Friday 23rd July 2004


NISSAN 350Z CONVERTIBLE

Nauman Farooq has been sunning himself sans roof

This is the Nissan 350Z Roadster, the drop-top version of the 350Z coupe that was launched in North America nearly two years ago.

I have always thought of the 350Z as a nice car, but nothing close to being a great car. It needed a little something to make it more exciting. My idea for excitement would have been to slap a couple of turbos and give it a more vocal exhaust note, but Nissan had other ideas.

They decided, that in order to make the 350Z more exciting, it needs to lose its head. So, they did just that, but is it more exciting than the coupe? In a word, "No."

Yes, it is certainly more enjoyable to drive around in an open top car, but that's about the size of it. In every respect, it drives just like the coupe, which is no bad thing of course.

Nissan engineers certainly did their homework on this one, since this Roadster feels just as solid and scuttle free as the coupe version. That makes it a very comfortable car - no shakes, no rattles, no nasty tings to give you a headache. However, is it fun to drive? Yes and no.

Yes because it is decently fast (0-60mph in 5.8 seconds, top speed about 150mph) and on the highway, it climbs up to speed very quickly and smoothly. At most times, I'd stay in 6th gear and feed in the throttle, and it would do very naughty speeds, very easily. More impressively, this car is very, very stable at high speeds. At 135mph (on a closed private runway), it feels more stable than some supercars. Top-down aerodynamics are good too, making it a comfy car to drive top down on the motorway.

The handling on long sweeping corners is very impressive too, it would just grip and grip, never scaring you, never feeling like it'll bite you, never losing composure. So, on long trips it is wonderful, but in the city it's the other way around.

In Town

The six-speed manual gearbox is horrid. It feels neither meaty or flimsy, it's a new in between that two, and thus very unsatisfactory to use. I really don't like it! If I were to buy this car, I'd honestly opt for the automatic version (auto is a no cost option). The clutch is similarly as unsatisfactory, so even more reasons to buy one with an auto-box.

Surprisingly the engine also feels rough and stressed at city speeds. It used the same 3.5 liter V6 as in the coupe and which produces a healthy 287 hp and 274 lb/ft of torque. That might sound like decent power, but it doesn't feel like it. Like I said before, it is great on highway speeds, but in the city, it struggles to give you rocketship starts. It's actually quite a tiring car to drive in town.

While the car is superbly planted on high speed sweeping corners, it is the other way around through tight corners. I wished it would handle like a Mazda Miata, but it just doesn't.

Unlike the Miata, the 350Z Roadster does have a power top, and a very slick one too. Just release the catch from the windscreen, and let the electrics do the rest. It even disappears under a tonneau cover, which has the double bubble design leading upto the roll bars. It does look rather tasty with the top down, and I found myself driving past many glass-fronted buildings.

The interior is very good too. First of all, it is very well appointed, and build quality on the most part is very good. It looks good too, and functions quite well due to some clever design features, best of which is the tilt steering wheel, which takes the dials with it, so you never obscure the dials. Other features like automatic climate control, full power adjustable seats, and a Bose sound system are welcoming features.

The bright Xenon headlights are great, making night driving that much more pleasurable.

All in all, it's not a bad car at all. Yes, it does have its shortcomings but all cars do. Priced at CAN$52,900 I can forgive many of them. The only option available is a navigation system, which will set you back another CAN$3400.

Compared to some of its rivals, this is a very good deal. This isn't a focused sports car but it is a good touring car.

Nauman Farooq