by Adam Lynton
The Nissan 370Z Roadster originally stood out as a fun-to-drive sports car for the steadfast traditionalist, offering a fine balance between thrilling power and confident handling with the added enjoyment of top-down driving leisure. It is equipped with the now extensively tried-and-tested 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine, with peak outputs of 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, front-mounted and driving the rear wheels. Unfortunately, the 370Z Roadster is now without a manual transmission, with a stock seven-speed automatic transmission solely servicing the entire lineup. That, along with it being a severely unrefined offering now showing its ten years of age, has only bolstered the opposition's standing within the market, with the Mazda MX-5 Miata providing even more of a purist's sports-car experience and the Audi TT Roadster a far more contemporary lifestyle affair. Nevertheless, the Nissan 370Z Roadster is still a beautiful and capable sports-car, offering the bare necessities for truly enjoyable everyday driving. But with the drop-top slated for discontinuation at the end of 2019, now might be your last chance to get one.
Ten years into its lifespan and still, changes remain minor and minimal for the 370Z Roadster. The prior year's Touring and Sport Tech trims have been merged to constitute the Sport Touring trim; an auto-dimming rearview mirror and integrated rearview camera have been made standard in all trims, and, unfortunately, there is now no longer a manual transmission option available for any 370Z Roadster trim.
Still being based on its a platform that debuted more than a decade ago in the 350Z, and having received only a few minor facelifts throughout its current existence, the 370Z Roadster carries its age in its aesthetic too. Flanking its signature open black grille are HID bi-function xenon headlights with smoked housings shaped in the familiar arrowhead design and integrated with LED daytime running lights. Smoked LED L-shaped taillights illuminate the Roadster's rear end while LED illuminated Z side marker emblems herald its side profile and highlight its place in the Z history books. 18-inch black-finish aluminum wheels fill the arches of the base and Touring trims, upgraded to 19-inch RAYS forged wheels for the Sport Touring trim.
The 370Z Roadster differs only in weight when compared to the Coupe variant; both models otherwise share a length of 167.2 inches, a height of 52.2 inches, and a width of 72.6 inches. Both models ride low to the ground and are square in stance, set 4.9 inches from the asphalt on a wheelbase of 100.4 inches. At 3,327 lbs, the Coupe variant is already significantly hefty; the Roadster packs on an additional 150 lbs for a curb weight of 3,479 lbs, with the Audi TT Roadster weighing in at a modest 3,395 lbs for the sake of comparison.
The 370Z's 3.7-liter V6, having been built on Nissan's VQ series of aluminum DOHC engines, is possibly the only favorable element that has come with the 370Z's age. It contributes to the 370Z's traditional driving traits with linear, naturally-aspirated V6 power delivery and throttle responses, and a tangibly engaging mechanical feel. Outputs are ample too, with 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft on tap, although both higher up in the rev range. It's peppy enough for regular driving and delivers smooth responses throughout city conditions, but when pushed into the upper levels of its rev range, it loses its appeal as the V6 starts to sound and feel notably strained where it should be delivering on its true potential. Unfortunately, with only a seven-speed automatic transmission onboard, and without a manual transmission option for 2019, driver engagement is ill-serviced. Responses are sluggish and unresponsive from the automatic, although the rev-matching function does aid smoothness when downshifting.
Essentially, a sports-car should, above all else, excel in performance, however, an unrefined powertrain and lack of appropriately tuned underpinnings limit the 370Z's aptitude in this area. Don't get us wrong, it's still an engaging car to drive, and with a 0-60 mph time of 5.2 seconds, the Roadster is quick and on par with class rivals - but without a limited-slip differential, that off-the-line acceleration can be notably precarious, and handling isn't as razor-sharp as it could be.
The 370Z shows more penchant at the low to mid-range, especially in its handling and ride feel. While the chassis and suspension feel dialed-in and capable, the standard tires and lack of a limited-slip differential confine the 370Z's lively handling traits and confident grip levels to the very low-end, limiting its cardinal fun-to-drive factor.
However, its steering responses are precise and its weighting surprisingly light, and although not very communicative, allows the driver to place the 370Z on the road easily. The brakes are firm and easy to modulate, and stopping power is suited to casual driving conditions although they can be grabby when cold. Though firmly sprung for improved control, the Roadster still manages to ride relatively comfortably as the standard suspension suitably absorbs road imperfections and undulations. The 370Z better fits the lifestyle car mold than a sports car one, showing just how far the famous Z car has fallen.
The 370Z Roadster's city/highway/combined fuel economy estimates of 18/25/21 mpg are below par for the segment, but it tries to compensate for its comparative fuel inefficiency with an above-average gas tank capacity, which at 19 gallons is quite impressive. Topped-up and with mixed driving conditions, the 370Z is accorded with a range of around 399 miles on a single tank. That's 20 more miles than the vastly more economical Audi TT Roadster, which with 23/31/26 mpg, and a modest 14.5-gallon gas tank, ranges only 377 miles on a full tank.
As its name suggests, the 370Z Roadster is a two-seater, two-door convertible sports-car. Its seats are typically low-slung and will naturally take some low bending maneuvers to get into and out of. The cloth seats themselves are regrettably uncomfortable, limited in adjustability and overly firm, making them utterly disagreeable to occupy for extended periods of time. Fortunately, the Touring trim upgrades to leather-appointed seating with four-way power-adjustability, heating, and ventilation, aiding seat comfort to a small extent. However, because of the Roadster's compact dimensions and raised rear deck, all-round visibility is limited, and with minimal adjustability for the steering column as well, finding a suitable driving position is a mission for any physique. Not all is bad, however. The 370Z does offer plenty of head and legroom even for adults on the taller side, especially with the roof off.
Naturally, not much is expected from roadsters in terms of trunk capacity -yet the 370Z still manages to miss the mark. The trunk may look spacious initially, but the 370Z Roadster's sloping rear hatch and intruding chassis points make only about 4.2 cubic feet of room semi-usable. That's enough room for a duffel bag or two; keep your groceries up front though, as even a single grocery bag is prone to damage in transit in the shallow trunk bed.
In-cabin storage solutions are just as limited, although thick, stout door side pockets that hold bottles, a single center-stack cupholder, and a moderately sized passenger-side glovebox is available. It is performance over practicality all the way for the 370Z Roadster.
The 370Z Roadster's standard features list is markedly short, considering its relatively high pricing point; the base Roadster offers only keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, eight-way manually-adjustable seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, and automatic climate control. Comfort and convenience are slightly improved on in the Touring and Sport Touring, upgrading to heated, ventilated, and eight-way power-adjustable leather-appointed seats. In the way of active safety features and advanced driver assists, all 370Z Roadster trims feature only a rearview camera, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a traction control system with vehicle dynamic control. It's a pity that even with the 370Z's prominent blind-spots and its performance ethos, that nothing more is offered in terms of safety and driver aids, a blind-spot monitoring system can't be too much to ask, could it?
The base 370Z Roadster is outfitted with a console storage compartment in place of an infotainment system display. With only an AM/FM radio with MP3 capability, and a single-CD player and six-speaker audio system, thank Nissan for at least including an auxiliary input jack and USB port; otherwise, entertainment in the base 370Z would come down to how interesting your passenger is, or how much you talk to yourself. You could just opt for one of the upper-level trims where a seven-inch touchscreen adorns the dash and is tethered to a premium Bose eight-speaker audio system - this would give you access to SiriusXM connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming, and speed-sensitive volume control, at least. Unfortunately, the 370Z is devoid of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, but Nissan provides an auxiliary audio/video input jack for smartphone device connectivity.
With no major recalls commissioned or serious complaints lodged for the 2019 Nissan 370Z Roadster, and having been given an above-average predicted reliability rating of three-and-a-half out of five from J.D. Power, dependability is expected to be high for 370Z. A new 370Z is covered by Nissan with a three-year/36,000-mile basic and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Because of the Nissan 370Z Roadster's typically high selling price and relatively low sales volumes, neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has evaluated it for its crashworthiness - a commonality for vehicles of this segment. The 370Z's standard safety and driver-assist features are, however, relatively limited, with a consignment of only six standard airbags, a rearview camera, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a traction control system with vehicle dynamic control.
The 370Z Roadster is a good lifestyle vehicle as it couples its inherently fun-to-drive engagement and age-old mechanical feel that many traditionalists appreciate, with leisurely top-down drivability. Unfortunately, it's just that, that also detriments it as a sports car; the added weight of the convertible structure follies its handling dynamics and the now stock automatic transmission takes away from the engagement that made the 370Z such an appealing car originally. Age has also long caught up to it, as its shortage of standard run-of-the-mill features and luxuries set it far behind its class rivals, only more so with its high pricing point in mind. Others just offer far more value for the money. And before you think that the 370Z has prioritized any engaging drive over a comprehensive suite of features, the truth is that many modern alternatives are bettering the 370Z even in that regard, with significantly more refined underpinnings coupled with contemporary features, all offered at similar or more affordable prices. It's certainly no catastrophe that the 2019 370Z Roadster will be the last of its kind; with its age, this year's failure of an update can be considered the final nail in the coffin, as an automatic gearbox in a car that's supposed to be engaging and driver-focused is a sure-fire way to confirm the kill.
As a dated and minimalistic vehicle, the 370Z is priced rather high for what it offers within the segment and relative to its rivals. An MSRP of $41,920 starts the lineup off on the base Roadster, while the mid-tier Roadster Touring asks $46,670. The Roadster Sport Touring, at the top of the lineup, is smacked with a sticker price of $49,500, excluding tax, registration and licensing fees, as well as Nissan's destination charge of $885.
We recommend opting for the mid-tier Touring trim as it receives the luxuries that augment the Roadsters appeal as a lifestyle vehicle rather than its faltering appeal as a sports car, which the Sport Touring trim tries to strengthen. It's also not that much more costly than the base trim and comes standard with leather-appointed seats with heating, ventilation, and power-adjustability, along with some upgraded in-cabin materials. Above the base trim, it is also equipped with an infotainment touchscreen which provides some added beneficial functionalities such as Bluetooth and navigation. That is about it for the Touring, however, without any optional packages available and only menial accessories to opt-in.
The Audi TT Roadster is available as a standalone model below the S and RS models, priced around $1,000 cheaper than the top-tier Sport Touring trim from the 370Z Roadster lineup. It is equipped with a smaller, less powerful, but far more refined turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with outputs of 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. The TT isn't much faster than 370Z outright but is far more economical with EPA estimates of 23/31/26 mpg. The TT also offers a highly enjoyable drive, albeit not as engaging as the 370Z -it's far more polished, and thanks to an all-wheel-drive setup, it is far more capable too, with a punchier turbocharged engine that's eager to work. Compared to the interior of the 370Z, the TT looks as though it was brought to the present from an unfathomable distant future. It's contemporary in design, feature-rich, and boasts an industry-transforming virtual cockpit display as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality as standard. The 370Z Roadster is the more enjoyable driver's car, but only in terms of driver engagement; in every other regard, the TT outranks the 370Z.
At more than $10,000 cheaper than the Roadster, the 370Z Coupe already holds favor over the ridiculously pricey drop-top. The coupe fits the sports-car mold far better than the Roadster does too, offering a stock six-speed manual transmission in place of the Roadster's seven-speed automatic, augmenting its engaging and fun-to-drive characteristics. With a lighter curb weight and it's more aerodynamic coupe design, it's slightly faster as well, and more economical at that, with a 0-60 mph time of under five seconds and EPA estimates of 19/26/22 mpg. However, the Coupe is also significantly aging, offering only the bare minimum in the way of standard features and safety elements. It provides slightly more practicality than the Roadster, with a marginally larger trunk capacity of 6.9 cubic feet. Overall, the 370Z Coupe fits its mold better than the Roadster does, offers more in terms of performance, and at its pricing point, far more value for the money. Neither are great, but the Coupe at least clings on to sports car purity a little better.