Join Date: Nov 2004
2016 Cayman GT4
Some Cars Are Better With A Roof This Is One
Slideshow: 2014 Nissan 370Z
It takes roughly 21 seconds to raise the 2014 Nissan 370Z Roadsterís top from its lair under the back tonneau to its rightful place behind the windshield. This seems like an entirely reasonable amount of time until you find yourself pulled off into a side parking lot, mashing the top mechanism control button in impatient fury as the entire volume of the Pacific Ocean dumps into the cabin courtesy of a surprise thunderstorm. Itís also just long enough to coax you to the same realization thatís splayed across the face of every bemused onlooker: Youíre the jackass who should have bought the coupe.
The Nissan Z family doesnít have a very successful history in convertible guise, and like its forbearers before it, the 370 is at its best when its long, dramatic roof and hatchback derriere are in place. But that doesnít mean the 370Z Roadster is a completely neutered version of its hardtop twin. Far from it.
Thereís no avoiding the fact that with the canvas top up, the car looks a bit ungainly. Like the 350Z Roadster, the 370Z Roadsterís roof ends in an abrupt bustle, shearing the machine of the hardtopís menacing profile. The top goes down in a bit of clunky ballet as the fiberglass tonneau opens its maw, revealing the deep storage well. With the folding roof stowed, the Roadster shows itself to be plenty attractive. Big, bold rear hips define the shape, and the long axle-to-dash ratio helps give the machine the classic proportions of some of my favorite European roadsters.
Amazingly, putting the top down doesnít do the 370Z any visibility favors inside. The rear bulkhead sits at approximately ear level, which means the driver gets stuck with a mirror full of seats, roll hoops, and little else. Itís like the Roadsterís wearing substantial shoulder pads. The view ahead remains as good as itís ever been. The big, tachometer-centric gauges are easy to read and appropriately sporty, if a bit down-market, and the mesh-and-leather seats in this tester look as good as they feel.
Zach Bowman Yes, thatís a big automatic shift lever sticking from the transmission tunnel. Nissan graced this particular Roadster with the companyís seven-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox isnít the millstone I expected it to be, thanks in part to spot-on shift logic and very quick gear changes. Think dual-clutch speed. Is it as good as the six-speed manual and its rev-match trickery? Of course not, but it wonít get in your way should you decide to wring the carís neck, and itís substantially more refined than the dual-clutch gearbox in the companyís GT-R.
Bump around town, and the Roadsterís too-stiff suspension will do its best to remove your molars by force. Every encounter with broken pavement or an expansion joint is an exercise in potential spinal injury, complete with a healthy helping of cowl shake. But point the nose toward and uninterrupted stretch of undulating asphalt and the car starts to come alive. That venerable 3.7-liter VQ V6 under the hood abandons the uninspired drone of low rpm once the tach swings past 4500 rpm, opening up into a brawny chorus. With the top down, the soundís magical.
There are 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque on hand, and the grunt on tap is good enough to hustle the 3510 pounds of convertible around without too much effort. Thatís nearly 200 pounds more than the hard top, and as such, it takes a bit longer for the Roadster to get up to speed. Expect sprints to 60 mph in around 4.7 seconds.
Zach Bowman Despite the extra heft, the Roadster feels good and light on its feet. Turn in is quick, and those stiff springs and aggressive dampers come into their own with a little fast action on the steering wheel. The handling is surprisingly neutral, and the optional big brake kit does a great job of keeping the party from getting too out of control. Thereís a pair of 14-inch rotors up front pressed by four piston calipers, and two-piston calipers squeeze 13.8-inch discs out back.
For those buyers looking for a quick weekend tourer capable of carving up and down a good mountain pass, the 370Z Roadster scratches most of the right itches. That is, except what is possibly the most important one of them all: price.
While the 2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster starts at an already steep $41,470, this tester, in kitted-up touring trim and with the optional Sport package, will set you back $51,365. Like the hardtop iteration, the 370Z Roadster is easily outclassed by younger blood worth similar coin or less. Buyers can fetch a Mustang GT Convertible Premium for around $40,000, and while that carís chassis may not be as taught as the Z, the heady 420-hp 5.0-liter V8 engine makes up for a stack of woes. It also returns fuel economy identical to the 370Z Roadsterís 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway when both are equipped with their respective automatic gearboxes.
Technically, you can also buy a stripper Porsche Boxster for the gussied up Roadsterís asking price, and I likely donít need to tell you how glad Iíd be to give up fanciness like leather heated and cooled seats, satellite radio and the like for the kind of driving bliss the Boxster delivers. Turn your eye toward the BMW stable, and options like the Z4 or 135is make strong arguments against the Z.
The 370Z finds itself in a sea of damn impressive competition, and hacking the roof off adds more compromise and expense to a vehicle that doesnít need any help convincing buyers to look elsewhere for their jollies.