The Nissan 370Z Is The Best Sports Car Under $15,000

nissan 370z
Los Angeles Times

Tired of being overtaken in your Honda Civic, but concerned about the reliability issues that greater horsepower typically brings? So, what ideal sports car is as reliable as it is stylish? Drum roll please! Let me introduce you to the Nissan 370Z

Not only do you get 330 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, and if you’re lucky, a 6-speed manual transmission. You also get a vehicle capable of surpassing 200,000 miles if taken care of properly. It looks like a bank-breaker, but you can find one for around $15,000! Now that’s an ideal bargain!

So, if you’re interested in a 370Z but need an crash course before pulling the trigger, take a breath, you’re in the right place. I’m about to tell you exactly why you should buy Nissan’s newest Z! Let’s go!

What Is the 370Z?

2012 nissan 370z

So, what is the 370Z? The Nissan 370Z is a front-engined, rear-wheel drive, 2-door sports car packing lots of attitude. Production began in 2009 and continues to the present day, which means it’s been around forever. The 370Z received a facelift in 2013 consisting of slightly more aggressive styling and other small reliability-aiding adjustments.

In terms of options, you have two main choices: drop-top or coupe, and 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic. The 6-speed manual has rev-matched downshifts, so it’s driver doesn’t have to learn heel-and-toe. However, you can only get the convertible with the 6-speed manual if it’s a Touring model. So do your homework!

The 370Z’s sport package includes 19-inch Rays forged wheels, Nissan-branded Akebono performance brakes, and a limited slip differential. Now that’s a sports package, not just some vents and fancy badging.

The 370Z is the successor of the popular 350Z loved by teenagers and members of the drift community alike. The two may look similar, but the 370Z has a 4-inch shorter wheelbase, 1.3-inch wider body and is 3 tenths of an inch shorter. Typically, shorter and fatter doesn’t equal more sporty, but the new Z, thanks to better brakes, interior, and chassis, is a better car in each and every aspect than the 350Z. It also delivers a much more refined driving experience than its predecessor. Think of the 370Z as a brandy and the 350Z a Jagerbomb.

Much of that is thanks to its new VVEL engine, but more on that later on. I believe the target market for the 370Z is and always will be a younger demographic. But by improving the ride quality and decreasing annoying vibrations audible inside the cabin, the new Z can also appeal to slightly older demographics.

Exterior at a Glance

convertible 2017 nissan 370z
Allen Auto Sales

Now, let’s be a bit superficial. Up front, we’ve got the boomerang-styled headlights offering an interesting aesthetic element unique to the 370Z. And underneath that, we’ve got something completely foreign to modern day BMW designers, a reasonably sized grill.

The slight convex of the aluminum hood capped by those two lines racing down towards the bumper look both menacing, and modern. If you get a coupe, the rear hatch is also made from aluminum. However, one of my favorite parts of the car are the rear fender flares. I just love how they bulge out, giving you tons of space to fit some thick tire.

The convertible looks better topless, but sort of awkward with the top up. I would recommend you get a coupe because they look better, weigh less, and are easier to find with a manual transmission. But frankly, whether you desire a roof or not, the 370Z with all of its angular lines and silver door handles will attract attention nonetheless.

Inside the 370Z

2016 nissan 370z interior

Now, since you’ll be spending a lot of time inside your car, let’s check out the interior of a 370Z. I would probably choose the word “functional” over “luxurious” to describe the black-on-black cloth and leather interior.

If you were buying this car brand new for over $30,000, the interior materials leave plenty to be desired. But since you’re buying it for around $15,00, it’s more than reasonable. I choose to think of it this way: what the 370Z lacks in its interior, it makes up for in miles driven.

Facts and Figures (Performance)

2012 nissan 370z track

Tearing you away from its looks, here are some performance figures you should know. The 370Z weighs 3,232 pounds, accelerates to 60 miles per hour in 5.1 seconds, and delivers 0.90 G’s of grip from its sticky tires and tuned suspension. MotorTrend tested a 2016 Mustang GT and recorded only 0.82 G’s on average.

Now it’s time to check out the heartbeat of the 370Z.

Under the Hood

nissan 370z vq37vhr vvel engine
Engine Builder Magazine

Nissan collectively designed a powerful but very reliable vehicle, but the true beauty of their design lies within the 3.7-liter V6 engine. Also found in the Infiniti G37, the VQ37VHR or VVEL for short, occupies perfect equilibrium between power and reliability. This was Nissan’s first motor with variable valve technology. In a nutshell, explosions in engines are more controlled and efficient.

It doesn’t produce the harsh sounds and noticeable vibrations that the 350Z did. Instead, when you hit the gas, power builds smoothly all the way up to the 7,500 RPM redline. On paper, it makes 43 more horsepower and 8 more pound-feet of torque than the 3.5 V6 found in the 350Z.

But even though the new VQ motor is buttery smooth, it still makes the Z noises we know and love. RIP your neighbors. Gas mileage is average, the 370Z returns 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway. For some perspective, that’s dead even with a 2014 BMW M235i, but for $1,000 less.

Reliability/Known Problems

nissan 370z parts
Redline Auto Parts

Typically, the Nissan 370Z is incredibly reliable, but every car has it’s problems. Thankfully, there’s only a couple issues that could leave you stranded, and both can be fixed relatively cheaply if you’re handy with a toolkit.

The steering wheel may refuse to unlock, prohibiting you from starting your car, and there’s a gasket in the motor that on rare occasions may fail. Thankfully, Nissan parts are reasonably affordable, and both of these issues were addressed in 2013 and up model years. 

Now that you’ve got the facts on the Nissan 370Z, it’s time to find out if it really is an ideal car! The max for each category is 2 thumbs up, which means off-the-charts awesome. And the minimum is 2 thumbs down, which means I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. Our first category is “smiles per gallon”!

Smiles Per Gallon

2013 nissan 370z

The 3.7-liter V6 is rewarding to rev out and the chassis, even though it feels a bit heavy, is thrilled to be tossed around in corners. Understeer is present at the limit, but oversteer is available on demand. Because it delivers satisfactory acceleration in a straight line and excitement in the twisties, the 370Z receives one thumb up!

Curb Appeal

2020 nissan 370z 50th anniversary
Motor Authority

In terms of curb appeal, it really depends on the crowd and how many mods you have on your Z. A stock 370Z might attract vaping highschoolers, but turn up with a boosted 370Z on a nice set of wheels, and you’ll be turning heads of all ages. Bottom line, it gets one thumb up in curb appeal.


2019 nissan 370z dash

I didn’t realize it before, but it’s hard to spell reliability without “VVEL”. Just kidding, but seeing how these engines are running over 150,000 miles in a sports car, it goes to show that Nissan really did something right. A reliable sports car is no longer a pipe dream thanks to clever Japanese innovation. The Nissan 370Z receives two thumbs up for reliability.


2018 nissan 370z

The rear cargo area offers 6.9 cubic feet of storage space, which is enough for a large suitcase. Fuel economy isn’t terrible either for a 332-horsepower car, with an EPA rating of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway. In real-world driving, we achieved over 30 miles per gallon on the highway in a 370Z. In terms of practicality, the 370Z is about average in its class, and therefore I shake my thumb.

Value and Insurance

white nissan 370z
The Truth About Cars

For a $15,000 sports car, the 370Z is unmistakably a great value for your money. Not only is it reliable and replacement parts are available at a reasonable cost, but the driving experience rivals that of German vehicles $10,000 more expensive.

On top of that, the insurance rates are reasonable as well. For a 25 year-old male with a clean driving record you’re looking at around $245 a month. It’s also important to check out the price trends so you can differentiate good and bad deals. Now’s the time to get your 370Z, because prices are climbing.

Because it’s fun to drive and affordable to own, I want to give it two thumbs up, but since I don’t foresee them becoming collectable, I can only give it one thumb of approval.


thumbs up

So, is the Nissan 370Z an ideal car? Heck yeah it is! In fact, with five thumbs up, I think it’s one of the best first sports cars available on today’s market. Sure, there are cars faster and more beautiful, but they’re much more costly to purchase and maintain.

The 370Z offers excitement, style, and reliability at a price point impossible to deny. Let us know what car you want to see next by dropping a comment on our YouTube channel!

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