Nissan Z370 Roadster looks, feels racy

Nissan Z370 Roadster looks, feels racy

Nissan 370Z roadster

Memorial Day weekend always conjures up images of speed, especially this year, with the Indy 500 marking its 100th anniversary, so it’s fitting that this week’s test car is speedy.

With its lightning bolt headlights and taillights, the tested “black cherry” Nissan Z370 Roadster qualifies as racy looking, too.

The 3.7-liter, 332-horsepower V6 is no slouch, either. The V6 is hooked up to a six-speed manual that not only helps you slip the car easily through the gears, but sounds fabulous doing it.

[![2011 Nissan Z370 Roadster Touring snapshot]( "2011 Nissan Z370 Roadster Touring snapshot")]( to enlarge.
The Z370 delivers a precise feel and crisp handling that allows you to clip off sharp turns whenever you have the inclination. The wheel is well weighted to deliver good feedback and the car is modestly weighted at 3,497 pounds.

Form-fitting seats hold you snug and cradle you as you maneuver the car into tight corners, keeping your body under control so you can better control the car.

The Z has a power top that takes roughly 20 seconds to fully drop or rise. A hardtop convertible is preferable, but usually that arrangement costs $15,000 or $20,000 more. So the cloth top is an upside for cost, but a downside in that it doesn’t block much road noise.

If you suspected the Z was a pretty stiff ride, you would be right. The 100.4-inch wheelbase allows you to feel most road imperfections and can become jiggly at times. Yet the ride has improved from the last Z car I tested several years back. It had such a severe ride I couldn’t enjoy it. This one is much better and would be a fun car on shorter road trips.

That brings us to trunk space. Again, you know it’ll be limited in a small convertible, but this has a minuscule 4.0 cubic feet. A couple of overnight bags or briefcases and you’ll fill it up.

It’s also not exactly easy to crawl in and out of such a low-slung roadster. Just be aware that you’ll need to park where you can swing the long doors out fully for easy entry and exit.

[![Nissan 370Z roadster interior]( "Nissan 370Z roadster interior")]( interior is rewarding.
The interior is rewarding. In addition to the snug black leather seats, there are suede door inserts and pewter-look door releases and trim, knobs, shifter and three-spoke steering wheel hub. I like the way the gauges look and the fact the gauge pod moves up and down with the tilt/telescope steering wheel. That wheel also is squared, so it’s easier to get your legs under it, a big help for lanky drivers.

However, the gauges feature orange digital readouts that are hard on the eyes, especially at night. Carmakers need to take note and move on to red or blue, which are much easier to see.

Yet there’s push-button start and easy to reach power seat controls. Unlike many buried low on the front of the seat or on the side where you can’t get at them when the door is closed, these are on the top right side for the driver, right next to the console.

Dash controls are simple and uncluttered, which helps the driver focus on driving, not playing with electronics. Three round gauges atop the dash add to the car’s racy look, while simply displaying the oil and battery readings and a clock.

[![Nissan 370Z roadster exterior]( "Nissan 370Z roadster exterior")]( is where the Z has a big advantage, with a base coupe starting at $30,610, and a base roadster, the drop-top version, at $37,520.
The test car adds a fancy navigation and electronics system ($2,150) that includes a 7-inch color monitor along with hard drive for music and USB connections. I’m not a huge navigation system fan, but this one had XM NavTraffic. The freeways light up red, yellow and green on the map, so you know where to expect bad backups. I tested it one Friday evening and it was completely on cue.

Gas mileage was better than I expected. The EPA rates this at 18 mpg city and 25 freeway. I got 20.1 mpg in a 50/50 mix, and yes the roadster takes premium.

Price is where the Z has a big advantage, with a base coupe starting at $30,610, and a base roadster, the drop-top version, at $37,520. This was the upscale Touring edition, so the sticker starts at $41,070 and the test vehicle hit $47,370.

There aren’t many other roadsters with this much style and performance and a sticker below $40 grand.

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