Nissan 370Z Roadster — “Z” isn’t just Zorro’s signature

By Al Vinikour

Many vehicles have famous names — like Mustang and Corvette. However, only one is known by single letter — Nissan’s legendary “Z” sports car. From day one it has conveyed a macho image but unlike most other vehicles in the segment, the Z is affordable.

The original Fairlady Z (the name of all Z-cars sold in Japan) debuted in October, 1969, and was marketed in the U.S. as the Datsun 240Z. Since then there has been the 260Z, 280Z, 280ZX, 300ZX, 350Z and beginning last year, the 370Z.

The early convertibles were available from 1993-1996 but were not a full convertibles because they had a fixed B-pillar bar. The 350Z available from 2004-2009 was the first true Z Roadster, retaining the 350Z Coupe performance with a one-latch automatic top release, glass rear window and built-in wind deflector.

Now, just like Mary, along comes the 370Z Roadster for 2010. Full discloser — this car is a hoot to drive, but if you carry any kind of surplus weight like…er…my Uncle Barney, it’s not easy to shoehorn yourself in unless the top is down. Once seated, it feels good, but you have to get to that point, first.

I can see why this vehicle is such a favorite with the mid-life crisis set. There’s something perverse about a couple of old guys like me and my buddy Jim cruising up the California coast and having babes who didn’t vote for Franklin Roosevelt during his first election give us the eye. Even better, it’s a blast to see the irked look on the face of Porsche owners when the Z draws all the attention.

There are two trim levels for the 2010 model — 370Z and 370Z Touring. The Roadster is well-balanced, with a wheelbase of 100.4-inches, an overall length of 167.1-inches, width of 72.8-inches and a height of 52.1-inches. Standard wheels are 18 inches and there is an available 19 inch. The Z Car has always been a road hugger but for ’10 it performs even better. Body stiffness has been upped, power-to-weight is improved, lighter and more rigid aluminum front suspension, 4-link rear design and high-response shocks, along with available 14-inch front/13.8-inch rear sport brakes and improved steering response means no highway is going to tell you how to drive.

Speaking of the wheels, the standard aluminum-alloy wheel is really cool and I may be the only one who notices that the points have what looks like a stylized “Z” at each spoke. Of course…I see dead people, too.

A lot of weight has been taken out of the ’10 model – about 150 pounds worth. Furthermore, the Roadster is only about 200 pounds heavier than the 370Z Coupe. The reduction is partially accomplished by use of a cloth top instead of a hard top and the addition of an aluminum hood, door panels and trunk. 

As one would imagine, the real heart of the 370Z Roadster is the powertrain. Engine is a 3.7L VQ37VHR V6 with VVEL (whatever that means) that puts out an impressive 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It has a 7,500 rpm redline as well.

There are 35-percent all-new parts compared to the 350Z V6. Two transmissions are available — a very smooth 6-speed manual is standard and available is a 7-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control, manual mode and paddle shifters. There are few driving experiences greater than putting a quality 6-speed manual transmission through its paces and the 370Z does not disappoint. Clutch feel is direct and pedal pressure won’t let you develop thighs like an Olympic speed skater.

As mentioned earlier, if you carry any girth like my Uncle Barney you may want to go to Japan and have one built around you. Otherwise, once you’re in there’s a great cockpit before you. Speedometer and tachometer are large and well-positioned, encased in a brushed-aluminum setting. HVAC controls are intuitive and the available navigation system and available Bose audio system with 6-CD changer and 8 speakers rounds out a handsome presentation. The steering wheel has a distinctive “Z” in the middle and the wheel also has my favorite – redundant controls.

Standard on the 370Z are black woven “Carbon” cloth sport bucket seats. Standard on the 370Z Touring are heated and cooled ventilated leather-appointed seats. Head restraints are height-adjustable. The heavy set like…er…my Uncle Barney might find sitting in the seats for any length of time kind of achy. Normal-sized people would not have the same problem. But I would caution people who have a propensity for back problems…think long and hard before purchasing this vehicle. While it has a great ride and its well-tuned suspension masks a lot of bumpy pavement it still is a sports suspension and this could possibly do you in. Nissan has a lot of other sporty vehicles that will suit your needs.

EPA mileage estimates are the same for either transmission —18 mpg city/25 mph highway. It has a 19-gallon fuel tank so if you keep your foot off the floorboard you should go a lot of miles on a single tank.

Cost is definitely reasonable for what the vehicle is and what it represents. MSRP of the 370Z Roadster is $36,970 and $38,270 for the automatic. The 370Z Touring has a base price of $40,520 and the automatic is $41,820. Because of all the extra content, if an additional $3,500 is not an obstacle, go for the Touring edition.

Engineering the new 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster and preserving the “Legend of the Z” must have been an incredible challenge. Take a bow, folks…you’ve more than achieved your goals.


Base price:  $37,690; as driven, $41,240

Engine: 3.7-liter V-6Horsepower: 332 @ 7,000 rpm
270 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 100.4 inches

167.2 inches
Curb weight: 
3,497 pounds
Turning circle: 32.8 feet

Luggage capacity: 
4.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 
25 highway, 18 city
5.2 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW Z4, Mazda Miata, Infiniti G37

The Good:
•  Wonderful driving dynamics
•  Great roadster looks
•  Comfortable cockpit

The Bad:


 Be ready to fork over 40 grand

The Ugly

•  No way to get a set of golf clubs in the tiny trunk