Nissan 370Z Convertible Review
Z IS THE LAST LETTER IN THE ALPHABET BUT FIRST FOR DEFINING SPORTS CARS
by Marty Bernstein
The Auto Channel
For countless baby boomers, their first aspirational, but attainable and affordable sports car was the 1970 Datsun 240Z. The “Z” was the first popular sports car sold in America and is a collectible car today by aficionados.
It’s the car which built the brand’s reputation and established the DNA in America for an entire line-up of vehicles first as Datsun, then in 1981 as the company changed its name to Nissan. A few months ago Nissan introduced the new Z-car, the 2009 Nissan 370Z coupe.
And now comes more good news from Nissan – there’s a new and affordable 370Z convertible! This, of course means the buying decision becomes more difficult.
Which is the Z car for you?
The obvious difference is the convertibility. The soft-top roof was designed with an emphasis on three key areas: to provide a sleek silhouette matching the new Z’s 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.
With convertible top in the closed position, the design provides a sophisticated sloped-back appearance, the perfect balance between the soft top and the Z® body design. The shortened windshield and aerodynamically rounded rear deck enhance the Z®’s kinetic and dynamic character lines. When down the convertible top is concealed beneath a full body-color hard tuneau cover, which extends forward to help create the Z® Roadster’s classic “double cockpit” style interior.
Just one look and a drive will convince you both are zenzational cars. When a vehicle, such as this, is an icon, changing to a more contemporary version can be damaging if the newest iteration does not reflect the integrity of the previous generation. Not to worry.
OK, after lots of years, a new Z was re-introduced in 2003 with sales success, so why another version? And why a full redesign? It’s a question I asked and the answer was Darwinian: evolution. Actually, super-evolution as the purpose was to build an authentic sport cars that do not require sacrifices and can be an everyday driver. To do this required a full redesign with nearly every piece and component was been rethought or redesigned – shorter wheelbase, greater use of lightweight body materials, new engine with more horsepower and improved fuel economy, a new 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, a world’s first synchronized downshift rev matching system for the manual transmission, new high quality driver-centric interior and new available”
A walk around either car shows elements of the former generations but with more style and flair. The interior has been redesigned with new and larger dials and gauges along with basic instrumentation – and they’re at angle for easier viewing by the driver. The non-slip seats that are very comfortable, even at fairly high speeds on a winding road. Controls are within easy grasp and the overall design is functional. This is a sports car.
The drive was unique. From the urban adult Toyland of the Las Vegas’ strip to the calmer, more residential and commercial areas of LV to a national park to a special drivers country club track, the handling was crisp, agile and nimble. And the road surfaces changed from very smooth to not-so-smooth to long sweeping curves, hard rights and lefts, uphill and downhill the new Z was responsive and solid. And fast, very fast when pushed … and it was pushed.
For the techno-crowd, power comes from a new 3.7-liter VQ37VHR engine with 332 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm, up from the previous model.
The new engine is backed by a choice of two new advanced transmissions, both designed to improve driver performance. The new close-ratio 6-speed manual includes an available world’s first synchronized downshift rev matching system – which is really terrific -- which allows drivers of any skill level to experience professional-like gear shifting.
The “SynchroRev Match” function 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. And it works!
This not only allows the driver to focus more on braking and steering, it improves vehicle balance and smoothness by reducing the typical “shock” when the clutch is engaged. The system can be deactivated with a button next to the shifter for drivers who prefer less vehicle intervention.
Both new models zig, zag, zip and they’re a zinger, a zowie with zeitgeist . So if you are a sports car fan, take the time to visit a Nissan dealer near you. You’ll find out the last letter in the alphabet comes in first when applied to the model name of sports car. Just remember 370Z. coupe and convertible. Priced reasonably too. You may want to own both.