Even if I go to hell
Nissan 370Z GT Edition
This time, the two thick black lines behind Max are long, as he pulls out the car park. Rowdiness is not his play, but there's nobody here to be disturbed by the faint screeching of the tires over the brontosauric rumbling of the V6. With his right hand he pulls the gear lever towards himself, with his left he hits the ESP button. These two quick motions remind him how he used to slam down the visor on his helmet before going mad, when he still had his Yamaha.
They definitely wouldn't guffaw, if they knew both egos of the schizophrenic 370Z. In D it really can be withering, changing gears bone-lazy, crawling sleepily, like a tired worm. Just good enough to take home Max's exhausted body from the office, but that's all. Okay, it'll smear some rubber onto the asphalt, if you wish it – the naturally aspirated V6 wakes up immediately, no matter where you're tumbling. You'll sweep away the hypermilers at once, but the hesitation of the auto box kills the joy of driving for real. Perfect for traffic jams and motorway speeding, but in D it's not a sports car at all. It deserves a place on the podium of deplorable poseur cars.
But these two routine motions make the Z wrathful. You can take this for granted, because on every down-change command it will perfectly blip the throttle and lock the slimy gearbox. Max pulls out of the main road towards the forest with a discreet backslide and goes for it on the narrow two-lane. The shiftlight blinks, he pulls the flap behind the wheel, he's in fourth gear. He has to concentrate, the gearbox doesn't shift up automatically in manual mode.
Max is resettling himself in the bucket seat, moves it closer to the thick, nearly vertical steering wheel, and he can almost see how his adrenaline glands prepare themselves for the hard work.
After a few thoughtless months he has learned that he's got to beat the Z cruelly, he has to earn the pleasure, but the reward is worth it. As he pulls fifth, he doesn't notice the slight over-revving any more, as if the clutch was slipping. The Z is leaping forward with relentless determination, reaching 120 with a butcher's gentility. The engine may be dumb until 4000, but it raises its voice in the middle range, and some brutal, otherworldly snarl closes in from behind, to grab you with a raging howl just before reaching the limiter at 7500.
This character mesmerized Max right at their first encounter. One only realizes the necessity of this kind of overwhelming power at higher speeds. The hedonistic, naturally aspirated engine, which is always on call and the leather seats, lowered not more than a span from the asphalt, communicate with unmistakable words, that this is a serious, old-school sports car, which somehow managed to stay with us until 2012– a reminiscence of a world long gone. .
The working metal just a few inches from the toes is completely silent, the stimuli for the ears come from the rear end. Funnily enough one can even hear the tiny stones taken up by the tires, like in some race car, over the restrained grumbling of the exhaust. At moments like this, Max could die for a proper sports exhaust, to enjoy the full spectrum of the V6-sound. But he knows, he wouldn't tolerate it on that 500 mile-journey to Anna's parents.
But now, he bursts into the forest beyond any sane speed, and brakes hard before the first corner of the road winding up the mountain. He knows the oversensitive brakes, he can't wait until they warm up and have a better feel. A pull on the left flap, let's use the engine for braking in fourth. He wants to drop into third, which is appropriate for pulling out of the corner, but the gearbox won't let him. What's going on, the rev counter says 4000, third is okay, that's not overrevving. Click, click, click, Max pulls the flap, and eventually the gearbox switches into third. Damn, why doesn't it work properly? The automatic is such a relief when it does its job. It's by far superior to the sticky cogs of the manual, and it lets you concentrate better on the lines.
There's no match for a purpose-built, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car, thinks Max, accelerating out of the corner with a flirting rear end. The Bridgestones – too quickly eroding by the way – have a huge amount of grip, one can feel every groove of the asphalt through them. But this is just the warm-up. The car is talking to him with such clear words that he's absolutely not afraid to drive at the limit. He takes the next corner in second and can't resist provoking a joyful powerslide with the throttle. The steering, which seems heavy in the city, suddenly makes sense. Not more than two and a half turns from lock to lock, but when you have to carefully adjust in opposite lock, it's perfectly weighted, so you won't chase a snake as the rear end comes back in.
He just can't get bored of the Nissan, there are so many undiscovered territories, where you can wander around. You need 300 PS to get those 1.5 tons to move in such an addictive way, at every flick of your ankle. Yes, he could've bought a Boxster for the same money, and the Porsche is definitely sharper than the Z. But just mention the word “ Porsche” and that other word, “compensation” is never far away, and more important, he never dared to go really fast in a Boxster, every time he tried it. It's faster, but so random, you're always scared you'll lose it.
Before the hairpin, Max switches down to first gear, and starts the corner with a proper drift. At the apex, he shifts to second with one single click, and as he slides on beautifully, without a jerk, he thinks with great satisfaction: look at this, guffawers. Automatics are for girls, right? This one can do things you wouldn't even try with a clutch pedal.
As the Z climbs up the hill at a dramatic speed, Max praises Jack, that he has talked him into that test drive. Damned, this GT suspension is so much superior to the normal Z's. It doesn't hammer on your spine, even on a bad road like this; the wheels don't resist moving vertically, which is quite unusual for a sports car. Nevertheless, it's so predictable in every corner, it lures you into things you shouldn't do.
The asphalt in the forest is cracked, full of potholes, but you don't have to chicken out in a single corner. Ouch, that was a bit too much, but it's enough to lift the throttle a bit, and the Nissan clings back to the line. “Is it the superb, 53/47 weight distribution, the low inertia because of the mass concentration around the centre of the car, or is it just so homey, because I grew up surrounded by front-engine, rear-wheel-drive cars?” meditates Max. A moment later he is focusing on the the road again; there's no room in his brain for the analysis promised for tomorrow morning.
There's a long straight, he switches to high beam. Fourth, fifth, and again he sees twice the permitted speed on the insignificant speedo on the right. The next corner is closing in, yeah, the brakes are warm already, now the beast is feeling better. Fourth, help braking with the engine, third would be nice, but it's not there. Click, click, click, no third, Max instinctively looks down to the lever and
“ Hi Jack, what's up?”
“ Hello Max. I didn't want to call you too early, but Anna told me, your life is not in danger any more. How do you feel, Max?”
“ I've been better, Jack. But the doctors say, I can go home next week. Luckily, my notebook's here, so I'm not bored, at least I can read e-mails.”
“ They brought the wreck to us, Max. I was shocked at first, when I saw it, but then they said you survived. What can I say, I wouldn't be happy if a stag came through my windscreen and then I wrapped my new sports car around a tree.”
“ Shut up, Jack, please. I don't want to know what happened to the car. Can you arrange that I don't have to see it? And I don't want to run into it on youtube, either, ok?”
“ Sure as hell. Hey Max, can we talk about business?”
“ My lips are moving, the phone is at my ear. I'm listening.”
-“I don't know what plans you have with the wreck, but...”
“ Would you mind not to mention the word ‘wreck' anymore, Jack?
“ All right, I can work out, that you don't even have to pay the excess and since the car was so crisp, you'll get the price you paid for it.”
“ Hmm, that doesn't sound too bad.”
“ We can't put this white one back together, that's for sure.”
“ But I get the price as new?”
“ Yeah, if we can keep the wreck – err – what's left of the car.”
“ Right. Jack, I've made up my mind in the last few days and now I know what I want. Could you order exactly the same 370Z for me, please? GT Edition, automatic, pearl white...”