For some strange reason (dumb luck I suppose), my time behind the wheel of the new 370Z from Nissan has been met with frustrating limitations. When first released in coupe form last year, I found myself only getting to spend an afternoon with the vehicle and most of that during rush hour. More recently, Nissan sent me the roadster version of their little sports car, and this occurred during the freak snowstorm around Valentine’s Day. Needless to say it was stuck in my driveway for several days, and I only got to drop the top once (OK, twice, but the one for the snow effect photo doesn’t count).
As Nissan found the new look for the latest Z, sporting model numbers coinciding with the new engine size, one would get the impression that inspiration came from a certain German automaker legendary for its sports cars. And I for one do not fault Nissan for this even if it is mere coincidence. Setting target goals at the Porsche level is certainly ambitious and while the notion of calling the new 370Z a “poor man’s Porsche” might enter the mind, it does not do the Nissan justice.
“As expected, the 370Z Roadster delivers an exhilarating connection to the air, wind and environment on top of the new Z Coupe’s exceptional levels of performance,” said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc. “But perhaps unexpected for a car this sporty is its greatly enhanced refinement and quality – as seen in features such as its one-touch, auto-locking convertible top and beautifully crafted interior.” Also offered are an array of technology and convenience features, including the first-ever Z Roadster-available heating and cooling ventilated net seats, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, satellite radio, Nissan Navigation System and Nissan Intelligent Key.
Roadster or Coupe, the new Zs share one of the most advanced drivetrains available for affordable sports cars today. This includes a standard 332-horsepower 3.7-liter DOHC V-6 engine, choice of 7-speed automatic transmission or close-ratio 6-speed manual with available “SynchroRev Match” (the world’s first synchronized downshift rev matching manual transmission), refined 4-wheel independent suspension and 4-wheel vented disc brakes (with available Nissan Sport Brakes). The new powertrain not only adds more power to the Z lineup it increases fuel economy as well, up to 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway in manual or automatic trim.
Our tester featured the manual gearbox with SynchroRev technology and I love this new feature. I am no sports car driver, nor do I play one on TV, but this new system will instantly have you looking and sounding like one in no time – and for extreme novices will also save engine wear and tear from misplaced gearshifts.
The new Z is quite comfortable on the road despite its sporty underpinnings. It will stick through a corner while not vibrating any fillings loose. In ragtop Roadster form it is not as quiet inside as the Ford Mustang with the top in place but is more livable than Mustang once the lid is stowed.
Interior comfort is tight but livable, especially on fair weather days. No cargo space is sacrificed when the top is lowered as it stows in its own space and there are little shelves behind each seat for additional “clutter.”
The test model Nissan shared with us was loaded to the teeth and finished in Sport and Navigation packages. This did add a bit to the final sticker ($46,205 when all was said and done), especially painful given the amount of time the Z was undrivable due to Mother Nature.
Despite my luck with driving the new Nissan Z I do like the vehicle. Would I buy one? No, I need a four-season vehicle, and were I in the market for a convertible I could not get one right now anyway. The one I want won’t be ready until sometime next year. Until then all I can say is “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”