Nissan’s market research folks say the 370Z coupe’s average buyer is a 32 year old male, while the typical buyer for a Roadster is an older guy. The photo shows a balding, grey haired old dude. He’s 43! Hey, that’s me! The guy in the photo is more like 53. What does this have to do with the 370Z Roadster? Well, nothing really except that I don’t feel as old as the guy in the picture. I do however enjoy top down motoring.
For as long as manufacturers have been selling convertible versions of existing hardtops, driver’s have complained about body flex. Take the roof off a body and it is very difficult to retain the torsional strength of that original shell. With the 350Z, Nissan did a terrific job stiffening the chassis so that very little flex was noticeable even when entering a steep driveway. For the 370Z Roadster, the chassis is not only lighter than the previous car, but also front and rear body torsional stiffness is up 40-45% over the previous model while rear lateral bending is up a whopping 60%. So what does this mean to you? It means that on the road, the Roadster feels and handles almost exactly the same as the Coupe, even on a nice twisty road.
For the 370Z, Nissan has switched from the previous vinyl soft top to a more luxurious cloth top. Some complained that the previous model didn’t look coupe like when the top was up, so for this model the rear section has been extended 6 inches and sloped. I must admit this does look a tad more attractive. A one touch button eliminates the need to unlock the roof header before opening, which can be accomplished while the car is moving at a slow speed. The choice to remain with a soft top rather than switch to a power hard top means that this roadster actually has a usable trunk. We stuffed a pair of backpacks in there and there was lots of room left over. They say a pair of golf clubs fits easily.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the Roadster and the Coupe on the inside is the Roadster’s heated and cooled seats. The a/c for your bum is a nice touch when cruising with the top down in hotter climes.
Our tester was a Black Cherry coloured model with the optional Bordeaux top. Even during the early morning California fog, the top was stowed as we headed towards the coast. Thanks to a very heavy State Trooper presence along the route, we stayed more or less withing the legal limit as we wound our way through the redwood forests. Our relaxed pace was probably a good thing as it meant that avoiding the tiny deer that ran out in front of us was stress free. We stuffed close to 600 pounds of auto writers into the poor beast and yet we didn’t test the bump stops once! Even with a heavily taxed suspension, the ride was supple and smooth. Corners were rounded with ease, even when several blind turns tightened unexpectedly. Of course with 332 horsepower ensured that bumping the pace up a notch occasionally had to happen. Our route led out of the forest and through a deep valley that dumped us out onto the Cabrillo Highway, heading north alongside the Pacific Ocean. It was a great day to have the top down!
Perhaps the 370Z’s strongest suit is price positioning within the marketplace. With a starting price of $46,998 CDN, adding in the 7 speed autobox, Sport Package and Navi brings it to only $54,998. 370Z Roadster buyers are likely to only shop two other models, BMW’s Z4 and the car the Z is most compared to, Porsche’s Boxter. To compare these cars to the Z, it only makes sense to use the models which more closely match in horsepower. The 300 hp 2009 Z4 sDrive35i Roadster begins at $61,900 while the Boxter S is $72,200 with 310 ponies. While the Boxter may arguably be a stronger track car, the 25 grand you’ll save on the 370Z will park a pair of Versa’s in the driveway for the daily commute!