370Z A Soft Top With Real Muscle
Like any good high performance convertible coupe there is a degree of complexity about the Nissan 370Z roadster; you don’t just jump in, start the engine and zip away like you do in a Nissan Maxima or Tiida.
No sir, in the 370Z you clamber down low into a ground-hugging sports car. To set your driving position, the steering wheel and instrument cluster adjust as one unit.
The 3.7-litre V6 erupts into life with a deep growl when you hit the starter button (no normal key start for this beast) and on the road, the roar from the grippy 245/40 R19 Bridgestone Potenza tyres lets you know this is a serious high performance bit of automotive technology you’re handling.
But you can’t have everything just right and - typical for Car Showroom - our week in Nissan’s wonderful roadster was accompanied by bitterly cold Melbourne winter blasts and torrential rain…
What You Get
Nissan added the Roadster to the 370Z family earlier this year. A high-tech, purposeful sports coupe, the 370Z is certainly no mundane, mainstream sporty, boasting hard-core features like a composite carbon fibre tail shaft and automatic throttle blip on downchanges for the manual version to constantly remind you this is the brand responsible for the stunning GTR supercar.
We tested the range-topping $77,990 seven-speed automatic version of the ‘Z’ Roadster – $3,000 less buys you the six-speed manual model.
Its low-riding soft-top gives the Roadster an even more imposing on-road look than the 370Z coupe and inside the comprehensive standard features, including satellite navigation, more than justify the sticker price.
While the folding rood and associated hardware have added some kgs, the Roadster still delivers the sharp driving dynamics which are the hallmark of the 370Z.
Under The Hood
Nissan’s 3.7-litre V6 debuted last year. It’s an all-alloy, DOHC design with Nissan’s VVEL (Continuously Variable Valve Event and Lift Control system).
Maximum power is 245kW at 7,000 rpm (the redline is an inspiring 7,500 rpm) and peak torque of 363Nm at 5,200rpm. Drive is to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or – as tested – a seven speed automatic transmission with sequential manual mode and steering wheel paddle shifters.
The automatic returns combined cycle fuel consumption of 10.9l/100kms and exhaust C02 emissions are rated at 257g/km.
But, like the GTR’s twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6, it’s the way this thing loves to rev and the accompanying audio track from the large twin-pipe exhausts that make the 370Z’s V6 very special.
Inside, the Roadster is immediately distinguished from the 370Z coupe by thicker A-pillars and a fixed glass wind deflector (with a stylish Z logo etched in it) mounted between the twin hoop roll bars behind the headrests. Otherwise it’s the luxuriously appointed, sportily purposeful and comprehensively equipped Z-car we know.
Seats are sculptured and leather–trimmed, with the drivers’ seat offering four-way electric and manual adjustment (four-way electronic for the passenger). Like the Z-coupe, to set your driving position, the steering wheel and instrument binnacle adjust for rake as one unit.
That sculptured binnacle contains three gauges – the usual speedometer and rev counter, plus a third with fuel tank level and outside temperature display. Just to the left is a cluster of three pods with gauges for oil temperature, voltmeter and a clock – very reminiscent of the very first 240Z from back in 1969.
Nissan’s excellent cruise control screen and operating buttons are mounted under the three pods and immediately below are controls for the audio and air-conditioning. The audio set-up is a six-CD, eight-speaker Bose system with MP3/WMA and Bluetooth.
Alloy pedals and alloy-look trim features round out a stylish and sporty interior layout.
Exterior & Styling
While the front end is exactly the same as the 370 Coupe, there are some significant styling changes for the Roadster. For starters the windscreen is shorter and the soft-top adopts a lower and more rounded shape than the coupe’s hardtop roof.
In addition, there is a hard tonneau cover, which extends forwards when the roof is folded (concealing the roof) to give the Roadster a classic ‘double cockpit’ style. And a compact radio aerial is mounted on the boot.
The roof is controlled by one button and only takes 20 seconds to lower.
Unlike some rivals, the roof and its components are housed separately ahead of the boot - even so, luggage space isn’t huge (as per any open-roof coupe) …best for overnight luggage.
On The Road
Nissan’s sports cars (the Z and the GTR) are the real deal – they’re not lightweight ‘nancy boy’ sporties. That translates into firm weighting for the power steering and relatively stiff chassis set-ups – meaning great feedback at all speeds.
Like the 370Z coupe, the Roadster was a delight over our high-speed mountain roads loop thanks to Nissan’s smartly calibrated double wishbone alloy suspension and the Z’s is beautifully balanced chassis.
The stylish five V-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels are nine inches wide at the front and 10-inches wide at the rear. Mounted with Bridgestone Potenza tyres they deliver high levels of grip.
Back in town, the Z Roadster easily accounted for the working week traffic crawl. Predictably, ride was a tad harsh over Melbourne’s train and tram track crossings – as it is any high performance sports car.
Reverse parking the ‘Z’ Roadster takes some acclimatization – what you would call the B-pillar of the roof is quite thick and curved and the rear window is tiny. However the direct (2.6 turns lock-to-lock) steering and miniscule 10-metre turning circle ease navigation into tight spots.
The Z Roadster delivers all of the sharpness of the Coupe model in soft-top form and reminds us again how the resurgent Nissan can deliver sports cars that are fair-dinkum and rank amongst the world’s best. In that context, the Z is keenly priced.
Mazda’s MX5 is a lot less coin than the Z-car, but is an altogether different car. Without doubt a joy to drive, but a long way short of muscle compared to the ‘Z’.
Other soft tops like the Volvo C70 and Lexus IS250C are more cruisers than sports cars.
A real performance car with a soft top; hearty V6; sharp price; great interior
Practice reverse parking in a quite street before tackling the CBD