Nissan 370Z Roadster — Affordable open air fun

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The just-right vehicle for a mid-life crisis may be the 2013 Nissan 370Z Roadster. The drop-top Z-Car offers muscular styling, thrilling performance, exceptional handling, and a price point that won’t break the budget.

The Z-Car is not only fun to be seen in — a trait necessary for mid-life crisis appeal — but it produces breath-taking straight-line performance while delivering a more satisfying driving experience.

For those wanting a quick dose of sunshine or to make the most of showing off their gorgeous ride, the soft top can be lowered — and raised — in a quick 20 seconds with the press of a button.

The Z-Car is no newcomer to the sports car ranks. 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 in 2010, the 370Z. The first Z-Car drop tops were available from 1993 through 1996, but were not 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, a glass rear window and a built-in wind deflector.

We found the noise level in today’s Z muted with the well-lined soft top up, and surprisingly the cockpit remained relatively serene at normal highway speeds with the top down, thanks to the standard wind deflector. Conversation is possible without screaming.

We like the styling of the current generation Z Roadster — top up and top down — but even more than that we like the driving dynamics. The first thing we realized after encountering a rough group of railroad tracks shortly after taking possession of the car was the Z’s rigidity. The old convertible flex has been relegated to the dustbin of history. This is one solid car.

It’s fun to drive especially in the twists and turns and on our favorite stretch of winding rural authority-deprived pavement. We were grinning, and for good reason, the Z-Car Roadster sticks to the road like super glue.†When a straight stretch of asphalt appears, a depressed right foot sends the 3.7-liter 332-horsepower V-6 into action. The dramatic performance has been measured at 5.1 seconds from 0-to-60 and with a quarter mile time of 13.7 seconds at 104 mph.

If you opt for the six-speed manual, spend a few extra bucks for the Sport package, which includes Nissan’s unique SynchroRev Match transmission that automatically blips the throttle during downshifts to deliver smoother, quicker shifts to maximize performance.†As an added benefit you will sound like a pro driver.

The $2,830 Sport package also includes 19-inch alloy wheels with Bridgestone Potenza tires and Euro-tuned shocks. For those who stick with the seven-speed automatic, an extra dose of fun comes with steering wheel shift paddles.

The Roadster’s well-balanced nature comes partly from a wheelbase of just 100.4-inches and an overall length of 167.1-inches. The Z Car has always been a road hugger and with the current generation car body, stiffness has been upped and power-to-weight improved. The new Z has a lighter and more rigid aluminum front suspension, a four-link rear design, high-response shocks, and improved steering response. Fourteen-inch front/13.8-inch rear sport brakes are available.

The cockpit design, somewhat reminiscent of the original Z with three gauge pods high up on the center dash, features a large speedometer and tachometer and intuitive HVAC controls. An optional navigation system and a Bose audio system with 6-CD changer and eight speakers round out a handsome presentation.

As with all convertibles and especially roadsters, there is little rear-quarter visibility. But the view of the road straight ahead is excellent and if you opt for the navigation system you will get a very helpful rearview camera.

The steering wheel, featuring a distinctive “Z” in the middle, also comes with cruise controls and redundant audio controls.

The seats are comfortable and supportive and they come power controlled and heated in the Touring edition. The seats in our Touring edition test car were attractive, dressed in leather and faux suede upholstery.

Starting at $42,260 the Z is more affordable than other sporty two-seat convertibles. The upscale Touring edition starts at $44,960. Add some desirable equipment including the Sport package and the price escalates to $49,940, which was the bottom line of our test car.

The 370Z Roadster with its good looks, the latest in equipment and a great driving experience makes a mid-life crisis tolerable. 

Base price: $42,260; as driven, $49,940
Engine: 3.7-liter V-6
Horsepower: 332 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 270 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Seating: 2
Wheelbase: 100.4 inches
Length: 167.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,488 pounds
Turning circle: 32.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 4.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 24 highway, 17 city
0-60: 5.1 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW Z4, Audi TT, Porsche Boxster

The Good
• Outstanding performance
• Exceptional handling traits
• High-quality interior
• Relatively low price

The Bad
• No place for golf clubs

The Ugly
• Desirable features sends price toward 50 grand