Sports car enthusiasts have come out in full force to criticize the lack of a manual gearbox option in the 2020 Toyota Supra and, although there is no sign that the Supra will get a third pedal any time soon, you’re not bereft of options if you are looking for a stick-shift Japanese coupe. The Nissan 370Z has been around for over a decade but, on paper, its updates make it a good match for the recently released Supra.
Nissan invited a group of us out to California recently to sample lightly updated versions of the 370Z and the GTR, including 50th anniversary versions of both. While I’d recently worked on, and driven modified, versions of the 370Z, it had been a while since I had experienced a completely stock example. It was a bit refreshing to take one out for a drive and reflect on where the 2020 370Z sits in the current market.
The 2020 370Z starts at $30,090 plus destination which is remarkably close to its original MSRP of $29,930 when it debuted in the 2009 model year. Adjusting for inflation, the original base price ends up around $35,500 in today’s dollars. Even though it is obviously a killer bargain, the base version is not the one that most enthusiasts will go for unless they’re planning to extensively modify it. The Sport trim adds another $3730 to the price of the base model but brings a lot of enthusiast-oriented features like larger 4-piston brakes, RAYS forged wheels, and a limited-slip rear differential.
Nissan uses the Sport trim as the basis for the 50th Anniversary Edition along with additional features meant to commemorate the BRE 240Z raced by Peter Brock in SCCA. These features include special color schemes and badging along with door stripes that echo those of the BRE race car.
The upgrades continue inside with a 50th Anniversary badge on the tachometer along with an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel. The rest of the interior features grab a few components from the more expensive Sport Touring trim, such as the power seats, and wrap them in leather and synthetic suede specific to this 50th Anniversary edition.
These changes make the trim out to be basically a “Sport Plus” level, since it’s mostly focused on the Sport trim features but adds some comfort conveniences to go along with the anniversary badging and decals. The pricing falls right in the middle of the $33,820 Sport trim and the $39,420 Sport Touring trim—logical, given that it borrows features from each.
Power is still provided by a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6, producing 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. This takes us back to our original point of comparison: the new Supra. The BMW/Toyota effort is quite a bit torquier at 365 lb-ft but only produces 3 horsepower more from its 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6. And while the 50th Anniversary Z picks up a few pounds from some of the convenience equipment, it still clocks in at 3,386 pounds with the manual gearbox. Almost a perfect match for the 3372 pound Supra.
The torquier inline-6 does help the Toyota get off (and down) the line faster, but the 370Z might be as close as you can get if you require a manual transmission in your import dream coupe—and it can all be done for almost $20,000 less than what you’d pay the Toyota dealer. Even this Anniversary trim still comes in at $13,000 less than the price of a base Supra, all while being able to row your own gears.
Of course, Nissan would like you to focus on the value proposition and the heritage livery while ignoring potential demerits—such as a decidedly old-fashioned infotainment system. Looking for Apple CarPlay? Keep looking—in the Toyota dealership. And while the Z offers rev-matching with every shift, modern features like adaptive cruise control are conspicuous by their absence.
We all know the days of analog sports cars are coming to an end. If you’d like to rage against the dying of that particular light, the 370Z is an affordable and plucky way to do so. It’s a driver’s car. We could use a few more defiant holdouts just like it.