This was never meant to be a do or die shoot-out between two cars. And it mostly still isn’t, but fate put a red Nissan 370Z Coupe and a red BMW M240i Coupe into our road test garage during the same week.
So, there was no way we weren’t going to take them to Gerotek and throw them around a little and have some fun.
The Nissan 370Z has been around for ages now and was given a gentle nip and tuck that saw the likes of metal chrome door handles, a black painted rear diffuser, darkened headlamps and rear combination lights and new 19-inch alloy wheels added.
And the BMW M240i is a way newer model, but it too was given a bit of a makeover that saw LED headlights fitted as standard, along with further interior upgrades and new connectivity services.
They are both coupes, they are both rear wheel driven, they weigh about the same too at 1 455kg for the BMW and 1 461kg for the Nissan, the German produces 250kW and the other 245kW, the BMW starts at R714 200 and the Nissan at R669 900, and they are both aimed at the enthusiast who likes to hit the twists or race track.
For me, that is where the similarities end, and they start on their path to being completely different in application and feel.
They are quite obviously from complete opposite ends of the automotive spectrum. A real old school versus new school thing. Even in terms of styling, as subjective as it is, and both cars are good looking in their own way and will attract their own fans, it’s hard to argue that the 370Z would be more at home in Sandton than the M240i.
The Nissan makes use of properly direct six-speed manual gearbox along with a new EXEDY high-performance clutch (there is an automatic version of the 370Z available).
A simple push of the stability control button and everything is 100% off and then it’s up to you, the clutch and the rpm you want to dial in to get the 370Z moving. Which was a rather refreshing thing to experience in this digital world of ours.
But dial in too much rpm and you get lovely black lines behind you as you light up the rear tyres, and as much as this is fun, it doesn’t make for fast acceleration runs. Of course, missing a gear also becomes a reality when you try and push for the best times.
The BMW, on the other hand, makes use of a very slick self-shifting eight-speed sports automatic gearbox, that you can speed up control of and manipulate almost anyway you want at the touch of a button. But this does mean you need to push a few more buttons to get the traction control systems to let you play.
The positive is that the gearbox offers a launch control function that dials in the exact rpm required and regulates wheelspin to provide you with optimum sprint times, over and over again. And because you can also select manual mode, you can still control the gear changes as you want.
Under the bonnets of the two cars, things are hugely different again. BMW makes use of a 3.0-litre straight six engine that is force fed massive amounts of air with the assistance of a turbocharger. The Nissan has 3.7-litre V6 engine that has to suck air into it to produce power.
On paper the difference is only 6kW in favour of the BMW, but thanks to the already mentioned gearbox differences, and the fact that the air on the Reef does not contain as much power producing oxygen as the air at the coast does, the straightline fight goes easily in favour of the BMW.
The around 18% power loss as a result of the lack of oxygen up here is really felt and seen in the recorded times.
The M240i gets to 100km/h in just 4.75 seconds versus 6.66 seconds of the 370Z.
This trend continues right through the range, and at 1km the BMW is doing 228km/h and the Nissan only 206km/h. And when it comes to in gear acceleration, the same happens again, the 100km/h to 200km/h times come in at 11.67 seconds and 17.87 seconds.
So, while the Nissan must build rpm to produce torque, the BMW’s turbo means there is plenty of instant torque available and it romps away.
This also translates into better fuel consumption for the BMW at 9.7-litres per 100km and 11.9-litres per 100km for the Nissan. C02 emissions are also in favour of the BMW, but that is if you are even interested in these numbers. Where the two cars get a whole lot closer is when it comes to handling.
The Nissan has a good old school hydraulic steering fitted versus the electrical assisted unit on the BMW. One is quick to forget how good these old school systems were when it comes to driver feel and feedback from a car.
And as much as I would like to say that the 370Z would run the M240i close on the track, and think the actual corner apex speeds would be very similar, if not in favour of the 370Z, I can’t because the extra torque and electronic driver aids of the BMW will pull it clear of the Nissan, which needs a bit of actual skill and talent from the driver to get the best out of it.
Truth be told, the older Nissan is outgunned by the newer BMW, that most people would go for when it comes to shopping at this price point, but there is something pure about the 370Z.