2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster: First Drive

Making a good first impression, the second time around

2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster: First Drive

First impressions are important and the new 370Z Roadster, unlike its predecessor, makes a great one.

FAST FACTS

1. The 370Z Roadster is powered by a 3.7L V6 that makes 332-hp and 270 ft-lbs of torque and can hit 60 mph in roughly 5 seconds.

2. Roadster models are priced from $36,970 with the Touring trim level starting at $40,520.

3. A Sport Package is offered for Touring models, which adds 19-inch RAYS forged wheels, Bridgestone Potenza tires, larger sport brakes and a limited slip differential.

4. Manual transmission models with the Sport Package also get Nissan’s industry-first SynchroRev Match setup, that throttle blips on the downshift.

During the vehicle launch presentation, one of the product planning folks highlighted how the new Z was designed to be a convertible right from the start – a hint, perhaps, that the roadster version of the pervious model was an afterthought. It certainly looked like one.

Rather than just cutting the top off, Nissan spent time, energy and resources designing the Roadster to give it its own unique personality. If you look carefully at the car’s profile, you’ll see that there’s a flat surface at the top of the windshield, which lets you know as you look upwards that this is where the car ends. Another design cue is the rear tonneau cover with its two bulges, giving a distinct two-seater look to the car, while the center dip between the two humps pours down into the cabin – bringing just a little of the car’s exterior paint color into the cockpit.

Another sign that the roadster’s design was thoroughly thought out is that the car’s drag coefficient is actually lower (i.e. more aerodynamic) than the coupe, which is the opposite of what usually happens when you chop the sleek and solid metal roof off and replace it with a piece of material.

COCKPIT NEEDS A MORE PREMIUM FEEL TO SUIT EXTERIOR DESIGN

As for the interior, we wish we could say the same. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, it just seems to be a whole step below the exterior. When a car looks this wild and goes this fast, it’s only natural to expect more than manually adjustable seats.

On top of that, many of the generic looking buttons remind us of driving a Sentra and the silver plastic trim pieces just look like cheap plastic. Perhaps if our tester had a two-tone cockpit (in delicious burgundy leather) rather than an all black one, it would have made a difference.

Having driven the Z Roadster at a Nissan event where we also tested out several other products from the company, we couldn’t help but notice that the push-button ignition (now standard) is almost identical to the unit you can order for the Versa. Yuck!

Thankfully, some of the other items, like the optional navigation system, have been passed down from the Infiniti lineup.

Nissan also put some extra attention into the convertible’s seats, with taller backs and (on higher-end Touring models) leather with mesh seating surfaces to help keep the driver and passenger cool. Heated and cooled seats are also available on the top-level Touring model.

We were impressed with rear visibility when the top is up. So many convertible models have such massive blind spots that you have to do three shoulder checks just to be sure before you change a lane, which severely limits your ability to drive enthusiastically. The rear window on the Z Roadster might be thin, but it’s wide, meaning that the blind spots are actually quite small.

To a certain extent we can’t harp on the car’s interior too much because, while it might look like a high-priced European sports car, it’s actually a more reasonable $37,000. Still, there are nicer interiors in less expensive cars.

332-HORSEPOWER V6 FEELS LIKE A V8

Push the ignition button and all thoughts of Versas will exit your head faster than the Z will sprint to 60 mph.

Output from the 3.7-liter V6 is rated at 332hp at 7000 rpm and 270 ft-lbs of torque at 5200 rpm, an increase of 26hp and 2 ft-lbs over the past model. And it goes, with a 0-60 mph time of right around five seconds. Keep your foot down and the power delivery stays constant well above that speed. It’s actually hard to believe there’s a V6 and not a V8 under the hood.

The sound of the engine is also impressive, and we think it’s both more elegant and aggressive sounding than the old 3.5-liter motor.

Impressively, with the added displacement and power for the all-new 2010 model, the engine is also more fuel-efficient. The ratings aren’t spectacular, but this is a sports car after all and the 18/25-mpg (city/highway) is an improvement over the old model.

We were a little dismayed that out tester came with Nissan’s seven-speed automatic and not the six-speed manual that does the rev-matching for you, but the auto-box didn’t take long to impress us. With paddle shifters, the gears come almost as quick as you can ask for them. The slushbox also throttle blips on the downshift (rather aggressively we might add), keeping the car stable and making sure everyone for several blocks knows you’ve arrived.

NEW MODEL DESIGNED FOR MORE DYNAMIC DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Both Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control are standard, and trust us… you’ll need them. Slap the go pedal with your right foot and the dash lights flicker like a motel’s No Vacancy sign, as the wheels fight for traction. Better yet, turn the systems off and the Z will kick the tail out on command.

Steering is a high point for this car. It’s heavy and direct and the grooved wheel even fits nicely in your hands.

In every other aspect of the performance arena the 370Z bests its predecessor. Over the past decade so many vehicles have continued to grow in size and weight and only recently has the tide turned towards downsizing. Nissan is ahead of the curve with the new Z, as it has a wheelbase that is 4-inches shorter than the old model, with an overall length that is 2.6-inches shorter and a curb weight is 130 lbs lower thanks to lighter suspension components and aluminum body panels for the hood, doors and trunk. And in the interests of performance, the car’s track is two-inches wider to deliver even better cornering capabilities.

PRICING AND TRIM LEVELS

Nissan has decided to offer the new 370Z Roadster in both a standard trim for $36,970 and a more premium Touring trim for $40,520.

Base models come with climate control, an AM/FM/CD/AUX 4-speaker audio system, power windows with one-touch up/down, power door locks with remote entry and Nissan’s Intelligent Key with push button ignition. Touring models get heated and cooled leather and mesh power seats, HomeLink, Bluetooth compatibility and a six-CD 8-seaker Bose audio system and aluminum pedals.

Unfortunately, nice option packages, like the Sport Package, can only be had on the Touring model, bringing the price to $43,320. The list of sporting goodies in that package includes some stunning 19-inch RAYS forged wheels with big Bridgestone Potenza tires, larger sport brakes (14.0- and 13.8-inches front and rear as compared to 12.6-inches front/rear standard), a limited slip differential and Nissan’s SynchroRev Match transmission.

THE VERDICT

We love the changes Nissan made to the new 370Z Coupe and our feelings carry over to the Roadster model. It’s lighter and faster and its looks, while controversial to some, are appealing to our eyes. Convertible sports cars are meant to stand out, and the Z most certainly does.

In a perfect world the car would come with more premium interior parts and hopefully Nissan will listen by the time the Z is due for a mid-cycle refresh. Still, we most certainly recommend getting behind the wheel for the sort of Sunday drive that trades green pastures and AM radio for adrenaline pumping twisty roads and a sun burnt face.

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