This the recipe for a winner, especially for the casual performance addict.
Picture this: the current slate of available convertible sports cars personified as a naive squad of soldiers landing against the hostile beaches of “its-a-sports-car”. Their objectives? To raid the town of “practicality” and seize the points of “profitability”. Since the 2000s, these beaches have been stained with the red ink of many-a-cancelled sports cars, let alone convertible ones. Yet here we are with the 2018 Nissan 370Z Roadster – a descendant of the Nissan “Fairlady” clan which has been fighting the good fight for smiles per gallon since its introduction in 2002.
The ‘Z’ as most North American enthusiasts would like to call it, is an imposing vehicle even though on paper it’s more or less the same dimensions as the Subaru BRZ (reviewed here). Sculpted with a bulbous flowing figure and bulging wheel fenders, it feels big but it isn’t. The big, black cloth drop-top is a stark yet beautiful contrast to the bright “Solid Red” paint scheme. The red paint pairs well against the optional silver-black 19″ Rays Superlight forged alloy wheels.
Peeking through the wheel spokes are the matching red sports brakes. Clocking in at $57,048, this 370Z Roadster is as fully loaded as they come. Whilst that might be jaw dropping in number alone, let’s take a quick look at comparables in this performance-size segment. The Ford Mustang GT Premium Convertible (reviewed here) comes in at $45,859 whilst the BMW M240i Cabriolet goes for a cool $57,550. Yes, yes, yes, I’m aware of the marathon runner that Mazda has in the MX-5 (reviewed here) which costs considerably less, but the 370Z is a hefty zanbatō longsword compared to the multipurpose katana blade that the MX-5 is.
Case and point: at the heart of the 370Z prowess is the venerable 3.7 liter VQ37VHR engine lashing out a sumptuous 332 horsepower and pushing with 270 lb-ft. of torque. Make no mistake, whilst this isn’t the monster powerhouse that Nissan makes for a higher price point (I’m looking at you Godzilla), it still is one heck of a sumo wrestler. It will move all 3,558 lb. of 370Z to 100 km/h in roughly six seconds. Like a good sumo wrestler, it has a voracious appetite – averaging 12L/100km in my week with it mostly in the city. Official numbers are 13.6L/100km city and 9.7L/100km highway on premium fuel.
Our tester came coupled with the optional seven speed automatic and whilst it is no dual sequential gearbox, it does shift fairly quickly given its age and the blissful throaty roar of auto rev-matching downshifts are satisfying. Most of the general populace will not be able to tell the difference and that’s what this car is all about. Old school at its finest.
Sitting in the 370Z yields a good driving position provided you are at least 5’7″ tall. The reason I say this is because whilst the adjustable seats do drop or raise, the massive hood bulge that dominates the lower part of your vision can obscure sightlines towards the corners of your car. That being said, I have known a few shorter guys that have competed in the 370Z for at least a year of autocross and still managed to fare decently well. The leather-wrapped seats hug your body gently and offer enough supports as your rip through tight turns and on ramps without becoming too intrusive.
Special mention absolutely must be made for the steering wheel which tilts but as it does, so the gauges. Kudos to Nissan for doing this as I normally have obstructed views of my gauges whenever I find my true seating position. A large beefy tachometer stands front and center on your gauges with a multi-info liquid crystal display and a speedometer flanking its left and right respectively. Exactly all of what you need is easily and readily available in front of you. Furthering this point on key visibility – unlike most convertibles which have terrible blind spots with the top up, the 370Z Roadster manages to provide perfect left and right shoulder check visibility thanks to a combination of the aggressively long side windows and a large rear window.
As you focus on the center console, here’s where the injection of modern day technology almost breaks the simplicity that lies behind the steering wheel. The 7″ display that occupies the top of the dash is a somewhat responsive touchscreen but has a large array of buttons and large center dial. Most functions of the buttons are duplicated on the touchscreen and neither one is truly easy to reach. It’s almost as if this infotainment system were ported from another vehicle and shimmied into this car. Navigation can be clunky and sometimes frustrating but the whole point of a convertible isn’t to get from point A to point B efficiently.
The old-school hydraulic power steering provides linear and predictable vehicle directions. It will allow you to retain feeling of the road as you snake the vehicle through the city but offers enough boost where you might forget the mass this vehicle hauls around. As you start to push it beyond the seven-tenths of the performance range though, the laws of physics snap you back to reality. The on-board nannies will allow for a slight bit of rear end wagging but will very firmly haul it all back together for you. The suspension is firmly yet adequately damped allowing you to feel the sensations of cornering forces whilst still magically masking the amount of mass this vehicle bears. But in reality, you’re not going to take this car to the track.
No, you buy this car because as you drop the top, the sun will embrace your face and light you up like no sunroof can. Once the top is down, the 370Z is as marvelous as any convertible is or seeks to be. With the adequate power and a politely audible exhaust note, this is the perfect vehicle for folks who want to dabble in a little bit muscle, agility and sunshine. The Bose audio system that comes with it performs quite well top up or top down and whilst no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay can be had, the Bluetooth audio works quite well. Just don’t be expecting to have great phone call quality.
As my week with the 2018 Nissan 370Z Roadster came to an end, I can see why this Nissan still perseveres to this day: it is truly old school at its finest. Barely any fancy gadgetry and just a plain old good engine, decent transmission (stick with the manual – thank me later), great driving dynamics coupled with an option for topless action? This the recipe for a winner, especially for the casual performance addict. They simply don’t make them like this anymore and there’s no saying on how long Nissan will keep this aging model in their fleet going forward either. Get them while you can.