Toyota 86 VS Nissan 370Z
- Huge fun to drive
- Comfortable despite purpose
- Good value
- Dodgy interior materials
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Raucous engine
- Dynamic balance
- Slick manual gearbox
- Classic exterior design
- Lacks latest safety tech
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Fake engine noise
Toyota's 86 might have been a huge surprise when it burst onto the world stage, but now it's difficult to imagine a world without it. Heralding a so-far slow and steady return to more interesting cars for the Japanese giant, the 86 has steadily clocked up the sales.
The tiny sports car picked up a few specification tweaks late last year as well as a longed-for 'Performance Pack' and the mildest of upgraded stereos.
Half a decade on and with the Mazda MX-5 (in both convertible and hardtop) as a strong price rival, with an army of hot hatches nipping at its heels, is the 86 still the bargain funster we'd been missing all those years?
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Road testing the Nissan 370Z in 2011, I noted it was getting on. Yes, the rear-wheel drive two-seater had been given a design freshen up and a bigger engine a couple of years prior, but the 350Z it was based on had hit the local market way back in 2003. And it wasn't unreasonable to expect replacement or retirement in the not-too-distant future.
Okay, so that was seven years ago, which means if you (like many) consider the 370Z to be an update of the 350Z (the transition happening in 2009), this car has been on sale for 15 years straight. Can you imagine Apple trying to sell any one product without entirely reinventing it for that long?
You might say that makes it a modern classic; so good it's only required an occasional touch up to keep it on the Sports Car Most Wanted list. And in recent years, a consistent average of 30 Aussies a month have slotted a shiny new 370Z in their driveway.
Is it enough to keep Nissan's eternal Z-car flame burning?
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The overall score doesn't really reflect how good this car is. It's let down by silly things like the lack of a decent stereo head unit, a ho-hum warranty package and a lack of advanced safety features. Those things sort of miss the point for most 86 buyers as the sales figures suggest.
It's old school fun without all the reliability and usability issues. It's a better proposition than any bargain sportscar for decades and is never not a barrel of laughs. The best value - and most fun - is a manual GT with the Dynamic Performance Pack. It's still good value, has a bit more oomph in the brakes and suspension and adds just a little bit of spice to the 86.
Has the 86 withstood the test of time? Or have other, new options stolen your heart? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
It's hard not to be ageist when it comes to the current Nissan Zed, because 15 years in market (nine if we're generous) is a lengthy stretch in anyone's book. But somehow the 370Z is more than the sum of its parts. It has fantastic front-engine/rear-drive balance, an increasingly rare atmo engine, and a beautiful manual 'box. The value equation is decent, and it's nicely put together. Just don't expect to be dazzled with the latest safety, driver-assist and multimedia technology.
Does the Nissan 370Z have what it takes to elevate your heart rate? Tell us in the comments below.
As ever, the 86 exterior design is tasteful - low-slung and with a mild body kit including side skirts, a modest front spoiler and a metal rear wing that nobody seems to like. The 86 has those classic sports car proportions despite its diminutive dimensions.
The rear diffuser looks good but is unlikely to do much other than house the fog light and reversing lights. The big twin exhausts look terrific, so if you want a quad exhaust, I will only ask why.
Inside is as minimally thoughtful as ever. There's nothing especially wrong with it but there is little to commend it with a mix of materials and various cop-outs to save money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, given the car's intentions, but if you're expecting a premium interior, you're of out luck. Having said that, the suede-like panel in the GTS looks pretty good.
If you want to go all the way back, the 370Z clearly takes its design direction from Datsun's star of the '70s, the original 240Z.
Inspired by Ferrari, and (along with the Toyota 2000GT) a sports-car breakthrough for the Japanese industry, the first Zed's front-engine, long-nose proportions have remained largely intact in successive iterations over the decades.
With a broad, flat nose, distinctively jagged headlights, and steeply raked rear profile, there's no mistaking the 370's signature stance, with pumped-up guards sitting over fat, 19-inch alloy rims.
Sharp-eyed car-spotters will notice the update's new design RAYS forged wheels, smoked front and rear lights, and a similar smoked finish on the exterior door handles.
A new colour, 'Cherry Red' also replaces 'Bordeaux Black' in an eight-shade colour palette. Our test example was finished in 'Gun Metallic'.
Inside, echoes of Zeds past abound, with a trio of hooded gauges (clock, voltmeter, oil temp) sitting in the centre of the dash top, and the tachometer in the middle of a cowled, three-instrument main cluster shaded by an exaggerated tube.
And aside from consciously retro design touches, some elements have been present inside the car for so long they're just... ancient.
For example, old-school orange graphics for the odometer, gear position and trip computer are dated, and the small (7.0-inch touchscreen) multimedia display has the feel of an early noughties edition of Tekken 6.
Forget a digital speedo or head-up display. A CD slot still sits proudly in the centre stack, and matt silver highlights scattered around the cabin are as on-trend as double denim.
And the steering wheel (joined with the instrument binnacle) adjusts for height, but annoyingly, not reach.
That said, friends and family who rode in the car during the week I had the keys all commented on the swoopy exterior and cozy cockpit feel of the interior. So, what do I know?
Interior photos reveal a cosy space for driver and passenger. The rear seats are almost entirely pointless, although you can get small kids in. Like really small - I'm just on 180cm and drive closer to the wheel than most but I could still only slot a laptop computer in the 'legroom'.
The front seats are split by a narrow console with a moveable tray with two cupholders and a slot that holds a smaller iPhone or Android phone. There is no armrest, but that's for practical gear-shifting reasons. Those in the rear don't get a cup holder at all.
People always ask how many seats Toyota has crammed in, and the answer is four, but it's really a 2+2.
Boot space isn't terrible at 223 litres and if you fold down the rear seats, you've capacity for a set of four wheels and tyres. Which might be handy given there is no longer a spare tyre, so a tyre repair kit might be in order...
As you might imagine, ground clearance isn't off-road spectacular but the 86 does pass my driveway test. In other words, I can get it up my driveway - some SUVs don't even manage without that stomach churning scraaape.
Two seats means practicality is a relative term when applied to the 370Z. For example, getting in and out is an athletic exercise requiring gymnastic levels of flexibility and poise. As with most low-lying coupes, I found the outer hand on the A-pillar technique helps with swinging down into the car, or lurching up out of it.
Once ensconced behind the wheel, you're confronted with a relatively modest amount of storage space, running to a medium-size glove box, a lidded bin at the rear of the dividing console, a single cupholder, and door pockets incorporating recesses for small bottles only.
There are two lined recesses for soft bags or coats behind each seat, including a fold-out map pocket, but they're not exactly convenient for retrieving things when you're on the move. What's missing is a tray where you can easily stow things likes keys, coins or a phone.
There are also two 12-volt power outlets, a USB port and an aux-in audio connection.
Rear load space is limited to 195 litres, mainly due to the boot's shallow floor (an alloy space-saver spare sits underneath). It does incorporate a cargo blind and four tie-down hooks, but we only managed to squeeze in the largest (105-litre) suitcase from our three-piece hard set, or a combination of the two smaller ones (35 and 68 litres).
We also had a crack at stuffing in the CarsGuide pram (there is a top-tether hook provided for child seat fitment) and managed it with only a couple of beads of perspiration expended.
Forget the nappy-bag paraphernalia, though. The soft bags with all the baby stuff would have to go in the storage bays in the cabin behind the seats.
Price and features
There are still only two trim levels these days, if you discount the racing version. The Toyota website suggests the 'Apollo Blue' is a separate model, but you'll soon see that's a bit cheeky. Our brief comparison features RRP straight off the price list. The drive-away price is obviously between you and your dealer.
Standard features include 16-inch alloys, a limited-slip diff (manual only), LED headlights and daytime running lights, reversing camera, 6.1-inch touchscreen, AM/FM radio, power windows and mirrors, electric power steering, air-conditioning, floor mats, hill start assist, a sound system with six speakers, Bluetooth and USB, cruise control and cloth trim.
The second level of the road going range is the GTS, starting at $36,640 for the manual and $38,940 for the auto. To the base model you can add bigger rims at 17 inches, dual-zone climate control, an info display in the dashboard between the gauges, privacy glass, heated front seats, stereo controls on the steering wheel, keyless entry and push button start, fake leather seats with Alcantara trim inserts and GPS navigation system with SUNA traffic info.
The GTS's tyres are markedly better Michelins.
For the GT and GTS you can choose from six colours: 'Tornado Grey', 'Storm Black', 'Ice Silver', 'White Liquid', 'Gravity Blue' and 'Ignition Red'. If you go all in on a GTS, you can also have Apollo Blue. Fans of orange and yellow are out of luck. Only Ignition Red is a freebie, the rest will stick you with a $450 bill.
The GT and GTS also offer the 'Dynamic Performance Pack' option. How much does it cost and what do you get? Sadly, no turbo or increase in engine size or improvement in engine specs for a bit more speed. I know many of you pine for more horsepower to improve the 86's stats, but Toyota won't help out.
So, the $2200 (GT)/$2900 (GTS) pack includes a darker set of alloy wheels, SACHS suspension and a set of Brembo brakes. GTS buyers can also specify Apollo Blue as the exterior colour, raising the price again to $39,950 for the manual and $41,890 for the auto.
The 6.1-inch infotainment screen that runs the sound system is an ongoing disaster. Too small, terrible software, it's an afterthought. To add insult to injury, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto despite the Subaru version managing to fit a stereo with exactly that feature. It's a perplexingly bad decision to leave them out, especially when it's a basic double DIN unit that's easy to replace.
Accessories include interior lighting, rear parking sensors and a bootliner. Missing from the list are a towbar, HID headlights (the standard LEDs are excellent) and, unsurprisingly, air suspension.
Conspicuous by their absence are a roof rack and sunroof. Despite a soft top concept a few years back, there isn't a convertible either. If you want a subwoofer, you'll have to go aftermarket.
The waiting time for your 86 is a thing of the past - stock levels appear solid around the country.
The arrival of the tricked-up 370Z NISMO in August last year, offered Nissan Australia an opportunity to reposition the regular model, dropping the MSRP for the manual version from $56,930 to $49,990.
Aside from adjusting the car's value-for-money proposition (and pissing off those who'd bought one in July), that close to seven grand haircut delivered more pricing headroom up to the Roadster (starting at $60,990), and NISMO (from $61,490) versions.
For that money the standard equipment list includes, keyless entry and start, cruise control, climate control air, go-fast alloy finish pedals, 'HDD' (Hard Disc Drive) sat nav with 3D mapping, a 7.0-inch colour multimedia touchscreen, and Bose eight-speaker audio with 9.3GB 'Music Box' hard drive.
You'll also pick up sports seats with lots of features. First, they're 'leather accented', which is code for genuine hide in all the places you regularly contact, and a faux equivalent everywhere else. Not uncommon, and not necessarily unpleasant. Then they're heated and four-way power-adjustable, (with manual lumbar and height adjustment for the driver).
The steering wheel and gear knob also cop the 'leather accented' treatment, plus you can expect LED DRLs and tail-lights as well as auto headlights. It's worth noting that the headlights are garden-variety xenons, and things you might expect in a $50k coupe, like, rain-sensing wipers, dual zone climate, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity or tyre-pressure monitoring are 100 per cent absent.
Lining up direct competitors for the 370Z isn't easy, because there aren't any. But the closest is arguably a 2.3-litre EcoBoost version of Ford's Mustang at $45,990 for the manual. A further stretch of the imagination could haul in the Mazda MX-5 RF ($43,890) or the 86 GTS+ ($39,440) and Subaru BRZ tS ($39,894).
Engine & trans
The Subaru-sourced 2.0-litre 'boxer' four soldiers on and in the six-speed manual produces 152kW/212Nm, both high in the rev range. Annoyingly, when paired with the six-speed automatic transmission, you only get 148kW/205Nm.
One of the reasons for the boxer engine is that it sits nice and low, which works for styling and packaging. Even getting the battery lower in the chassis means an improvement in handling.
The power heads rearwards (purists love rear-wheel drive) and is apportioned by a limited-slip differential.
There are no known common issues with the 86's boxer four. As to whether the engine features a timing belt or chain, the good news is that it's a chain, meaning lower long-term ownership and servicing costs.
The manual transmission doesn't seem to suffer any widespread complaints or issues and the automatic gearbox seems similarly reliable. If you needed to settle the manual vs automatic argument, that's yet another reason to go with the manual gearbox. As well as the lighter weight. And better performance figures.
There is no 4x4, front-wheel drive or AWD version, nor is there a diesel motor available. Although that would be interesting...
For some reason, the 86 comes in for criticism for its 0-100km per hour acceleration time, which is a swift seven-ish seconds.
Toyota does not offer a towing capacity figure, perhaps for obvious reasons.
The 370Z is powered by an all-alloy, 3.7-litre (VQ37VHR), naturally aspirated, quad-cam V6, producing 245kW at 7000rpm and 363Nm at 5200rpm.
It features the 'Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System' (CVTCS) with 'Variable Valve Event and Lift' (VVEL) on the intake side. And while all that may sound new and ultra-high tech, it was actually introduced in 2007.
Transmission choice is between a seven-speed auto (with manual mode and paddles) or six-speed manual gearbox, as tested here. And this 2018 upgrade brings a high-performance clutch from Japanese specialist Exedy.
Drive goes to the rear wheels via a carbon-fibre composite drive shaft, connecting with a viscous limited slip differential (LSD).
Additional features that won't necessarily be music to purists' ears include 'Active Noise Cancellation', and 'Active Sound Enhancement'.
The former monitors and measures engine sounds, using the audio speakers to produce "acoustically opposing signals to cancel undesirable sounds". So, okay, maybe filtering out the messy noise is a good thing.
But at the same time Active Sound Enhancement employs "digital signal processing to enhance the engine note, using the vehicle's sound system to augment or modify the spectrum of select powertrain sounds in the cabin". Yuck.
I can cop a tube that channels a bit of genuine engine noise into the interior, but in this context, the phrase 'digital signal processing' is a turn-off.
Fuel consumption is quite different between the transmission types. The manual's claimed combined cycle figure is 8.4L/100km while the automatic's is 7.1L/100km. Usually mileage figures are closer between transmissions, so if fuel economy is at the top of your list, it's the automatic.
Fuel tank capacity is 50 litres and you have to fill it with 98RON premium unleaded.
The official figures, for once, aren't a bad guide - my most recent week with an 86 manual returned 9.3L/100km.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 10.6L/100km, the 370Z emitting 249g/km of CO2 in the process.
Over roughly 250km of city, suburban and freeway running, we averaged 15.6L/100km, at the bowser. Far from miserly.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, although Nissan says "for optimum performance" you should stump up for 98 RON. And just to rub it in, you'll need 72 litres of it to fill the tank.
Every time I drive the 86, I am struck by the same things. The first is just how small it really is. Its road footprint is tiny, the Toyota dwarfed by just about everything. That means it's great in the city for ducking in and out of gaps and if you keep the left arm busy on the shifter, you'll be able to use its momentum to carve through the dawdling idiots infesting our roads.
The steering is always a delight - fast and direct, you know what's under those skinny front tyres and the weighting is near perfection. Coupled with the finely-tuned chassis, it's super-predictable and a huge laugh out of damp roundabouts.
The best bit is the balance - you can really feel the car underneath you. When you strip it all back, ignore the rackety engine and plasticky interior, it really feels like a car twice the price. The whole experience is centred around fun but without abandoning the needs of daily driving - the soft suspension allows for body roll which is both fun when you're thrashing but delivers a bearable ride on the school/work run.
It's a bit tinny, it's missing some obvious bits and pieces but few cars put you in touch with the purity of driving like a manual 86.
The automatic - largely ignored - is still fun, but it's not really what the 86 is all about. For me, I once had an auto 86 and it was an opportunity to show my manual-shy wife what she's been missing.
The Nissan 370Z is actually the car many want the Toyobaru 86/BRZ to be. I can sense some of you spluttering out a sweary response to that notion. But hear me out.
If you, like many others, think the 86/BRZ would be perfect with an extra 50kW/80Nm, just bolt on a turbo or supercharger, and voila. You'll get that extra grunt, but remember, the 86/BRZ was conceived to be light, tactile, and, not least of all, affordable.
Up the outputs and you light the wick on an engineering arms race that should also lead to bigger brakes, an engine with more exotic pistons and a tougher bottom end, a stronger gearbox and clutch, a beefier diff, sturdier chassis, fatter rims and rubber... the list goes on, and on. Until you end up with something very much like the spec, weight, and price of the 370Z.
That's not to say this car isn't a fun drive. It is. Just don't expect the quick reflexes of an MX-5 or 86/BRZ.
Despite light-weighting tricks like an aluminium bonnet and all-alloy suspension, the 370Z weighs in at a not inconsiderable 1467kg. And although its 3.7-litre V6 develops a solid 245kW/363Nm, first impressions are dominated by its hollow mid-range.
Much as I love the free-revving nature of a naturally aspirated engine, there's no denying a modern turbo typically delivers lots of torque low down, with peak power also available within a useful rev range.
All the action here is at the top end, with maximum torque arriving way up at 5200rpm, and peak power taking over at a nose-bleed 7000rpm (the rev ceiling is 7500rpm). Not exactly an easily accessible sweet spot.
But there's still so much to like about this evergreen Zed. Its classic front engine/rear-drive layout results in a 53/47 front to rear weight distribution and the car feels balanced and beautifully predictable.
Suspension is double wishbone front, multi-link rear, and ride comfort, even over choppy bitumen surfaces is surprisingly good. On the flip-side, rumble coming up from the Bridgestone Potenza RE050A rubber (245/40 f / 275/35 r) is always noticeable, and often intrusive.
The steering is supported by old-school hydraulic power assist and while connection with the front wheels is impressive, overall feel is light. Hello 'Merica.
The gearbox is a sweet reminder of what a pleasure it is swap ratios in a top-notch close-ratio manual, and hats off to Exedy for producing a wonderfully progressive clutch. Personal preference was to turn off the standard 'SynchroRev Match' function, because I like having a go at the ol' heel 'n' toe tap dance myself.
Brakes are ventilated front and rear with almost equal size rotors (355mm f / 350mm r) clamped by four-piston calipers up front and two piston units at the rear. They are reassuringly powerful and consistent.
Age has not wearied the 370Z's ergonomics. Although the lack of a digital speedo and no reach adjustment for the steering column is annoying, the sports seats are snug and comfortable, the moderately chunky wheel feels great, and all the major controls are simple to use. Who needs slick screens and 'piano black' finishes?
If you can squeeze in a baby seat, there are two ISOFIX points and two top-tether points.
The maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating dates way back to 2012.
The 370Z must feel like a wall flower at the crash-test disco because it currently isn't rated for safety performance by ANCAP, its Euro NCAP affiliate, JNCAP in Japan, or the USA's NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) or IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
That said, in terms of active safety features you'll find ABS, BA, EBD, traction control, 'Vehicle Dynamic Control' (stability control), and a rear-view camera with 'Predictive Path' guidance lines.
But if you're looking for more current active tech, look elsewhere, because things like AEB, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, active cruise, lane-keep assist, auto high beam or any kind of pedestrian detection are missing-in-action. They're not even available on the options list.
If all else fails and a crash is unavoidable, primary passive safety runs to active head restraints and eight airbags (driver and passenger front and side airbags, plus roof- and door-mounted curtain airbags).
Toyota still offers a three-year/100,000km warranty and roadside assist is an extra cost. Many customers understand that a key Toyota value proposition is reliability, but the three-year warranty club is almost as small as the full-term Prime Ministers club has been in the last decade.
Resale value appears strong, no doubt helped by a distinct lack of common problems, gearbox problems, issues, faults or complaints about the car. A second hand 86 should be easy to come by - since its launch in 2012, Toyota has shifted around 20,000 cars.
Service cost is capped at $180 per service and you're expected to visit the dealer every nine months or 15,000km, which is kind of odd.
The owners manual is packed with useful details like oil capacity and type.
Another question I'm often asked is "Where is the Toyota 86 built?" - the answer is Subaru's Gunma plant in Japan. Some also ask "Is the Toyota 86 discontinued?" - that's a firm no, although the US Scion sub-brand version, the FR-S, is no more.
But it does include 24-hour roadside assistance for three years, and Nissan's 'myNissan Service Certainty' capped-price servicing program applies for up to six years/120,000km.
The scheduled maintenance interval is six months/10,000km, with charges ranging from a low of $283, to a high of $831 (100,000km), averaging out to roughly $428 per service.