Nissan 370Z Roadster and NISMO

I'm not expecting a huge amount of sympathy here. California and not one, but two new versions of Nissan's 370Z hardly constitutes the hardest day's work.

First up the Roadster. Like the coupe PistonHeads tried earlier this year in France, the 370Z Roadster is shorter and squatter than the old 350Z. It is also a fair bit stiffer (by around 45%) and quicker, with more power from the enlarged 326bhp 3.7-litre V6 and a reduced kerb weight.

But the most obvious improvement is how much better looking it is. As Chris-R said in his drive of the Coupe, the 370Z takes the old Z and draws out all the surplus fat, leaving a tauter more muscular shape. The same goes for the Roadster, except more so. On the 350Z the roof always looked like a bit of an afterthought, plonked on top leaving an awkward slab-sided rear deck. With the 370Z, the roof is longer and has a more steeply racked rear screen, making the car handsomely proportioned with the roof up. And lowered, the absence of metal work above the rear deck emphasises the 370Z's broader, more overtly sculptured rear arches. Another change carried over from the coupe is the improved interior. Continuing this, the roof is now constructed from cloth rather than vinyl and there is an inner skin to increase refinement.

Heading north on Highway 1 it doesn't take the sharpest deduction to work out why Nissan picked this location to launch the Roadster. Film set locations tend to flatter to deceive. However heading inland on narrower, twistier, and surprisingly empty roads, the 370Z proves more than a mobile sun-lounger. The coupe still offers the purer driving experience, but the roadster gets impressively close. The weight gain is limited to 81kg, so the performance is broadly similar, and while there is a touch more bodyflex, only marginally so. The roadster also brings a few advantages beyond the obvious, firstly that it's easier to hear the engine (for the most part a good thing), but also that the roof storage compartment separates the cabin from the rear wheels, cutting tyre noise with the roof up.

If you get all technical, the 370Z roadster, like the coupe, isn't the most polished product. It has plenty of ability but lacks finesse, particularly the engine, which is punchy enough but a touch coarse at higher revs. But as something to enjoy there's an immediacy, honesty and accessibility to the Z that's difficult to resist. And for the money Nissan is asking (prices for the roadster have yet to be set, but are expect to start at £30k) it offers real value.

So if you find the idea of an open-top Z tempting the good news is that the new 370Z roadster asks far fewer compromises than the 350Z ever did. Of course there will be others, for whom any compromise on performance and dynamics for the benefit of a few sunrays, is borderline sacrilegious. In which case Nissan have something else on offer (at least they do for US buyers).

For a premium of $6000 you get a touch more power (345bhp) and torque (276lbft) from a new ECU and freer flowing exhaust, plus new bumpers, a bigger wing, broader tyres and substantially revised suspension settings. The NISMO Z is sold only as a Coupe and with the six-speed manual transmission. Inside there's a more thinly padded steering wheel, different pedals and manually adjustable sports seats.

I'd been enjoying the roadster, but five minutes in the NISMO is enough to decide I won't be swapping back. The ride is pretty firm, Nissan having more than doubled the rear damping force, but in every other respect the NISMO is a whole heap better than the regular Coupe. It doesn't feel massively faster, but revs more keenly and sounds a lot sweeter. So much so that Nissan's clever SynchroRev Match system isn't needed for sweet heel 'n' toe down-changes. The steering is more tactile and intuitive and the turn-in sharper. Which rectifies the biggest gripe with the stock 370Z; a tendency to understeer a little more than we remember the old 350Z doing. Whether the more extrovert styling appeals is subjective, but what I can tell you is that it looks better in the metal than in pictures, and I reckon it sort of suits the 370Z shape, giving it something of a junior GT-R. Overall the NISMO feels like a Z with a bit more care taken over the areas that matter, but without losing the rawness that makes the Z great in the first place. On the type of road America isn't exactly famous for - well surfaced with a mixture corners from 4th gear sweepers to 270-degree hairpins, the NISMO is hugely entertaining.

With the Roadster and NISMO Nissan have expanded the 370Z range in two directions; on one hand offering an appealing drop top that doesn't materially dilute the driving experience, and on the other, a more extreme and pure coupe. The disappointment for European Z fans is that Nissan don't plan to sell the NISMO here. Which seems both a real shame and a missed opportunity. As with the old Z it is possible to buy individual NISMO components for the 370Z, but not to the same spec as the complete car, and at considerably higher cost. So if you're listening Nissan, perhaps it's worth reconsidering.

Nissan 370Z Roadster

Price: From £30,000
Engine: V6, 3696cc, Front, Long
Power 326bhp at 7000rpm
Torque 270lb ft at 5000rpm
Tyres F: 245/45 R19 R: 275/35 R19
0-60mph - 5.5sec (est)
Top Speed - 155mph (est)
Mpg - No official figures
Co2 - No official figures
Bootspace 119 litres
Kerbwight 1586 kg


Nissan 370Z Nismo

Price No plans to sell in Europe. Yet.
Engine Engine V6, 3696cc, Front, Long
Power 345bhp @ 7400rpm
Torque 276lb ft @ 5200rpm
Tyres F: 245/40 ZR19 R: 285/35 ZR19
0-60mph - No official figures
Top Speed - 155mph (est)
Mpg - No official figures
Co2 - No official figures


Comments (35) Join the discussion on the forum

  • MrTappets 05 Oct 2009

    Squashed lumpy shape, dont like it at all. NISMO sounds like a blast, though.

  • 350zed 05 Oct 2009

    really wanted to like this, but just hate the way it looks. NISMO all the way though

  • forzaminardi 05 Oct 2009

    I think it looks fantastic. The Nismo bumpers set it off beutifully. I want one.

  • ThirdShift 05 Oct 2009

    Heard a lot of mixed reviews on the 370z Nismo, about it being heavier etc>?!?!?!?! How does it compare to the stock version and is it worth the extra premium?!?!

  • Mr Whippy 05 Oct 2009

    The rear arch of the 350Z looked a bit odd, but that one is just HUGE!

    Looks wrong to bulge out so much for a wheel.

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