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Old 12-15-2008, 09:20 AM   #1
darknightohio
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Default Comparison Test: 2009 Nissan 370Z vs. 2008 BMW 135i



Quote:
Dare To Compare
By Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor Email | Blog
Date posted: 12-14-2008

What comes after Z?, we wondered when Nissan let the stage go black in 1996 and officially bid farewell to the Z-car at an event at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Sales of the twin-turbo 300ZX had been declining as fast as applications for library cards, so Nissan simply stopped selling the car in the U.S. It made us wonder where the Z fit in Nissan's future.

The answer came in 2002, when the Nissan 350Z appeared, a serious sports car that seemed to measure itself against the Corvette in both speed and style. It brought people back to Nissan, but lots of the young enthusiasts didn't know what an icon the Z had been for the company since its inception in 1970.

With the 2009 Nissan 370Z, all that changes. As a Z should be, the 370Z is a statement of purpose, not just another car on the showroom floor. With this second-generation version of the revitalized Z, the car has moved on from affordable performance to something that brings new descriptions into play — not only like quick, fast, strong and powerful, but also gorgeous, luxurious, nimble, graceful, delicate and smooth.

This is a car so good that it makes you wonder what kind of car it is: a sports car, a sport coupe or a muscle-bound pony car? And that's where the 2008 BMW 135i comes in, a pocket-size BMW M3 with an affordable price tag to match.

The Not-So-Secret Weapon
The 2009 Nissan 370Z is priced like a pony car, with an MSRP for the base model that will start a whisker below $30,000 (final pricing has yet to be announced before the car's official on-sale date in January). Our Z arrived with the Sport package ($3,500 est.) and a still-wet paint job in nail-polish red ($500 estimated) for an estimated total of $34,625.

During the Z-car's development, Nissan targeted the Porsche Cayman as the new Z-car's dynamic goal. But the 2009 Cayman makes only 265 horsepower from its new 2.9-liter flat-6 engine, and you'll have to up the ante by almost $10,000 for a 2009 Cayman S with 320 hp to come within reach of the Z's 332-hp 3.7-liter V6. Suddenly, you're looking at a price tag far above $50,000, and the Porsche Cayman at any price seems one-dimensional compared to the Z-car.

We found the answer in our long-term test fleet and our very own 2008 BMW 135i, with its already legendary twin-turbo 300-hp inline-6 and a $35,725 base price. (Our particular test car also includes $2,045 in options, but those are mostly dress upgrades.)

Unlike the Z-car, the BMW has a backseat, but it also has the same sense of being fully equipped with both performance and convenience equipment as the Z-car. In this it's like a baby M3, combining sports car performance with sport coupe practicality. And this is what the 2009 Nissan 370Z is after, we think.

Who Would Have Believed?
All our scurrilous suspicions about the ineffectiveness of the 370Z's negligible weight reduction over the 350Z were put to rest after the Z-car's first quarter-mile pass. The radio crackled, "High 13s! I think I can bring it down with a better bog-free launch. Beep." Sure enough, raising the rpm to about five grand before dumping the clutch let the monster 275mm-width Potenzas sing that telling tone: the one that says, "You nailed it, now just don't botch a shift, cowboy." The result is 5.1 seconds to 60 mph (4.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and the quarter-mile in 13.4 seconds at 104.6 mph. Yeow.

We went positively apoplectic when the first 2007 BMW 335i Coupe ran down a drag strip with numbers like those. Well guess what? Our daily-driver 135i nearly duplicated the Z-car's run with its own 5.1-second dash to 60 mph (4.8 seconds with 1 foot of rollout) and a quarter-mile of 13.4 seconds at 103.5 mph.

Uh-oh. That's a dead heat, and this isn't going to be an easy one to call when it comes time to put the test scores on paper, is it?

Grip 'n Grin
While the 370Z is the fastest production Z-car ever, the better news is that the heavy shifting action and equally ham-fisted steering response have been banished. What's more, adding the Sport package's upsized brakes, viscous limited-slip differential, lightweight wheels and wide tires give the Z-car some incredible stick, too.

Never mind the Cayman. Remember when a 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo with its $8,800 optional carbon-ceramic brakes brought that ultraexpensive car to a halt from 60 mph in just 103 feet? This Nissan 370Z with its own brake upgrades stopped in 101 feet on the first and fifth attempts, proving highly resistant to fade. These are solid, powerful brakes that give you confidence, to be sure.

Of course, we discovered that repeated hammering on the Nissan's brake pedal deformed something in the linkage in a way that makes at least one sensor think the brake pedal is constantly on. When this happens, the throttle will default to only 20 percent input (a similar strategy to prevent unintended acceleration is featured by cars from the German manufacturers, among others). The quick fix is to simply lift the brake pedal with the toe of your left foot, and then later we taped a couple pennies between the sensor and the perch it was looking for. Apparently Nissan discovered this issue shortly after this preproduction car was built and a permanent fix has been made.

The BMW 135i wasn't napping, though. On its second and fifth braking attempts, the Bavarian repeated silent and controlled stops from 60 mph of 108 feet. The Z-car has an advantage here in tire choice, but we also found that the BMW brake system makes it a little easier to jump on the pedal and still get response that is more linear and easier to modulate.

When the slalom runs returned effectively identical speeds of 69.8 mph for the Nissan and 69.7 mph for the BMW, we couldn't help but laugh. (C'mon, these two cars are identical on paper, but they feel so different.) The tie-breaking test came on the skid pad, where the relatively small tires on the BMW manage to produce a highly respectable orbit of 0.90g that is summarily crushed by the Z's supercarlike 0.97g grip. (Where'd that come from? This thing's got brutal levels of mechanical grip.)

Charting the Differences
As we switched between these two cars over the course of several days, it was a remarkable thing to travel through space at the same rate but record two entirely different experiences. On the same roads and at the same speed, the BMW clearly values ride compliance and engine smoothness and quietness in general, while the Nissan provides unrelenting contact with the road, razor-sharp control and an unmistakable V6 soundtrack. Mark that down.

Honestly, though, the Z's exhaust sounds far better from outside than it does from within. This version of the VQ-Series V6 drones a bit, and it gets pretty tiresome with time. Speaking of tiresome, the same goes for the roar generated by the Z's huge Bridgestones, emphasis on stones. We suspect the din would be more subdued with the standard tires, but then you wouldn't have all that grip, now, would you? Mark that.

More differences were discovered when we started logging standard and optional equipment. Intelligent ignition key? Standard on the Z, optional on the 135i. The same holds true for heated seats, but then you get four in the 135i (although they're wrapped in sweat-producing leatherette unless you opt for leather). The seats in the 370Z might be cloth (you need to order the Touring model for leather) and they'll make you feel like you need to visit the gym more often, but they're also highly supportive and keep the driver in place when exploring the car's limits.

And when you look hard at an overall list of features, the Z-car looks pretty strong. (Check out our Features Comparison for a more thorough discussion.)

Say It With Style
You know Nissan "got it" from the moment you first glance at the 2009 370Z. Believe us when we say that the styling works far better in person than it does in photos, even if our award-winning photographer Scott Jacobs captures it. Those powerful wheel arches, especially on the rear of the car, give the 370Z genuine sports-car cred with one simple yet profound gesture.

The sharp character lines running down the hood are carried into a grille that has far more personality than the previous car's rectangular duct, while the 4 inches sliced out of the wheelbase enhance a kind of cohesive mechanical effect. We love it, and we'd love to see an all-black 370Z with blacked-out windows.

We can appreciate that there are some of you who believe the BMW 1 Series bears some resemblance to the car that's widely recognized as the original sport sedan, the BMW 2002, but there are also those among us who still think it looks like a potbellied pig. Sorry, but it's no breathtaking Z8, or even nearly as lust-worthy as a 335i coupe's sweeping lines. It's not going to age well, either.

Interesting? Yes. Corporate? Undoubtedly. Gorgeous? Now don't get carried away.

Are We Ever Going To Choose a Winner?
When the 2008 BMW 135i came to us, we found it to be one of the purest expressions of the BMW character since the 1971 BMW 2002 tii. Now that the novelty has worn off a bit and we've driven one for close to 15,000 miles, we still think it's a brilliant car. With a long-legged engine that's as happy at 2,000 rpm as it is at 7,000 rpm, this BMW is destined to continue to win comparison tests and conquest buyers for years to come.

The 2009 Nissan 370Z achieves the same sort of thing on the Nissan side. It's so improved in every way over the 350Z that it comes off like a completely different car. Think of the 350Z as a really long prototyping program or maybe an elaborate focus group process. It might have taken six years to work out the kinks, but man, was it worth it. It is both sports car and sport coupe, just as in Mr. K's original concept for the 1970 Datsun 240Z and very much as the BMW M3 has evolved. And it wins this comparison test.

We'll even go so far as to say that the 2009 Nissan 370Z now raises the standard for the sport coupe segment to a new level of affordable excellence. Its accessible performance alone is worthy of status as a benchmark. Its looks alone will bring people to a Nissan showroom. And the combination of the Z-car's reasonable price and fuel -efficiency (22 mpg EPA combined) will certainly get your attention.

The 2009 Nissan 370Z has the whole benchmark package wrapped up with a bow: price, exterior design, interior packaging, performance, features and that X-factor that makes you just want to go out and drive one, and drive it hard. Thinking of the Z-car as a sports car is one thing, but we can honestly say that there's not another sport coupe that can touch the new Z. Dare to compare.



Video:

http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do...deoId=20254080
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Old 12-15-2008, 09:29 AM   #2
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Nissan really did a great job with the new Z car from the looks of things.. Kudos to them.
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Old 12-15-2008, 10:14 AM   #3
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great job Nissan. I find it amazing what Nissan is able to get out of the VQ series engines.
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Old 12-15-2008, 10:30 AM   #4
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Didn't read all of it yet, but I'm also quite impressed.

On the other hand, with the huge success of the GT-R to build off of, I'd have been more shocked if the 370Z did NOT do so well.
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Old 12-15-2008, 10:36 AM   #5
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The 370Z is definitely a great car - I just hope Nissan didn't release it at the wrong time.
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Old 12-15-2008, 10:44 AM   #6
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great job Nissan. I find it amazing what Nissan is able to get out of the VQ series engines.
True..now they only need to add DI...

350Hp on regular gas
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Old 12-15-2008, 10:44 AM   #7
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I'd love one for my DD.
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Old 12-15-2008, 10:58 AM   #8
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This isn't relevant to the Z, but I did just check out the 1-series vs. Porsche Cayman vid on 5th Gear, yesterday.

http://fifthgear.five.tv/jsp/5gmain....Coupe+Dogfight

Got to say, the 1 is very impressive. I'd like it more, if it weren't so weird looking to me. I'd personally prefer it as a proper hatch, I think.
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Old 12-15-2008, 11:17 AM   #9
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the technology is impressive when you consider the 90-96 twin turbo 300zx's were running 13.8s stock.. now 12 years later nissan has a lighter NA Z with .7liter larger engine running .8sec faster from the factory. i guess 12 years is a long time.. but still impressive.
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Old 12-15-2008, 11:34 AM   #10
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I am impressed by the new Z. I would definitely take it over the "potbellied pig" BMW.
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Old 12-15-2008, 11:35 AM   #11
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I do love this car. I'd love to give one a shot, but a two-seater RWD in NJ is tough to swallow as a DD. I suppose a test drive will be the deciding factor.

Maybe the 2010 STI will be something ridiculous and make my decision easy.
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Old 12-15-2008, 11:44 AM   #12
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I am impressed by the new Z. I would definitely take it over the "potbellied pig" BMW.
I hoping this means the 135i depreciates even faster. I wouldn't mind driving one.. I can't see the pregnant cat lines from inside.

I would like to drive a 370Z to see for myself if it's good enough to forget the mediocrity of the 350Z. I'm looking forward to Tiff's impression of the 370 for next year's Fifth Gear... since the 350 is his favorite reasonably priced sportscar.
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Old 12-15-2008, 06:31 PM   #13
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The 370Z has me curious. If they fix the issues the 350Z drivers were having with their cars I could be convinced to have a close look at the car. Problem is that I don't trust the Nissan to not lose it's value like a Ford when I drove it off the lot.
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Old 12-15-2008, 06:39 PM   #14
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More good news. This will likely be my next car... I love it!

-Mike
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Old 12-15-2008, 06:48 PM   #15
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impressed.. tho i still dont like the fang tooth bumper.. this car has got me intrigued... i imagine i'll have a harder time passing these on the track opposed to the previous 350z.
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Old 12-15-2008, 07:33 PM   #16
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The 370Z has me curious. If they fix the issues the 350Z drivers were having with their cars I could be convinced to have a close look at the car. Problem is that I don't trust the Nissan to not lose it's value like a Ford when I drove it off the lot.
It's a popular 2 door sports car. Of course the value will plummet when you drive off the lot.
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Old 12-15-2008, 07:39 PM   #17
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Way to go, Nissan! When the Saabaru goes I'll definitely be looking at one of these as my toy car to go along with my mountain/beach car.
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Old 12-15-2008, 11:26 PM   #18
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Well I gotta give Nissan credit for topping their old Z. There was just something about the old one that I just didn't like. This new one I like lots better, but even then I don't know if I could see myself buying one. Still cool car... and so is the 135i. I actually would prefer it over the Z, but you probably can't go wrong with either car.
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Old 12-16-2008, 12:03 AM   #19
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new Z is a nice car!
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Old 12-16-2008, 12:08 AM   #20
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Nice to see how respectable it is compared to the "Baby M3"

I'll probably be in one shortly.
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Old 12-16-2008, 08:50 AM   #21
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It's a popular 2 door sports car. Of course the value will plummet when you drive off the lot.
This is why I'd wait a year and pick up a used one....even better value!
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Old 12-16-2008, 09:21 AM   #22
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im not buying another car that does not use DI... come on nissan you can do better than this...
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Old 12-16-2008, 02:25 PM   #23
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DI doesn't show up quite as effective in non FI cars dude..
.97 G's is pretty impressive
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Old 12-16-2008, 04:31 PM   #24
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DI doesn't show up quite as effective in non FI cars dude..
.97 G's is pretty impressive
Porsche has used it to very nice effect in their own cars. A 30 hp bump without forced induction in the 911 Carreras is not insignificant.

Realistically my next car could very easily be one of the ones listed in this thread. I like the looks of the 370Z better, but the 350Z had some irritating teething issues that I'm not so sure I'd want to deal with. The 135i is, however... odd looking, but I don't find it completely unattractive like some seem to.
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Old 12-16-2008, 05:20 PM   #25
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hmm 13.4 at 104 for the z.. that will give a stage 1 sti a run for its money..08 at least. Weve got them out of the hole though even with those 275s!
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