The 370Z Roadster ideally complements its tin-top sibling's performance, driving dynamics and curvaceous good looks.
- 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster; 3.7-litre, six-cylinder, petrol; six-speed manual; two-door roadster: $74,990*
- Metallic Paint $495 (Fitted - Monterey Blue)
Words by Matt Brogan | Photos by Matt Brogan & Brendan Nish
The Nissan 370z has been a sales success for the Japanese brand since going on sale last May, and with more than 800 examples already sold, has already defied Nissan's initial sales expectations. In fact, Nissan's Z models have been the brand's best-selling sports nameplate since the first example, the Datsun 240Z, went on sale back in 1969.
So when Nissan introduced an exciting open-air version of its well renowned Z car last month, its plans to continue down that winning sales road were well and truly set in stone, and as we found out this week, the topless version of the 370Z ideally complements its tin-top sibling in terms of performance, driving dynamics and curvaceous good looks.
When you think of soft-top sports cars, "soft" is usually the key word - nasty scuttle shake, poor poise and nervous handling the typical trade-offs for the joy of some wind in your hair. But not this time. The 370Z Roadster is equally as capable and exhilarating to drive as its full-framed counterpart and boasts added bracing through its 'A' pillars, side sills, doors and boot to ensure none of that taut, composed on-road feel is lost.
The additional weight (some 60kg) required to keep the Roadster in shape is barely recognisable from behind the wheel. The car certainly doesn't feel any heavier, its revised double wishbone (front) / four-link (rear) suspension arrangement perfectly tuned for grippy and balanced mid-corner feel, sharp turn-in response and perfectly settled braking. Surprisingly, the 370Z Roadster is still pliant enough to remain comfortable when cruising at a more leisurely pace, even if the lightweight low-profile 19-inch forged alloy wheels radiate their fair share of road noise.
Steering feel is sublime, easily on par with Z's more expensive European rivals offering a precise, linear action that delivers a firm, meaty feel as you turn from centre. The leather-clad wheel is pleasant to the touch yet remains small enough in diametre to still feel purposeful and sporty. Disappointingly the steering column is only adjustable for tilt, not for reach.
Brake pedal feel is another highlight of this fast-paced package being firm but still tactile enough to allow a fine level of control over those large 355 x 32mm discs (front, 350 x 20mm discs at the rear). The braking system is further enhanced by ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) for added peace of mind.
Under that big bulging bonnet, Nissan's award-winning 3.7-litre V6 engine delivers a cracking 245kW of power from 7000rpm. The free-revving DOHC unit offers aggressive acceleration with the 0-100km/h run managed in just a whisker over 5.6 seconds. In-gear performance is suitably strong, the masterful six-cylinder unit undeviating in its run to the top of the tacho, a brawny 363Nm of torque (@ 5200rpm) more than enough to break traction with a sharp stab of the loud pedal.
In this instance, the 370Z Roadster is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox with Nissan's SynchroRev Match system taking care of the footwork when downshifting (a seven-speed automatic is also available). It's a nifty system, and works flawlessly to match the speed of your gearshifts with a well-timed throttle blip preceding each click back through the close-ratio 'box. The only real downfall, if you can call it that, is that the exhaust note isn't as aggressive as it could be in complimenting the car's muscular orientation, and lacks any real 'bark' from inside the cockpit, even with the roof off.
Powering along the open highway 370Z Roadster is settled, comfortable. It's grip on the road steadfast as you head into meandering B roads for an enjoyable weekend at the wheel. Reassuringly, drive to the rear wheels is positive and smooth in transition though quick switchback turns thanks to Nissan's Viscouse Limited Slip Differential (VSLD)... when you want it to be.
Pleasingly for the hip pocket, the powerful V6 is also quite efficient, our week of 50:50 stop-start city traffic and fast-paced highway cruising resulting in a combined fuel consumption figure of 12.1L/100km, less than a litre more than the official ADR result of 11.2L/100km. CO2 emissions are 247 grams per kilometre (combined). The 370Z sips only premium unleaded fuel (95-98 RON).
Inside, the 370Z's twin cockpit layout presents a driver-orientated array of the latest first-rate equipment including a pumping Bose six-CD tuner, satellite navigation with seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth & iPod connectivity, and two of the best sports seats in the business. The driving position is comfortable, supportive, yet obvious in its sports car intent with the deep, legs-forward leather and suede upholstered pews both heated and electrically adjustable.
Fit and finish is exceptional throughout the modern cabin. All switchgear has a tactile, quality feel. The instrument panel tilts with the steering column so as to always be in view, and houses the tachometre front-and-centre for that race-car feel. The dashboard and instrumentation is back-lit if orange for sharp night time illumination while upfront, dusk-sensing xenon headlamps offer a clear view of the road ahead after dark.
Unlike most cars with fancy polished pedals, the 370Z Roadster's stainless steel offerings do not lose grip when your shoes are damp thanks to protruding soft rubber grips. The pedal box is well-spaced with a responsive, connected feel ideally suited to the car's performance credentials.
In fact, the only real downside to the cabin is slightly awkward 'C' pillar visibility with the roof in place and the subsequent lack of reversing sensors or a rear view camera. The omissions feeling a little out of place in comparison to the rest of the car's well appointed kit list.
Taller drivers may also find the headroom a little tight, especially on entry and egress. Annoyingly the folding canvas roof is also a touch noisy with a few 'clunks' noticed as its stows behind the seats. Additionally, there's a little buffeting noticed when the roof's off, but it's not so bad as to detract from the freedom topless motoring adds to this impressive little package.
On ths plus side, the roof's operation takes less than 20 seconds to deploy or retract, meaning a quick costume change at the traffic lights is managed without fear of being beeped at. It also doesn't impinge on cargo space like some folding metal lids. The boot, Nissan says, is big enough to swallow a single set of golf clubs, and even offers a "how to" placard inside the lid.
With dual front, side and door-mounted curtain airbags, fixed roll over bars (located behind the seats) and three-point inertia reel seatbelts with pyrotechnic pretensioners, the Nissan 370Z Roadster boasts a comprehensive level of safety equipment that's right up there with Europe's finest. Add to this Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control and it's a given the car will achieve a five-star safety rating when testing is carried out later in the year.
At a touch under $75,000, the Nissan 370Z Roadster represents tremendous value for money, and is without doubt one of the best examples of a real soft-top sports car this side of 100-grand. It's exciting to drive, beautifully styled, thoroughly modern and packs a real push in the back when you bury the right foot - and who doesn't love that.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer and does not include dealer delivery, on-road or statutory charges.