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First Drive: 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster by Motortrend (Red convertible inside)

Not everyone was a fan of the 2004-09 Nissan 350Z Roadster. The styling was clunky. There was too much chassis flex. It felt heavy. The interior was too low rent.

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Old 08-11-2009, 08:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default First Drive: 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster by Motortrend (Red convertible inside)


Not everyone was a fan of the 2004-09 Nissan 350Z Roadster. The styling was clunky. There was too much chassis flex. It felt heavy. The interior was too low rent. It was noisy inside. The convertible top was unlined and made of cheapish-looking canvas/vinyl stuff.


We'd like to think that Nissan had our gripe list in hand when conceiving and crafting the new 370Z Roadster, but likely not. They just read the tea leaves, fixed everything up, and then threw in some bonus tracks for good measure. The body is more curvaceous and better proportioned. The top is longer, more elegant, lined, and trimmed in a richer cloth. The Z's underguts are structurally stiffer, which makes for more precise suspension tuning, and no squeaks or rattles. The interior has gone upmarket. Bonuses: More power, less weight, and a base price increase of just a hundred bucks.


What's not to like?

By now you've read all the stories on how and where the 370Z is different and generally better than the previous gen 350. In summary, it is 2.7-inches shorter overall, riding atop 3.9-inches less wheelbase. Front track is up a half inch, rear track is up 2.2 inches, and overall width increases 1.3 inches. All in, it's shorter, squatter, and more of the visual mass is moved to the rear. And don't ya just love the hips on this thing.


The familiar Nissan VQ-family 3.5-liter V-6 gives way to a 3.7-liter version cranking out 26 more horsepower than before. Transmission choices are strictly high-tech. Standard is a six-speed manual with Nissan's magical SynchroRev Match capability (more in a bit), optional is a seven-speed automatic trans with adaptive shift control, manual mode, and shifter paddles on the steering wheel. The interior remains a driver-centric environment, but the materials choices and design are a cut above the old car's. Best news of all: overall weight goes down, about 150 pounds in the case the 370 vs. 350Z Roadster model. When was the last time you heard of a newer model with more equipment weighing less than the car it replaced?


The morphing of coupe into roadster is anything but a backyard chop job. As mentioned, the new top stack, made by Magna in Germany, is a much higher quality piece. It's lined, and there are no bows or structure visible inside. It's a one-touch deal, and will fully raise or lower in less time than it takes for the light to go from red to green. The old top resembled a football helmet, but this one touches down further back on the rear deck for a longer, sleeker appearance. It's neatly self-covering, with the hard tonneau nicely integrated into the design. Two roll-hoops just aft of the seats look good too, and there's a glass wind-blocker fixed between them. Not going with a retractable metal hardtop saved cost, weight, and complexity. And since the soft-top fits in a small binnacle just behind the seats, there's still a usable trunk.



Heated and ventilated seats are standard; darn handy in a roadster, although the fans for the seat coolers hiss too noisily. Suede inserts on the console and door panels are standard on the Roadster. The top can be raised and lowered from outside the car, using Nissan's new I-Key function, which will be rolling out on other models soon. Don't make fun of the Roadster's longish, deck-mounted radio antenna. It needed to be this height in order to meet Nissan's radio reception quality requirements. But you'll be able to buy a shorter version of it from your dealer, should you wish to sacrifice some AM reception in the name of style.

You can't stack many bowling balls on a bed of Jello. The new Z Roadster's front body section is 49% stiffer torsionally and 10% improved in terms of resistance to bending. The rear body's torsional rigidity is up 45 percent, with 60 percent more resistance to lateral bending. This is huge (sort of makes you wonder how they approved the last one...). The stronger platform means the suspension can be tuned with much greater precision. The other positive byproduct is a whole lot less cowl shake and body shudder when you're on rough, undulating surfaces, or run over a railroad crossing at an angle. We pounded the Z over our favorite really crappy road -- one that will set nearly any car awiggle -- and came away impressed. The worst of it sent one small shock through the structure, but it's nothing objectionable, and a big improvement over the old model. The 370 is now at least on par with a Boxster, one of the best in this area.


Forgetting the hardware and focusing on the drive, this thing is a sunny day blast. The 332-horse motor has got power everywhere, with a fairly linear delivery. The shifter is short, precise, and the tranny's gear ratios are well matched to the power curve. The Rev Match thing is magic stuff. Thumb the button that's imprinted with the shift pattern to activate it (this function has memory, so you don't have to turn it on again after each restart). Then, just hit the clutch and downshift. The computer gives you a Schumacher-quality, rev-matched throttle blip. Think of it as heel-and-toe-by-wire. The old 350's driver inputs felt artificially heavy. The 370's are still meaty, but better balanced. Nicely weighted steering also has good feel, and communication with the front tires. The brakes respond strongly and with a firm, easy to modulate pedal.


Our tester had the optional forged alloy 19-inch rolling stock. That means a pretty firm ride, but it's not over the top (the suspension can be tuned for increased compliance because of the stiffer chassis), and hey, this is a real sports car, not a limo. On the plus side is quick steering and handling response, less body roll than before, and plenty of grip. The new seats are comfortable, and grip you firmly without punishing. Wind noise is commendably low too, with normal conversation still easy at 70 mph with minimal-to-average wind buffeting. Schedules did not permit us to track test the roadster, but we suspect its numbers will be very close to that of the coupe's.

We have issues with the 370Z, and most of them translate to the Roadster. The new 3.7-liter engine has all kinds of power, but sounds harsh and grainy, lacking the sweetness of the old 3.5. Hold the revs at 5000, and it'll vibrate your fillings. We don't notice this problem in the Infiniti G37S coupe, so more NVH work is needed. And the good noise that you get out of the G37 -- the wonderful warble issued by its exhaust pipes -- is too subdued in the Z. The accessory power point is located on the passenger side of the cockpit, below the glove box, at about shin level. Why not put one in the console, were it can be reached without bending over double? The 370's exterior styling is an improvement over the 350s, but the headlight and taillight clusters are over styled. And the hard-to-read, LED fuel/temp/computer readout gauge is another case of function following form.


Track rats will still go for the Z coupe. It weighs less and offers an even stiffer chassis platform. But the Roadster gives up commendably little in terms of performance, and adds all that open air driving pleasure. Did we mention that the base MSRP goes up just $100? Guess we did, but it's worth repeating, because the 370Z Roadster is a much, much improved car for just a measly C-Note.

If you liked the last one, you'll love this even more. If you didn't, it's absolutely time to reconsider.




Source: 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster First Drive and Review - Motor Trend
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Old 08-11-2009, 09:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice!
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Old 08-11-2009, 10:00 PM   #3 (permalink)
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My attempt to make the rear end not look so big...

I blacked out part of the vert cover, removed the antenna, and dropped it.
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Old 08-12-2009, 05:56 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I cannot wait to order mine in black on black!
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Old 08-12-2009, 05:59 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Gorgeous car, gorgeous seats, and nice rump that's so perked up high in the air.
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