DRIVEN: First Drive: 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster

August 3, 2009
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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
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Let's go back to that interior, especially the metal pieces and how well they are crafted. I think Nissan hired a machinist to concoct the perfectly, whimsically carved and molded bits of satiny aluminum. I'm talking about the small knurled rectangles on the steering wheel that operate cruise control. The trim ring around the pushbutton starter. The Z in the center of the steering wheel. The shift paddle clefs. The compound surfacing of the shift lever trim plate and the trim plates around the speedometer and the other gauges in the instrument binnacle. It's all entrancing and exquisitely fitted. This is an interior on Audi's plane of perfection, but funkier.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
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Our test car's color combination - silver over maroon with a maroon top - is not for the faint of fashion, but the different hues mesh well. Aside from a retractable roof and some options, it was a familiar cockpit to enter, as I had recently driven our 370Z coupe test car. I like the intimate nature of the Z cockpit, whether it's covered by a fabric or steel roof. As for the 370Z roadster? It's nimble and precise, and it sports a disputably better profile than its sibling's bullfrog-like stance.
Jeffrey Jablansky, Intern
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The 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster is a winner. It was a great ride for a sunny July weekend. It's not on sale yet, so it's a very rare sight and it definitely got noticed. And while it's a stretch to say that the 370Z, in either coupe or roadster form, is a beautiful car, it's certainly a strikingly handsome one. I examined it many times over the weekend in a variety of light conditions and settings, and it I liked it better the more I looked at it. Its voluptuous curves really catch and reflect a lot of light, whether it's bright, midday sunlight or evening twilight or your garage's carriage lights at midnight. In fact, the 370Z roadster looks especially good in the glare of artificial nighttime light, so it ought to snag a prominent position in the valet lot of your favorite dinner restaurant. And as Joe Lorio points out, the new 370Z Roadster has none of the awkwardness that afflicted all previous Z-car droptops.
The 370Z roadster is a great drive. It feels good wrapped around you. There's lots of power from the VQ V-6, the seven-speed automatic works very well, especially when you shift it manually with the gearshifter in the left gate, and the car is commendably stiff and handles bad pavement impressively. In fact, I sought out bad pavement just to feel it hammer through it so well. Handling, braking, steering feel, and all the other performance basics are top-notch. Okay, maybe they're not quite as finely tuned and finessed as they are in the Porsche Boxster, but try finding a Porsche Boxster loaded to the gills like this car for $47K.
From a livability standpoint, the 370Z is also impressive. I have driven so many hardtop convertibles over the past couple of years, I am so accustomed to losing cargo space with the top down, I just assumed that this would be the case with the 370Z, forgetting that it has a traditional ragtop. So when I was heading to Costco to buy two 40-pound bags of dog food, I thought to myself, keep the top down for the trip there, because you'll surely have to have it up on the way home, to make room for the dog food. But then I checked the trunk and realized, duh, it's a ragtop, and it does not intrude on the trunk one bit. Yep, the 80 pounds of dog food fit, no problem, plus four gallons of apple juice. The rest of the Costco loot went into the passenger's footwell.
Like my colleagues, I was also impressed with the interior, especially the suede-like fabric lining the door panels and the legrests for the center tunnel. I did find that the optional Bose stereo was distorted at very high volume while playing XM satellite station 81 dance music, but Nissan tells me that the radio in our pre-production car was not yet fully calibrated. When playing the classical station, it had commendable clarity.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
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When Nissan dropped off the new 370Z roadster for us, I couldn't stop thinking about how little I cared for the uninspiring 350Z roadster. What a difference a generation makes. The 370Z might be the only car where I'd prefer a convertible over a coupe. This particular unit was loaded to the brim with options like the navigation package, sport package, and a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
Nissan says the transformation from coupe to roadster adds 200 pounds, but the 370Z roadster feels lighter than the coupe when you're tossing it in and out of turns, thanks to Nissan's efforts to retain structure rigidity in the Z roadster, which can be a challenge for droptops. Top movement is a bit harsh and noisy, and hopefully will smooth out as production begins. But a soft top that can open with a push of a button is always appreciated; with no latches to pull and no levers to grab, it's easily a one-person job.
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Although our test car didn't have Nissan's syncro-rev manual transmission, the seven-speed automatic did a great job of keeping up with aggressive up and down shifts. Like its manual counterpart, it will blip the throttle for you when you downshift using the paddles. The new Z roadster is night and day compared with its predecessor.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
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The 370Z Roadster is an absolute blast to work hard. The engine is powerful and responsive, the steering is direct, and the suspension is capable. The ride can be very rough at times, but it's more comfortable than the 370Z coupe's ride. Nissan has done a fine job tuning the seven-speed automatic for the 332-hp engine. The rev-matched downshifts are excellent when you're on the throttle, but when braking or off-throttle, the downshifts can be quite harsh. I love that Nissan has attached the tall shift paddles to the steering column, not the wheel. They are easy to find no matter how far you've cranked the steering wheel. This is an detail that far too many automakers get wrong, especially on their sporty cars.
The headliner on the drop top is a nice touch, but there is room for improvement. When reaching over your shoulder to grab the seat belt, you can see screws and springs where the top meets the body. The interior of our convertible seems much nicer than the coupe we recently drove, but that's largely just due to the navigation system, automatic climate control, and premium seats. Compared with the coupe, the controls and surfaces are far nicer here.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
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2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster
Base price (with destination): $42,540.00
Price as tested: $47,190
Options:
-Navigation package $1,850
-Sport package $2,800
Fuel economy:
(city/hwy/combined)
18 / 25 / 21 mpg
Engine:
Size: 3.7L V-6 VVEL
Horsepower: 332 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission:
7-speed automatic
Weight: 3469 lb
Wheels/Tires:
19 x 9-in front; 19 x 10-in rear RAYS lightweight forged wheels
245/40WR19 front; 275/35WR19 rear Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires

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