key System” slot, which allows you to start the car if the fob’s battery runs down. It does NOT recharge the fob battery, however. (These days most fob batteries seem to last two-plus years anyway.)