Although summer is a memory in the rearview mirror for most of us, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy a roadster – in fact, cooler weather and leaves changing color make fall one of the joys of owning a drop top.
And if you’re looking for joy in a roadster, look here.
The 370Z is getting to be a senior citizen in the sports car world. The coupe appearing in 2009, the roadster in 2010. Mind you, there have been updates, including a facelift – but the basic vehicle is pretty much the same, even as its approaching it’s 10-year birthday.
Thank goodness, they got it right from the start. The 370Z was a nice upgrade over the 350Z. And today’s roadster looks especially tasty, with sharp aggressive lines, and a fabric top that mimics the coupe’s lines especially well when up, and looks expensive and special with the top down.
One nice change for 2018 is the new Passion Red color, taken from the sibling Infiniti lineup. And it looks like you’d expect from Nissan’s luxury channel, with a deep finish that really pops in the sunlight. It’s a handsome color and our roadster turned a lot of heads – not bad for an 8-year old design.
A stitch here, a tweak there…
Inside, the interior remains true to sports car with the tachometer dead-center in the gauge binnacle, flanked by the speedo and trip computer. One of the Z’s cool party tricks – the gauge cluster moves with the steering column, so you always have a clear view. Cool.
Also cool is the three-gauge pod mounted high on the center the column – a tradition that harks back to the original 240Z.
It all works as part of Nissan’s 3-layer design philosophy: The Information Layer (gauges, etc.,) all at eye level. The Operation Layer that houses controls that are easily identified by touch, and the Holding Layer, which includes the nicely bolstered sport seats and padded transmission tunnel sides to help hold you in the turns.
The seats deserve special mention. With cutaways at the shoulder level and in the seat bottom – it’s designed to give arms and legs freedom of movement when shifting and cornering. There’s even a small bump in the center of the seat bottom to help keep you sliding forward under heavy braking.
And while we’ve driven some “performance seats” that were frankly brutally uncomfortable, the Z’s seats are wonderfully supportive, even for taller drivers. Combined with a cockpit design that wraps around the driver, you feel serious sports car intent the moment you get in.
What also surprises us is the little niceties in our roadster. The materials feel like they come from an Infiniti as well, with cushy synthetic suede inserts on the door panel and transmission tunnel, subtle stitching – even heated and cooled seats (super-nice on a roadster).
You do get a little sense of its age with the electronics – the 7-inch VGA touch-screen monitor is nice, but you’re not going to find goodies like Apple CarPlay to entertain you.
The entertainment system is under the hood.
Then again, the 370Z is a sports car, and if you’re bemoaning the lack of connective tech, you’re missing the point.
The 370Z has always been a bit of a beast – and we mean that in a good way. Under the hood is a muscular 3.7-liter V6 that kicks out an impressive 332 hp, and 270 lb-ft of torque. It starts with a rich, dark, snarl and pushes you easily along. Up until 5,000 rpm its smooth and relatively well-mannered. Above that it gets harsh, noisy, and really tests your commitment to going to all the way to the 7,500 rpm redline.
Our roadster was equipped with the 7-speed automatic, which functions extremely well in the daily drive, but picks up the pace without effort, and seems to relish manual-style shifting through the paddles or the lever. It even blips and rev-matches the rpms on downshifts, for added entertainment. It’s a good pairing with the slightly more laid-back demeanor of the convertible.
You’ll find the chassis is up to the engine’s game – some roadsters feel loose and creaky – but the 370Z feels nearly as solid as the coupe, and there’s nary a hint of chassis flex to be found, even over railroad tracks.
That not only reinforces an impression of a quality build, it also helps you enjoy the well-developed suspension. 19-inch alloy wheels and a firm, flab-free ride give tremendous composure in the turns and massive grip as well.
Everything feels exceptionally well balanced. This isn’t a Miata that you fingertip around turns, the steering is well-weighted and precise, and you grab the Z by the scruff of its neck and power into and out of turns with a huge smile on your face. It’s made all the better with the top down and the song of that vocal V6 singing in your ears. It’s an immensely entertaining drive.
Just as impressive, with all the serious handling gear here, the Z serves up a comfortable ride that makes it easy to live with. You will live with a bit more noise than roadsters that have folding metal tops, but the nicely sized trunk is payback for your choice.
Speaking of payback, putting a Z Roadster in your garage starts at $41,820. Pop for the Touring model, and you get leather, navi, and Bose premium audio for $46,570. We would go for the Touring Sport like our tester, all the goodies above, plus Nissan Sport Brakes, Limited Slip differential and 19” RAYS alloy wheels – all the goodies an enthusiast could ask for. For you, $49,400. Our tester had the optional Passion Red, and carpeted floor and trunk mats, for a grand total of $51,210 including destination. It’s well priced – significantly more than a Miata. significantly less than a comparable Porsche or Audi.
The end is near?
You can’t help feeling that the 370Z has been honed into a fine driving instrument. Everything works well, looks lovingly put together, and is still one sexy looking sports car. That said, car years are like dog years, and new competitors like a fresh Audi TT, Porsche Boxster and Mazda Miata may cause even the most committed Z car lover to stray.
Which means now is probably time to grab that Z of your dreams.
Who knows how much longer it may be around? But trust us, for the pure joy of driving, you don’t want to miss out.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.