Nissan, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster – Road Test

It been a while coming, but I finally managed to get behind the wheel of Nissan’s iconic Z sports car. The last time I was in one – as a passenger – was about 25 years ago! This week not only do I get to drive it, but I get to drive the all-new version – the 2010 370Z Roadster (next week I’m driving the 40th Anniversary 370Z Coupe, so come back to find out about that!).

Has the Z really been around that long? 1970 – that was the first model year – way back when Nissan were called Datsun. I remember the Datsun 240Z – it was one of those cars everyone loved the second they saw it. Powered by a 2.4 liter in-line 6 cylinder producing 150 hp, it was only available with a 4-speed manual transmission, (that ruled out about 98% of the American population as potential purchasers – they only know how to use the right foot when driving). As the Z went through its various upgrades and changes, it got heavier and heavier as well as more and more expensive. After a brief sabbatical, the Z returned to North America (it continued to be sold elsewhere) as the 350Z in 2002. Now we have the 370Z – the best one yet!

First Impressions
Climbing behind the wheel for the first time, it’s very easy to get comfortable in the cockpit. The shifter sits right where your hand falls naturally. The dials and switches are logically placed and easy to use – always a good thing. The driver’s section of the dash moves up and down with the steering tilt adjustment, so the driver always has a perfect view of the gauges. It doesn’t adjust for reach, but I felt perfectly comfortable right away. The fuel and temperature gauges take a bit of getting used to with its little row of lights instead of a normal dial. The steering wheel is the perfect size and has an odd shape – it’s not round, it has several flat spots. It doesn’t distract or detract from your driving pleasure.. it’s just something I noticed right away. Everything you might need to reach for is also included on the steering wheel and are easy to operate once you familiarize yourself with it -meaning that you keep your eyes on the road instead of having to search for anything.

The seat requires very little adjustment because it’s so perfectly shaped – it fits like a glove. There’s plenty of thigh, shoulder and kidney support -perfect for spirited driving – something the 370Z demands you do every second you spend behind the wheel. The seats are heated and cooled. With hot summer days to test the cooling feature, I can happily say that they worked superbly. The cool breeze comes up from the seat and from the back too – I’ve found a lot of other vehicles that have the cooling seats tend to only come from the nether-regions. When the cooling is set to its maximum, I found that the fan was quite loud – not annoyingly so, but distracting – I kept looking around to see if there was a car over my shoulder – that’s the type of sound it made. After a couple of days I got used to it and it was no longer an issue.

The interior is very tastefully executed with soft material where your elbows touch interior bits – it really stood out for me because all too often your elbow sits on a hard plastic door or centre console armrest.

Entering the motorway in the 370Z Roadster is nothing short of spectacular. It just keeps going and going like it’s never going to run out of steam. Once you reach 3,000 rpm it just wants you go faster – right up to the 7,500 rpm red line. A red light flashes to tell you to shift, giving you plenty of warning that the fun will end when you hit the rev limiter. Shifts are slick and smooth, with a nice light clutch that doesn’t need a lot of travel before it engages. One thing I really loved was the number display directly in front of the driver telling you what gear you are in. While all automatics have this feature, I’ve always wondered why it’s never been available in all standard transmission cars. How often have you been driving down the road and wondered if you’ve switched from 4th to 6th gear? Or thought you shifted to 6th, but were actually in 4th? It’s happened to me a few times. This display makes perfect sense and is a simple enough feature to include considering all cars have the electronics there anyway.

Riding on a 2,550mm (100.4″) wheelbase and having a weight distribution of 54/46 (f/r), the Roadster is perfectly balanced. The chassis and suspension encourages you to just stomp on the go pedal and turn the wheel no matter the speed or how sharp the corner or bend is. It’s almost too easy to get carried away and try to push beyond the limits of the car (which I was not able to do). The steering input is razor-sharp, making it feel like it’s on rails – you just can’t help pushing it harder and harder.

The amazingly sharp power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is also vehicle-speed-sensitive and thanks to a solenoid valve that acts like a damper when there is a harsh impact, unwanted steering kickback and vibrations are reduced. Charging over numerous rough train tracks, the 370Z Roaster gave no evidence of shimmy or cowl shake and the steering stayed true no matter how bad the ruts were. I was seriously impressed, as open-top cars usually have quite a bit of flex and some reverberate a few seconds after passing the tracks. I’ve driven convertibles costing many thousands of dollars more than the Z that can’t come close to being this tight.

Nissan say that the Z Roadster is lighter and tighter in structure than the previous generation and the wheelbase is nearly 10.16 cm shorter (255 cm versus 264.9 cm) and overall length is reduced by 6.6 cm (424.6 cm versus 431.3 cm). The new Z Roadster also features an aluminum hood, door panels and trunk for reduced weight, while at the same time; the body structure was extensively revised – improving rigidity and stability. The 370Z Roadster includes additional structural reinforcement (over the 370Z Coupe), including in the A-pillars and side sills.

The 2010 Z Roadster comes with a choice of two new transmissions – a close-ratio 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic. The test vehicle came with the 6-speed manual as well as the optional Sports Package that includes

“SynchroRev Match®“, which allows drivers of any skill level to experience professional-like gear shift performance. The SynchroRev Match automatically controls and adjusts engine speed when shifting to the exact speed of the next gear position – essentially “blipping” the throttle to smooth out any up/down shifts – you just depress the clutch and shift. It improves vehicle balance and smoothness by reducing the typical “shock” when the clutch is engaged.  I’ve experienced something similar before, but it was on an automatic transmission. Features like this will make Paris Hilton look competent behind the wheel!

The audio system is a wonderful sounding Bose AM/FM/XM/single-disc CD Changer/MP3/WMA player with 6 speakers plus 2 subwoofers – this is the optional Navigation system, the standard unit comes with a 6-disc in-dash changer. There’s almost always a trade-off when you go with the Navigation system and the one in the 370Z is no different. You lose the 6-disc changer but you get a 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive, USB plug and a Full-color 7-inch LCD monitor with XM NavTraffic® with Real-Time Traffic Information. It works well, but when we were close to the U.S. border (about 30 kms away), it only gave traffic problems on the U.S. roads – not our local roads! The “Birds View” option on the SatNav screen was something I haven’t seen before and it works well – it’s almost a 3D effect.

Adding songs to the hard drive was painful to say the least… it will only rip songs – at a lame-ass 132kb, from an actually purchased CD. I’m in the process of turning my 1,000+ CD collection into mp3 files to store on a hard drive or on DVD’s and not one of those songs could be ripped to this drive, nor does the player recognize CD-RW or DVD discs. Think about that for a moment – we’re all downloading and paying for songs via the internet these days – who buys CD’s? I transfer my songs onto jump drives to insert into cars, but if I owned this 370Z I’d want to take advantage of the hard drive – which I can’t! The only way to play my songs would be to connect my mp3 player/iPod and worry about the electricity spikes as I start/stop the vehicle (be sure to read your player’s owner’s manual … you should always unplug the device before starting or stopping the vehicle or you could fry the mp3 player/iPod/USB). The unit will play CD’s that I’ve created, but does not show the track names/titles – even for mp3 songs. I’m all for copyright protection – especially on music, but there should be no issues with loading songs as long as you can’t remove them TO a USB and “illegally” give them to somebody. Gimme a break… anyone with a computer and half a brain can circumvent the roadblocks in place on CD’s – you certainly don’t need to use a cars hard drive to do it!

The car is locked/unlocked using the fob and the Nissan Intelligent Key! (I didn’t add the exclamation point – Nissan did). It’s basically a nice thin fob – no key to start the car – that’s what the button is for. Lowering the top on the 370ZRoadster is as simple as it gets – you just press and hold the center console-mounted switch and it lowers/raises the roof – no latches to touch. You get a beep or the audio system stops for a split second to let you know it’s done. The windows go down automatically when you press the button, but they don’t go back up when it’s done – you have to do that yourself. I found that a little odd, especially when closing the top. Logic dictates you’ll want the window up when leaving the car right? You can also open the top from outside. Using the little button (on either door) that also locks/unlocks the car, you press and hold it while you get the full experience of watching the various body parts move up and down until the top disappears behind the seats. Closing the top however, requires you get in, shut the doors and start the engine. After that, you can close the roof using the centre console button. When the top is down it is concealed beneath a body-colour hard tonneau cover – no top sticking up and looking unsightly.

According to Nissan, the 370Z Roadster’s soft-top roof was designed with an emphasis on three key areas: to provide a sleek silhouette matching the new Zs stunning styling with the top up or down, to offer easy single-action open-close operation, and to provide an enjoyable top-down experience with reduced wind turbulence and all-climate driver/passenger comfort. I think they’ve more than succeeded in these areas:  The car is gorgeous whether the top is up or down and it’s nice and quiet at all speeds – again top up or down. With the heated and cooled seats this is definitely an all-season car.

Top operation via Nissan Intelligent Key! (push and holding a button on door handle) or use the button on the centre console – either way the top operation takes approximately 20 seconds from start-to-finish. One serious issue I had was the humongous blind-spot that the top creates when it was up. You could lose a herd of elephants in that spot!  Yikes!! Reversing at any time was a serious issue and one I never relished. With the top down it was considerably better, but I still had to be extra careful.

The trunk is perfectly acceptable for a sports car, with a reasonable 118 L (4.2 cu.ft) capacity – about big enough for one large bag or two small ones. Nissan claim that you can get a golf bag and clubs into the trunk and have provided a diagram on the trunk lid to show you how to stow it. The roof doesn’t change the shape of the storage area whether it’s up or down as it stows in its own compartment right behind the seats – a definite plus.

The 370Z Roadster comes with the following standard features: Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, Auxiliary audio input jack; Heated and cooling ventilated leather seats, Driver 8-way (4 power, 4 manual), passenger 4-way power

Bi-functional xenon HID Headlights and LED taillights, Nissan Intelligent Key!, HomeLink® Universal Transceiver.

Only Two Option Packages are offered on the Z Roadster :

Sport Package includes: Viscous LSD; Synchrorev Match (6-speed manual transmission only); 19″ Rays Super-lightweight alloy wheels with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A P245/40R19 front/P275/35R19 tires; Nissan Sport brakes (with large diameter 14″ front and 13.8″ rear rotors (versus 12.6″ front/rear standard rotors) with 4-piston front /2-piston rear aluminum calipers).

Hard Drive-Based Nissan Navigation System: Touch screen navigation system with XM NavTraffic with Real-Time Traffic Information, on-board Zagat restaurant ratings database, 9.3 GB Music Box Hard Drive and USB plug, iPod interface, Auxiliary Audio/Video input jacks, and the 6-disc CD changer is tossed out and a single-disc unit installed. Using Bluetooth® audio streaming, it can be used as a wireless music player.

Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA); 4-wheel, 4-channel ABS; Driver and front passenger side-impact and door-mounted curtain side-impact airbags, seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, Active Head Restraints, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Traction Control System (TCS), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Nissan Vehicle Immobilizer System, Vehicle Security System, High Intensity Discharge (HID) bi-functional xenon headlights with auto on/off feature.

The Conclusion
WOW – this Roadster is awesome! I get a lot of cars that I love for various reasons, but it’s not too often I just DON’T want to give the car back… this is one of those rare cases. The only thing I’d change is the Navigation/Hard Drive system, and that’s as simple as not ordering it. I’d save the $2,500 and buy an aftermarket unit that would be more to my liking. This is the perfect convertible 2-seater sports car – full stop!

Awesome power
Comfy seats that keep you well planted
A suspension that insists you push it farther and farther to its limit
Very quiet and refined

Useless 9.3 GB Hard Drive
No rear back-up camera – it needs one with the top up

Immediate Competition:
Audi TT Roadster, BMW Z4, Lotus Elise, Porsche Boxster

By The Numbers…
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.

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Powertrain:                     3.7L 24-Valve DOHC V-6 Engine; 6-speed manual transmission; RWD;
Horsepower:                332 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque:                        270 @ 5,200 rpm
0-100 kph:                   5.8 seconds
Curb Weight:                1,586 kg (3,497 lbs)
Cargo Capacity:           118 Litres (4.2 cu.ft)
Towing capacity:          N/A

Fuel Consumption: (Premium / 91 Octane)
City: 11.9 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 8.1 L/100 kms
I averaged 11.9 L/100 kms during combined and extremely aggressive (foot-to-the-floor) driving.

Pricing for the 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster  ($ Cdn)
Base Price: $46,998
As Tested: $53,633 (Navigation Pkg $2,500 / Metallic Paint $135 / Sport Pkg $4,000)
Destination & Delivery: $1,550

The warranty is a basic 3 years/60,000 kms and a 5 year/100,000 kms Powertrain warranty.

Copyright © 2011 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland

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