Car reviews - Nissan - 370Z - Roadster
Sublime engine and transmission combination, tight handling, plug-and-play nature, classic sportscar proportions
Room for improvement
Dated cabin, wind noise with roof up, clunky soft-top operation, light steering
Old-school thrills mean the Nissan 370Z Roadster remains an ageing favourite
3 Oct 2018
JOHN Farnham cops a lot of flack for retiring but never staying retired. He just keeps coming back for another tour, seemingly unable to turn down the pay check. In many ways, the Nissan 370Z Roadster is the same, it keeps coming back for more.
A quick history lesson reveals that the 370Z broke cover in 2008, and its predecessor, the 350Z, was rolled out in 2001. Compared to other ‘new’ models currently sold in showrooms, it is old, very old.
Thankfully, Nissan is aware of this and has given the sportscar a tickle ahead of its 10th birthday. Changes are relatively minor, meaning much like Mr Farnham, it is the same old routine yet again.
To make matters interesting, the Roadster only accounts for five per cent of 370Z sales in Australia, with the Coupe responsible for the remainder. Nevertheless, it returns for another round, unmoved by its status as the unloved sibling.
But the question remains, should the 370Z Roadster be forced into retirement, or does it still have something meaningful to offer? Read on to find out.
Price and equipment
While the Nissan 370Z Roadster is priced from $63,490 before on-road costs when paired to an automatic transmission, it was subject to a $4940 price cut in August last year. Arguably better value than ever, it comes with keyless entry and start, power-folding heated side mirrors, dual chrome exhaust pipes, dusk-sensing Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights, a rear glass wind deflector, and a space-saver spare wheel.
It also rolls on newly designed 19-inch Rays alloy wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres (245/40 front, 275/35 rear). Keen-eyed trainspotters will also notice the 370Z's new smoked-out headlights and tail-lights, while its exterior doorhandles have also been given the smoky treatment. These changes conclude what is best described as a ‘comprehensive’ update. Nevertheless, it still looks the business, offering a classic sportscar silhouette.
Inside, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, satellite navigation, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, an eight-speaker Bose sound system, four-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, manual lumbar- and height-adjustable driver seat, aluminium pedals, climate control, leather-accented sports seats with cloth insert and cruise control feature.
Our test car was finished in Cherry Red metallic paint (a $495 option) that is a new addition to the 370Z colour palette, replacing the preceding Bordeaux Red. In our opinion, the new hue is stunning – similar to that of a candy apple but not quite as delicious.
When you jump into the 370Z Roadster’s cabin for the first time, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in a second-hand car. Make no mistake, it is old. In an era where model life cycles are typically five to seven years long, this sportscar is on the verge of its 10th birthday!
To make matters worse, it traces its mechanical history back to the 350Z, which broke cover in 2001 – nearly 17 years ago. While the R35 GT-R is rightfully referred to as ‘Godzilla’ by its adoring fans, the 370Z may be the real dinosaur in Nissan’s line-up.
Why is the 370Z’s age so important? Because it is a time machine of sorts, which is both a good and bad thing – more on the former later.
Remember when dials and digital read-outs in cars were orange? The 370Z does – it is awash with them, providing a retro feel that was disliked even during its heyday. See past these and the steering wheel design will be the next eyesore, featuring an unergonomic button layout and shape that has not withstood the test of time.
The centre stack? Unergonomic. It is buttons galore, overcomplicating what should be a very simple set-up. Given a 7.0-inch infotainment system is present, it is hard to comprehend why such an array of needless shortcuts is required. Perhaps climate controls and a few obvious shortcuts, such as navigation and radio, would be better served here.
Nevertheless, the 370Z gets a tick for its generous use of soft-touch materials for the dashboard and upper door trims as well as swatches of Alcantara on the doors and knee rests. Bonus points for the three driver-orientated dials mounted on top of the dashboard – boy-racer chic, we say.
Given its Roadster name, this 370Z is able to whip its soft-top off in about 20 seconds. To say wind noise easily penetrates the cabin when topless would be an understatement, but it is an occupational hazard after all – and a forgiveable one at that. However, the rear glass wind deflector does a good job of reducing this.
Conversely, driving with the soft-top on is unfortunately a similar story. Wind noise is teamed with ambient sound to create a noisy environment. Unlike its hard-top counterparts, the Roadster is susceptible to plenty of noise intrusion, meaning the volume controls are consistently put to work to drown it out.
We also noticed a rattle coming from the middle of the soft-top when on the move. At first we thought it may have been the fabric billowing in the wind, but upon closer inspection it appears that the metal bracing may have been at fault. Either way, this could be an issue limited to our test car.
As mentioned, the soft-top can be stowed within 20 seconds, but this operation is clunky, very clunky. Again, it might just be our test car, but every time the rear deck lifted, it sounded like something was broken. Naturally, it wasn’t, but this was unnerving nonetheless. Thus, operation is less than refined, buyers take note.
Engine and transmission
The 370Z Roadster is motivated by a 3.7-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine that pumps out 245kW of power at a screaming 7000rpm and 363Nm of torque at 5200rpm. While other sportscars have turned to turbocharging for their powertrains, the 370Z stays true to its atmo formula, which is fabulous.
As these outputs suggest, the Roadster helps keep alive some of the old-school driving thrills that have been lost to turbocharging and the onslaught of electrification – namely a redline that begs to be hit and performance that is not concealed by an array of driving modes.
Bury your right foot and the 370Z will happily bounce off the redline before crisply shifting gears. This becomes highly addictive as the drive continues, making you want to wring out the engine for every kilowatt and Newton metre that it is worth. The bent six is extremely tractable, which makes it so enjoyable to use.
The type of emotional response that it elicits is vacant in most turbocharged powertrains. Yes, you miss out on a wad of power early in the rev range and a meaty flat torque curve, but there is a certain pleasure in putting the engine to work to achieve the desired outcome. Hence, the Roadster serves to highlight what we have lost to tightening emission standards.
In the 370Z, a seven-speed automatic transmission with torque convertor, manual mode and steering column-mounted paddle shifters exclusively sends drive to the rear wheels. This unit features rev-matching on downshifts, helping to smooth out gear changes.
The result? Pretty darn good. Yes, the purist in us cries out for the six-speed manual gearbox that is $2500 cheaper and features a new high-performance Exedy clutch, but the automatic is a good compromise for those that fancy their Roadster as more of a relaxing break from reality.
Thankfully, this transmission is one smooth shifter, meaning it offers more driving pleasure than the jerky dual-clutch set-up that some other sportscars run with. It is also willing on kick-downs, downshifting without hesitation, but sometimes it is reluctant to drop another gear when called upon.
To be frank, this engine and transmission combination is hard to fault, although it doesn’t match the aural theatre of a big-bore V8.
Nissan claims fuel consumption on the combined cycle test is 10.9 litres per 100 kilometres. During our week in the 370Z Roadster, we averaged 12.6L/100km over a mix of city and highway driving. This return is actually pretty good considering there were several stretches of ‘spirited’ driving during our tenure.
Ride and handling
Given the 370Z Roadster measures in at 4265mm long, 1845mm wide and 1325mm tall with a 2550mm wheelbase, it is beautifully set up to be a keen handler. Its speed-sensitive hydraulic power steering is another welcome throwback, standing in opposition to the electric set-up employed by nearly every new model launched recently.
The result? A sportscar that is very happy going around corners, even if its tare weight of 1534 kilograms is on the more portly side for a model of its size. Our only complaint is the steering is a touch on the lighter side, with our preference for a heavier system meaning that it fell short of perfection.
Despite this, the 370Z feels extremely tight and flat around the bends, with the extra heft from its soft-top folding mechanism failing to noticeably spoil dynamics. It is more than happy with a little bit of throttle out of corners, remaining composed when encouraged to oversteer. This is partly thanks to its limited-slip differential that helps keep things on track – or road, whichever you prefer.
A multi-link suspension with stabiliser and strut bars features on both axles, with the front set-up using double wishbones while the rear is independent. As is expected from a sportscar like the Roadster, ride quality is appropriately firm, but not in a bone-crunching way.
Uneven and unsealed roads, potholes and speed bumps are met with a disturbance in ride quality, but it is not overly exaggerated. Sitting so low to the ground, it is not hard not to feel like one with the road, but that’s all part of the Roadster experience. Hardly worthy of being called uncomfortable, but you didn’t expect this to be a review about a Rolls-Royce, did you?
Safety and servicing
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has not crash tested the 370Z range, while its European counterpart, Euro NCAP, has not assessed the model either.
Standard safety features extend to the usual electronic traction and stability control systems, anti-lock braking, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, six airbags (dual front, side and curtain) and a reversing camera. Parking sensors are not offered.
If you’re looking for advanced driver-assist safety technologies, best look away – there is nothing to see here. Autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control are among the notable absentees.
As with all Nissan models, the 370Z Roadster comes with a three-year/100,000km factory warranty, including three years of 24/7 roadside assist. Service intervals are bi-annual or every 10,000km, whichever comes first.
They say ‘age is just a number’, and while this may hold true for human beings like you and I, the same cannot be said for cars like the Nissan 370Z Roadster. Make no mistake, it is an elder statesman in the new-vehicle market.
However, this can be viewed as both a good and bad thing. On one hand, the technology and design games move on so fast in one year – let alone 10 – that the 370Z has quickly fallen behind the times, with this most apparent when sitting behind the wheel.
On the other hand, the Roadster serves as a welcome throwback to the glorious naturally aspirated sportscars of yesteryear. Its V6 and automatic transmission are such willing participants, encouraging the driver to push that little bit further and enjoy the experience for what it is.
You can’t help but walk away from driving the 370Z Roadster with mixed feelings. There’s a certain duality to its personality – a love/hate relationship if you will. The purist in us is overcome with joy while our contemporary side is full of discontent.
If only the future of Nissan’s Z models wasn’t shrouded in such mystery. It definitely still has the emotional charm for at least one more proper run. Your move, Nissan.
Mercedes-Benz SLC300 (from $100,900 before on-road costs)
Without a direct competitor at its price point, the 370Z Roadster faces challenges from the segment above. The SLC300 is competent and comfortable but a little unexciting when behind the wheel.
Audi TT S Roadster (from $105,661 before on-road costs)
More mature than before, the TT S Roadster exquisitely balances performance and comfort. A style icon it its own right, this Audi seals the deal with its confidence-inspiring all-wheel-drive grip.
Porsche 718 Boxster (from $119,960 before on-road costs)
Long considered the king of the drop-top two-seat sportscars, the 718 Boxster is a dependable winner, offering monumental grip, unrivalled build quality and strong engine performance.
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