Although an automotive icon in its own right, it's easy to forget that Nissan's venerable Z car is only a few years younger than cultural symbols like the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro. It's been forty years, in fact, since the 151-horsepower Nissan 240Z first went on sale in this country. Challengers have come and gone in that time, but the latest iteration, the 332-horsepower 370Z, is a car without a true rival. And the new-for-2010 convertible version is even more distinctive: there's simply nothing out there with the same combination of price, power and packaging. To the 370Z Roadser's credit, the most logical comparisons are to premium roadsters like the BMW Z4 sDrive35i and Porsche Boxster S -- cars with starting sticker prices all the way on the other side of $50,000. And while that makes value a part of the story, the 370Z Roadster is quite capable of competing with those cars on its performance merits alone.
Like its coupe sibling, the all-new 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster is smaller, lighter and more powerful than its predecessor. It also benefits from curvier sheetmetal, a higher-grade interior and new technologies like available Bluetooth streaming audio.
You Might Like it if...
If you like the idea of a 332-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive roadster that starts at $37,000 and offers performance figures on par with some well-respected premium-branded models, you'll find very little wrong with the 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster.
You Might Not Like it if...
With no real direct competitors, it's difficult to call out relative shortcomings of the 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster. No, it's not as nuanced or balanced as a Porsche Boxster S, and the interior isn't as nice as a BMW Z4 sDrive35i's, but the Nissan's starting price is at least $13,000 less.
Not Just Driving, SynchroRev Matching
The 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster is the most fun V6-powered, rear-drive roadster this side of $40,000. The fact that it's the only such vehicle is merely a technicality, because it really is an all-around winner. Approaching a corner, good brake feel and the world's first downshift rev-matching manual transmission deliver curiously smooth deceleration; turn the wheel and the Z responds with the crispness of a smaller, lighter roadster; keep turning into the corner and good steering feel includes you in the conversation between the car and the road; clip the apex, roll back on the power and the engine responds with building acceleration that's smoother than it is neck-snapping. In more mundane driving situations - with the top up on the highway, for instance - the 370Z Roadster provides a comfortable enough ride, but it's a bit louder inside than we'd prefer. Another of the few sore spots: with the top down, we had to roll up the windows about four inches to kill the almost comically loud wind noise blasting from around at the upper seatbelt mounts.
More Curves, Less Weight
Compared to their respective predecessors, we think the curvier new Z Roadster is an even bigger leap forward stylistically than the Z Coupe. Another significant improvement shows up on the scales, where the 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster checks in some 150 pounds lighter than its predecessor (and about 200 pounds heavier than the coupe). The weight loss is partially attributable to the fact that the 370Z Roadster is 2.5 inches shorter than the 350Z Roadster. Nissan's wise decision to stick with a soft top - now with smoother hydraulic operation instead of electric -- in lieu of an all-the-rage hard top helps out in the bulk department, as do the aluminum hood, doors and decklid.
Accommodating and Supportive
Serious and stylish at once, with good materials quality throughout, we could hardly ask for anything more from the 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster's interior. Most importantly, perhaps, the seats provide good lateral support when cornering and are comfortable on the highway (hard to have a good car with a bad seat). There's a decent amount of room for smaller cargo, including a single cupholder and a covered bin in the center console, plus useful storage areas behind the seats. We like the available heated/cooled net seats with leather bolsters, and the relatively roomy trunk that doesn't lose any room with the top down (another advantage of the soft roof). Dropping and securing the top are latch-free affairs that require only the push of a button, and can be done at up to three miles per hour.
Favorite Feature #1: SynchroRev Match
On cars equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the Sport Package includes a system that delivers smooth manual downshifts by mimicking the "heel-and-toe" rev-matching technique used by racers and driving enthusiasts. This is first-of-its-kind technology, and it's so cool.
Favorite Feature #2: Bluetooth Streaming Audio
The 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster's Navigation Package includes Bluetooth streaming audio, which lets you play music from your compatible cellphone while it's in your pocket. You don't get the full functionality of proper iPod integration, but we've found it ideal for short trips when plugging in your phone wouldn't be worth it.
Venerable VQ Engine
The 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster features an iteration of Nissan's celebrated VQ engine - one with a 7,500-rpm redline -- variations of which can be found in everything from the Nissan Frontier pickup to the Infiniti G37. The engine generates 26 more horsepower than the previous Z's, an advantage enhanced by the new car's lighter curb weight. Transmission options include a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a high-tech six-speed manual available with SynchroRev Match.
332 horsepower @ 7000 rpm
270 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 mpg (auto and manual)
Standard Start Button
Highlights from the 2010 Nissan 370 Roadster's standard equipment list include keyless entry and push-button start, automatic climate control, auto up/down power windows and illuminated steering wheel-mounted controls. The base-level sound system is a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/AUX unit. Unfortunately, Bluetooth phone connectivity is not included on base trims, and is only available as part of the $3,500+ Touring Package. A full complement of standard safety equipment includes six airbags and Nissan's VDC electronic stability control.
Sound and Sport Options
The Touring model adds features like a Bose six-CD audio system with MP3/WMA playback, XM Satellite Radio and eight speakers, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, plus heated/cooled net and leather power seats. The Sport Package adds SynchroRev Match smooth downshifting (on manual transmission-equipped models), 19-inch wheels, stronger brakes and a viscous limited-slip differential. The Navigation Package includes a new-generation touch-screen navigation system with traffic and weather info, on-board Zagat restaurant ratings, 9.3GB digital music storage, a USB port for iPod integration, Bluetooth audio streaming and an in-dash DVD player.
The Price ain't Wrong
The 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster starts around $37,500 and tops out at about $48,000. The Touring model starts at about $41,000, the Sport Package is $2,800 and the Navigation Package is $1,850. Automatic transmission is a $1,300 option. We expect our Fair Purchase Prices to reflect real-world transaction prices within a few hundred dollars of sticker price. Even though the 370Z Roadster has no true direct competitor, we consider it quite a value in the grand scheme of things. As for resale value, we expect it to perform as well (from a percentage standpoint) as pricier, premium roadsters like the Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster.