This may be Nissan's first graceful convertible. The 350Z convertible looked very much like a hatchet job, executed after the hatchback coupe was designed. The old 300ZX was even worse, with its basket-handle roof bar; the 240SX convertible, from the same era, was another ungainly piece, with its B-pillar stubs.
As much as the 370Z is improved on the outside, it's even better when you're on the inside looking out. The swept-down door panels curb the sitting-in-a-barrel feeling imparted by the old car, and it's great to look out over the sculpted hood. Additionally, Nissan, which only recently cost-cut its way to some of the industry's crappiest interiors (including that of the '04 350Z) has done a handbrake turn, and the new 370Z is a welcome beneficiary. Not only are the door armrest and panels nicely padded, but so are the sides of the console, against which your leg rests. The steering wheel feels great, and Nissan's nav/stereo/trip computer interface is one of the easiest in the business. The seats, which are heated and cooled, have lots of lateral support, but they're also very firm which could feel confining on a long trip.
The convertible top is nicely finished inside and, with a decent-sized rear window and reasonable blind spots, the view out isn't too bad. The chromed button to operate the power top is easy to find, and Nissan brags that the car needn't be at a dead stop for the top to be raised or lowered. But it can be operated only at speeds up to 3 mph; Porsche allows a far more practical 30 mph. Also, push the button on the door handle and you can lower the top before getting in, which is fine, but an even better trick would be to have a button on the remote to lower or raise the top, as BMWs do.
This 3.7-liter, fourth generation of Nissan's VQ V-6 sounds better than other recent examples of this engine, and it certainly flings the 370Z down the road with enthusiasm, despite the automatic transmission in our test car. Wind buffeting at 80 mph is minimal. My drive along Michigan's arrow-straight freeways wasn't much of a handling test, although the 370Z was not upset by bumps on the off-ramps; in fact, the ride over bad pavement was one of this car's most pleasant surprises. The steering effort and quickness felt right, but the Z lacks that last measure of tactility that makes the steering in a Boxster so divine.
Overall, an impressive first drive. The Z roadster is as good to drive as it is to look at, and it's a car that seems like it would be fun to live with, as well.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor