"Nissan's beefy 370Z Roadster offers all the fun of the coupé but adds the thrill of the wind in your hair. It's noisy with the roof up though."
Adding a retractable canvas top boosts the appeal of Nissan's powerful, rear-wheel-drive sports car. Power comes from a 322bhp 3.7-litre V6, and the 370Z sprints from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds – so performance comfortably matches its extrovert looks. On winding roads the open cabin allows you to enjoy the 322bhp V6 engine's exhaust note even more. Nissan's engineers have worked hard to ensure the body retains its rigidity on bumpy roads, and that means it feels just as responsive to drive as the coupe.
This 370Z works particularly well with Nissan's optional seven-speed automatic gearbox. This offers steering wheel-mounted shift levers, and removes the heavy clutch and gearshift of the six-speed manual. The engine makes a fantastic sound at low to medium revs, but it gets a bit unruly at higher speeds. The steering is accurate the brakes are strong, and there's plenty of grip on offer for those who like to tackle corners at speed.
Wind in the hair thrills are what the 370Z is all about. Yet the fabric roof also means there's more wind, road and engine noise in the cabin than you would find in the coupe, which can be tiresome on longer journeys. And with the roof down it gets quite draughty. Chairs are easily adjusted thanks to four-way electric controls, but the steering column adjusts for height only. The suspension is firm, and on rough roads the car can feel uncomfortable. It's not all bad news, though, as the optional Synchro Rev Match system fitted to the manual gearbox automatically blips the throttle on downshifts to smooth progress.
The 370Z's interior is well made, but it lacks the depth of quality of the Audi TT Roadster or BMW Z4. Electronic stability control, front, side and curtain airbags and anti-whiplash seats are also all standard equipment. Nissan's reliability record is good, and there have been no reported recall notices from VOSA.
Roadsters are usually even less practical than the coupés they are based on, but the 370 Roadster doesn’t suffer much of a penalty over the coupe version. The boot isn’t huge or the most useful shape, and it's difficult to access – requiring you to lift luggage up and over a lot of bodywork before dropping into the shallow boot. Only two seats and a lack of storage in the cabin make it pretty impractical, too, but convertible buyers are unlikely to mind and the 370Z Roadster isn’t any worse than the majority of its rivals. The touch-screen sat-nav option works well, but roof down in the sun it's almost impossible to read and the screen is soon covered in fingerprints.
Value for money
On a performance-to-cost ratio, there's little to touch the 370Z. Nissan's generous standard specification makes its German rivals look particularly expensive. The 370Z gets automatic climate control, a Bluetooth telephone connection, Xenon headlamps, plus keyless start and four-way powered seats. The GT Pack adds heated leather seats, larger 19-inch alloy wheels, Nissan's clever rev-match technology, a Bose stereo system and cruise control with a speed limiter. The electrically powered roof folds away quickly.
Anything with a 3.7-litre V6 engine is going to be expensive to run, and the 370Z Roadster's official fuel consumption figure of 25.2mpg underlines that. Insurance won’t be cheap either, while servicing every 9,000 miles is required - the 370Z is not offered with a fixed-price servicing deal from Nissan.