Britain and Portugal have more than a time zone in common, it seems. As the A8 motorway snakes its way north from Lisbon, its surface fluctuates from sublime to ridiculous and then back again, like a hastily patched and sporadically maintained UK road. The hard-working chassis of the 350Z I’m driving only gets four or five miles respite at a time.
Here comes a smooth section. The speedometer’s reading 90kmh, and there’s a dusty caravan of traffic to pass. In goes the clutch, and a modest flick of the throttle sets the rev counter’s needle spinning beyond 5000rpm. At the same time Nissan’s rorty 3.5-litre V6 opens it lungs, and I slot the precise gearlever between sixth and fourth. The car squirms slightly in the direction of the fast lane, and we surge towards 276bhp, 6200rpm and well into three figures.
We enter a tunnel and another blip on the throttle followed by a step back down the gearbox has the V6’s exhaust note rebounding off the steel above and, with no roof in its path, directly back into the cabin. For this is the 350Z Roadster, and it opens for business in the UK on 3 March.
Lifting the lid
Those at Nissan’s California design centre will tell you the drop-top 350Z has been planned from the 350Z’s inception. That’s believable; although the silhouette is not quite the same without the coupé’s sweeping roofline, overall it looks cohesive. And with the canvas stowed, the Roadster’s stunning.
Under the skin it’s the same as the tin-top – the same aluminium 3498cc V6 mounted longitudinally under the bonnet, connected to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, a carbonfibre prop shaft and a limited-slip differential. No automatic gearbox will be offered for European buyers, unlike those Stateside.
For structural rigidity, extra steel has been welded into the Roadster’s doors, sills and around the A-pillars, and diagonal spars have been added under the floor. What results is somewhat less stiff than the coupé and more than 100kg heavier. At 1647kg the 350Z Roadster weighs more than a BMW 6 Series.
Inside, the only notable changes are powered, heated seats as standard (they’re optional on the coupé), and the deletion of the option for a mobile phone receiver, which also means the wheel-mounted audio controls bite the dust. The coupé’s sizeable boot has also been reduced to 130 litres of well-packaged storage running the full width of the car’s stern – enough for a golf bag, Nissan says.
The rest of the space is filled by the folding roof that unclips at the tug of a handle, and electrically motors backwards into a compartment behind the cabin using a button beside the steering wheel. The process takes 20 seconds, and only works when stationary, with your foot on the brake.
On the road
Stir the Roadster’s V6 into life with the roof down and it almost instantly justifies the £1500 Nissan will charge over the coupé’s asking price. Up to motorway speed, the cabin remains serene enough to really enjoy the performance. Go much faster and the exhaust’s rumblings begin to get lost amid the whistling, but this isn’t excessive – you have to be well past 100mph before it becomes a problem.