by Chris Wall
As far as powerful rear-wheel drive sports cars are concerned, they're fast becoming a dying breed, unless you have the funds for some of the Italian stuff. If you want a topless one, then things become even more limited, which is a large part of the appeal of the Nissan 370Z Roadster. The body shape is admittedly getting on in years, but luckily the design and aesthetics were almost ahead of their time and so it's still a sought after model. Oddly, while there's physically less of the roadster than the hardtop version, the base model of the 3-trim lineup still manages to list at around $12,000 more. That beaut of a normally aspirated V6 with all of its 332 hp is in play to make the price tag more palpable.
A recent update to the aging Nissan 370Z sees a new 7-inch touchscreen heading up the premium infotainment system, which is also a standard feature now, and its also accessible from the controls on each side of the chunky 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel. You sit quite low in the electronically adjustable sports seats in a cocoon-like cabin thanks to a raised center console and middle section, and it just feels right. Also, for your head to be bothered by the top of the windscreen you need to be quite tall, but most will have no complaints. Above the infotainment screen you find three standalone gauges, and below it the climate control. There's not much storage space in the Z-car, you can carry one cup of coffee and basically no luggage, the trunk in the hard top is rated at 6.9 cu.ft, but that roof needs to go somewhere and so the Roadster is blessed with just 4.2 cu.ft of space. The roof is quick and silent, it manages to get stored in the trunk in less than 20-seconds.
With the topless Nissan 370Z Sportster things are the same under the hood as with the hard top version. Nissan's much-loved 3.7-liter V6 is the weapon of choice, and it's a good one. The normally aspirated powerplant is rated to produce a healthy 332 hp with 270 lb-ft of torque. This power can get the Z-car up to 60mph in as little as 5.4-seconds in the auto and 5.1-seconds in the manual – the same as claimed for the hard top. Transmissions are good in both auto and manual guises. The automatic has seven gears and can be manually operated via steering-mounted paddles, shifting is hard and smooth when asked for performance and soft enough to offer a comfortable ride at half throttle. The Downshift Rev Matching keeps the revs and the motor ready for immediately response. The 6-speed manual is for enthusiasts and it's got a chunky and purposeful feel to its action. The 350 hp Nismo version isn't available in a Roadster configuration.
There's not too many things to option to make the cabin of a Nissan 370Z too unique, but it does features most of the things you want. The most you can really do is choose NISMO-branded items to give it some race flavor seeing as the full NISMO model isn't available. The audio can be optioned to include an 8-speaker (plus subwoofer) Bose premium system if the normal ones don't quite cut it. The screen is shared of course, so this is also where you'll see the rear terrain when the rear-view camera is enabled. Safety includes things like traction control, vehicle dynamic control and an advanced airbag system and rollover bars.
Just like it's tin-top brother, the Nissan 370Z Roadster is one of the last truly affordable rear-wheel driven car with a decent amount of power on tap. Once these are off the market the world will be a poorer place. Unlike the hardtop, there are only three trim levels available for a fair amount more money making the topless trio attractive to those with bigger budgets. Without options, even the highest spec Touring Sport still manages to come in under the $50,000 mark which makes it pretty good value for money, it's one of those cars that you're never really going top wrong with.