BODY STYLE: Two-door sport car/coupe.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 3.7-litre, DOHC V6 (332 hp, 270 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 13.3/9.3L/100km (city/hwy); as tested 12L/100km (comb)
CARGO: 195 litres
PRICE: MSRP $29,998; as tested $30,133 includes Metallic Pearl Paint ($135). Freight & PDE ($1,740) not incl.
The steering wheel felt alive under my fingers.
A stomp of the throttle prodded the engine with the snarl of instant gratification.
The handling was quick and crisp, the brakes authoritatively taming the speed bursts of this beast as we carved country road corners, pirouetted through esses, and shot through traffic gaps in the cut and thrust of urban driving.
Ahh, but there’s an inherent problem with this kind of performance.
Because the quicker the car is, the shorter my patience gets.
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The power and agility, the exuberance of noisy acceleration, that sense of can-do-anything ability tends to engender a hyperactive impatience when you’re sharing the road with seemingly mere mortals who are slowly and uncertainly doddering about in minivans and cumbersome sport ute land barges, hesitating over lane changes, inexplicably braking for phantom reasons, and just generally not getting the hell out of your way.
I usually resort to deep breathing, maybe an Enya playlist, or the calming Spa channel. And I remind myself that I am usually a part of that same slow-moving herd.
But I’m also reminded of just how much fun a Nissan Z can be.
And it takes some reminding because, 45 years since the first Z appeared, and with only minor changes over the last two generations, it’s easy to take the Z for granted and not give it the attention it deserves.
But for the 2016 model year, Nissan has added a new Coupe Enthusiast Edition base model ($29,998) that drops the entry-level price by a whopping $10,000.
Now, that’s sure to make potential customers pay attention.
That kind of move goes against the grain for most car companies, where the steady evolution of bigger, more expensive models is a more usual trend.
Even Nissan’s sport car lineup of Zs have tended to get porkier and more fully loaded with each generation.
This new base model still harnesses Nissan’s award-winning 332 hp 3.7-litre DOHC V6 engine with Variable Valve Event and Lift Control mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission. This powertrain combo is rated at 13.3/9.3L/100km (city/hwy) but if fuel economy is a big concern, you’re shopping in the wrong aisle, bub. My real world averages worked out to 12L/100km (comb) even with occasional outbursts of adrenalized lunacy.
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Our tester, dipped nicely in Gun Metallic paint, stands on handsome complementary black-finished 18-inch alloy wheels and comes standard with a sport tuned suspension, bi-functional Xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, black woven carbon seat cloth interior, Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, power windows, power locks, two 12V outlets, USB connection, Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System, automatic climate control and illuminated steering wheel controls.
OK, so what’s the catch? What are we giving up for the $10,000 price chop?
Well, while I wouldn’t exactly label the Coupe Enthusiast Edition a “stripper”, there are sacrifices to be made, namely:No available automatic transmissionNo viscous limited-slip rear differentialManually-adjusted cloth seats instead of leatherNo heated/ventilated seat featureNo 7.0-inch VGA touch-sensitive LCD display screen (a cubby storage area in the same space instead)No VoiceLink recognitionNo RearView monitor or NavigationNo Homelink transceiverA 4-speaker audio system without satellite radio instead of the BOSE 6-speaker upgradeNo Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) or Active Sound Enhancement (ASE)No auxiliary audio/video input jacksNo auto dimming rearview mirror or heated outside mirrorsNo aluminum pedals or cargo coverSimpler “Z” side badging without LED illumination
But while I might also miss the 19-inch wheels and SychroRev Match throttle-blipping available in higher trim levels, there’s nothing on that list of deletions above that I can’t live without for a $10,000 price cut.
Customers who need the extra do-dads can still opt for the Touring Coupe ($39,998), Touring Sport Coupe ($43,998), the NISMO (Nissan Motorsports) Coupe ($47,998) or the convertible lineup with the Touring Black Top ($49,498) Touring Sport Black Top ($53,498) or Touring Sport Bourdeaux Top model($54,998).
The one thing this pared-down Coupe Enthusiast Edition definitely does benefit from is a leaner and meaner mass reduction, courtesy of being stripped to its bare essentials. It weighs in at 1,497 kg, about 100 kg less than a fully loaded model, even 50 kg lighter than the lean NISMO (1,547 kg), giving it a very comparable power-to-weight ratio to the performance model.
And that new “less is more” philosophy may well be the new trend for a future revision that will allow Nissan to go head-to-head with class competitors like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ, Mustang V6 and Mazda MX-5.
There are rumours of an all-new, downsized, lighter and more affordable Z model that will be designed to tap into the essential spirit of the original 240Z with styling and value aimed at a whole new generation of buyers.
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