What is it?
The convertible version of Nissan’s recently released 370Z sports car. Like the coupe, the 370Z Roadster is both shorter and wider than the old 350Z droptop, and is powered by a larger 3.7-litre V6, producing 326bhp.
What remains unchanged is the Z’s back to basics approach – this being an honest take on the sports car: rear-wheel drive, a large capacity naturally aspirated engine, solid mechanical gearchange and in the case of this roadster, a conventional fabric roof.
What’s it like?
Aesthetically a great deal more resolved than the old open 350Z. Because the roof is longer and has a more steeply racked rear screen it flows more neatly into the lines of the car. In short, it looks much less like an afterthought, such that the 370Z is more handsomely proportioned with the roof up.
To improve perceived quality the roof is now constructed from cloth rather than vinyl, and has an inner skin to enhance refinement. With the roof lowered, the absence of metal work above the rear deck emphasises the 370Z’s broader more overtly sculptured rear arches. Meaning even in roadster form, the 370Z is a very muscular looking car, much more so than the old 350Z.
To drive, the 370Z roadster is pretty close to the coupe. Which means good on technical ability (pace, grip and poise) if a touch light on finesse (engine refinement and delicacy of feedback), but crucially, big of charm.
A Boxster may offer rewards that run deep and last longer, but there’s an immediacy, honesty and accessibility to the Z that’s difficult to resist. To which this roadster detracts only marginally while providing several other benefits. The roof mechanism and chassis strengthening add just 61kg to the weight, so the performance suffers only slightly and is still entirely adequate.
While there is more body flex, for a convertible it is well checked (rear torsional stiffness having been improved by 45 per cent over the 350Z). Where the Roadster scores over the coupe, principally comes down to noise. The Roadster allows a better appreciation of the V6, while also suffering a little less road roar with the roof raised (the cabin being separated from the rear wheels by the roof storage compartment).
Roof down the refinement is less impressive. While Nissan claims less wind buffeting than the Boxster, this doesn’t tally with my personal experience.
Should I buy one?
We have a few reservations about the 370Z - mostly that its general approach, and specifically its engine, aren’t the most sophisticated. There would also appear to be some variation between cars; I tried two roadsters, one had a smoother engine, the other a better gearbox, but both handled more sweetly than the coupe we had for our Britain’s Best Drivers car event.
However, it’s impossible not to be won over by the exceptional blend of entertainment, performance and value for the money. And while the Coupe remains the purer model, the roadster version asks far fewer compromises than the 350Z ever did.