With muscular styling and a menacing soundtrack, wheelworldreviews Editor DAVID HOOPER takes in the delights of Nissan’s raucous 370Z Roadster.
HERE comes summer – and if you like it hot, cars don’t come much hotter than this stunning 370Z Roadster.
I loved the coupe version of Nissan’s hugely impressive muscle car when I tested it a few months ago in these pages, so obviously I took little persuading when the nice lady at Nissan invited me to try its convertible sister, which has only just gone on sale.
True to form though, when Hooper gets a convertible to test, the sun runs for cover, so I was forced to go topless under the slate grey skies of our beautiful county.
Not that I cared one bit mind you, because the noise, and I mean noise, this engine makes, the smell of the hot Brembo brakes after a good work-out on my favourite country roads, and a good heater, were all I needed to give me a nice warm feeling inside.
Nissan’s designers developed the Coupe and Roadster models side-by-side from the start and both look superb with their flared wheel arches, boomerang-shaped light units and chunky, brushed aluminium door handles. The new Black Rose colour of this particular car, which changes in different lighting conditions, also helped to get it noticed.
There are two trim levels – the 370Z Roadster and GT Pack, with the standard model coming with 18-inch alloy wheels, an engine stop/start button, keyless entry and start and electrically adjustable seats, which on the GT Pack car, are air conditioned to either warm or cool your posterior.
Sinking into the driver’s seat for the first time you are met by a dashboard which is focused towards the driver. The three main dials, dominated by the rev counter, are set in traditional cowls which hint back to the original Z cars of the 1970s, while the latest sat-nav system, which dominates the centre console with its array of buttons and dials, definitely doesn’t.
Behind the steering wheel are two paddles, something else you wouldn’t have found on the 370’s ancestors, which allow the driver to change gear without taking their hands off the steering wheel when the £1,200 optional auto gearbox is fitted.
I’m not much of a fan of automatic gearboxes at the best of times, even less so in sports cars, but this one does come with seven gears, and gives the driver the option of controlling when those gears are selected, so I was interested to give it a try and compare it to the six-speed manual gearbox of the coupe.
The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t need to build my leg muscles up to cope with the heavy clutch pedal in the manual car. Select “D” for drive and off you go, that’s all you “need” to do and it’s fine around town. The car will do the rest for you, if you let it, but it’s much more fun, more rewarding and more exciting to slip the gear selector to the right and take control of the gear changes.
This way, when you unleash its 328bhp, you are in charge and with a little practice, can perfectly time the changes, or more importantly hold the same gear between two corners, without the car trying to change up all the time. The switching of cogs is reasonably smooth, but sometimes the gearbox can be caught out and snatch a bit if a bootful of throttle is demanded at the same time.
The powerful 3.7-litre V6 engine doesn’t find the rev limiter until the 7,500rpm mark is reached on the dial, by which time you are sandwiched between a cocophony of noise, with the engine at the front, and the exhaust pipes at the rear. The benchmark 0-62mph mark flashes past from a standing start in a mere 5.5 seconds, and its mid-range thrust is hugely impressive, but one of the best things about this set-up are the downshifts, which has the car blipping the throttle automatically to smooth out the changes. It sounds fantastic.
With such a huge amount of power going through the enormous rear wheels, they are easily tempted to give up their grip, but fortunately a very competent traction control system keeps you safe.
The car’s handling is acceptable, but not as sharp as I would have liked near the limits, which considering it was designed as a convertible, disappointed me slightly. Its chassis should be stiffer and the scourge of many open top cars, scuttle shake, is in evidence on rough surfaces. When I pushed the Roadster hard through tight corners on rough roads I couldn’t place it as accurately as I would have liked and under hard braking, it wriggles and squirms beneath you. That said, the limits on this car are very high, and most owners won’t approach them very often.
It’s addictive stuff though – and with the roof off, it’s better still. The canvas top folds away behind the rear seats in 20 seconds, but unlike some of its competitors today, the car has to be stationary. It’s not that quick either, when you consider that an MX-5 completes its transformation in around 10 seconds. The big Nissan will also retract its side windows fully, but then leave you to put them back up again, instead of doing it for you.
At the back, there is a boot, complete with a diagram which explains how to squeeze in a golf bag, but the boot space is shallow and very limited.
On the plus side, you do get a large fuel tank, but if you really use this car’s performance, you will need it.
With a C02 emissions figure of 262g/km and Group 20 insurance, this isn’t going to be a cheap car to live with, but who wants cheap thrills?
For most petrolheads who like the wind in their hair, the sun on their face, lots and lots of noise and a silly grin on their chops it will be a price worth paying.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Nissan 370Z Roadster 3.7 V6 GT Pack.
370Z RANGE: From 3.7 V6 (£28,345) to 370Z Roadster 3.7 V6 GT Pack (£33,745).
ENGINE: 3,696cc, 328PS V6-engine, driving rear wheels through 7-speed automatic gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 262g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 155mph. 0-62mph in 5.8 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 17.9mpg.
Fuel tank: 72 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 20.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.