Nissan has taken its successful sportscar formula to the next level with the as you find it 370Z Roadster. Steve Walker reports.
Car manufacturers seem to be devoting more and more time and energy to telling us how their latest model is cleaner, more fuel efficient, safer, cheaper to run and better value than the one that preceded it. This is important information but it can be more than a little boring. What happened to the good old days when the overriding considerations were how good a car looked and how well it went? Nissan is doing its bit to encourage a return to the important things in motoring with its 370Z Roadster, a sportscar from the old school.
Ten Second Review
Forget, if you can, the Nissan 370Z Roadster's 3.7-litre 332bhp V6 engine, its advanced SynchroRev Match gearbox technology, its folding electric hood, its independent suspension, performance braking system, stiff bodyshell and muscular styling. This car is much simpler than all that. It's about driving enjoyment and as such, you can't really mark it down as anything but a major success.
The 350Z was the model that revived the Nissan Z car for the modern era and we can all be thankful for that. The Japanese marque has a long history of quick and colourful cars with a Z in their title but they were fading in the memory by the time the 350Z made its appearance in 2003. It stood out in the marketplace with its macho approach, lusty V6 petrol engine and accessible pricing. Better still, it happened to be an extremely talented driver's car. The coupe had a hardcore feel rare in sports cars at the sub £30,000 price point and the open-topped Roadster was certainly less a hairdresser's car than a tattooist's one. The 370Z doesn't depart from the themes of the 350Z, merely aiming to refine Nissan's heady formula.
The engine is a 3.7-litre V6, that's more than bored-out version of the unit in the 350Z. It features Nissan's VVEL (Variable Valve Event and Lift control) technology which varies the timing of the intake valves and enables a tighter control to be kept on the fuel/air mixture in the cylinders. The result is improved efficiency but that's not the point of the 370Z Roadster. The engine produces 328PS at 7,000rpm at which point it will be making a noise to send shivers down your spine and accelerating at a rate liable to have a similar effect. Peak torque of 366Nm is generated at 5,200rpm which also hints at the delights to be gleaned but holding onto those gears as the revs rise. The 6-speed manual gearbox is quite a piece of engineering with its optional SynchroRev Match system. It can automatically match the speed of the engine to that required for the next gear by 'blipping' the throttle. It means that drivers of any skill level can create the impression of having executed the perfect heel and toe downchange without necessarily needing to know what one is. The system can be disengaged by those who prefer less assistance. There's also a seven-speed automatic option with paddle shifters which also has a rev matching function when operated in manual mode.
Design and Build
The 370Z Roadster shares its chassis with the Coupe version, utilising its fully independent suspension with a number of lightweight alloy components. Loping the roof off a car can play havoc with its rigidity but the Roadster version counteracts any wobbly tendencies with extensive reinforcement measures beneath the skin. The stiffness of the car is also helped by the fact that it was designed from the ground up with this convertible Roadster version in mind. The roof itself is of the soft-top variety and can be raised or lowered in 20 seconds at the press of a button. Compared to the old 350Z roadster, it has an enlarged heated rear window for improved visibility and a cleaner silhouette with the hood raised. The Roadster inherits the muscular lines of the Coupe version and if anything, the aggression has been ratcheted up a notch or two from the old 350Z model. Those in the know will spot styling cues from Nissan's mighty GT-R supercar including the front air-intake with its twin aerodynamic fins rising like fangs from its lower lip. Inside, a number of the old car's trademark features are still intact, such as the instrument cluster attached to the steering column that moves as you adjust the driving position to guarantee an unhindered view of the dials. The two-seater layout is retained with the high centre console dividing driver and passenger seats into separate pods. The trademark chunky gear lever of the 350Z is fatter than ever and there's plenty of adjustment built into the Roadster's figure hugging sports seats.
Market and Model
Even standard Roadster models come equipped with smart 18-inch alloy wheels, electrically adjustable seats, an engine start/stop button, Bluetooth connectivity with steering wheel mounted controls and Bi Xenon headlamps. Upgrade to the GT Pack and the list of standard kit grows to include black suede and leather seats, an 8 speaker BOSE audio system, 19-inch forged alloy wheels and cruise control. It's easy to see buyers being seduced by the pricier GT Pack models which also have excellent heated and cooled electric seats plus the option of specifying satellite navigation and the 7-speed paddle shift semi-automatic gearbox. The Navigation package is made up of a 9.3GB hard disc music and navigation system with USB connectivity.
Cost of Ownership
There are no two ways about it, the 370Z is a bit of a brute, even in Roadster form. You've got to love its honesty but buyers may be less enamoured with its fuel economy of around 20mpg and emissions that would shame a moderately sized bonfire. Owners can still offset the car's environmental impact by planting a couple of Norwegian pine forests and fostering a family of Polar bears. It's testament to the fun factor attached to Nissan's roadster that many would deem such a sacrifice to be well worth it.
In the age of hybrids, common-rail diesels, stop and start technology, hydrogen fuel cells and carbon off-setting, it's easy to forget what the essential fun of driving is all about. Nissan's 370Z Roadster serves as timely reminder. It isn't the most practical or politically correct destination for a £30,000 car budget but it could well be the most fun and it's hard to put a price on that.