Car Re­view: 2018 Nis­san 370Z Road­ster

The Mid-North Monitor - - Driving.ca - JIL MCIN­TOSH

Drive a con­vert­ible, and you’ll won­der how we ever fig­ured a sun­roof was good enough. When the weather holds, there’s noth­ing like open­ing up one’s car to the sky. Nis­san’s en­try is the 370Z, which traces its his­tory to the iconic 1970 Dat­sun 240Z.

It’s a looker, and I got no­ticed in it ev­ery­where I went, no doubt helped by its bright coat of red. It hasn’t been sub­stan­tially up­dated in a while, and word on the street is that Nis­san doesn’t in­tend to re­place it once its life cy­cle fin­ishes. It’s fun to drive but shows its age, lack­ing in­te­rior so­phis­ti­ca­tion and some higher-tech fea­tures. There are only mi­nor changes on the 2018’s ap­pear­ance, in­clud­ing a “smoked” look on the lights, blacked-out rear fas­cia, and new wheels, along with tweaks to im­prove ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Power comes from a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 3.7litre V6 en­gine, mak­ing

332 horse­power and 270 lb-ft of torque. The 370Z coupe can be up­graded with a NISMO per­for­mance pack­age that bumps it to 350 horses, but it’s not avail­able on the road­ster. The drop top gives a con­sid­er­able jolt to the price; while the coupe runs from

$29,998 to $48,298, the

370Z road­ster starts at

$49,698. Road­sters with man­ual trans­mis­sions get a new high-per­for­mance clutch, but my tester was op­tioned with a sev­en­speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion for an ad­di­tional

$1,500. It may not be as much fun as push­ing through the gears your­self, but it’s a pretty slick unit nev­er­the­less, revmatch­ing on down­shifts and switch­ing gears quickly when you click through them us­ing the wheel-mounted pad­dle shifters.

The fact that Nis­san ba­si­cally left this car alone over the years is a large part of why it’s a hoot to drive. It feels de­li­ciously me­chan­i­cal, from the en­gine’s snarly rum­ble to the tight, firm, and very com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing. It tends to fol­low the road’s ruts and crown, but keep­ing it on the straight and nar­row — be­ing in con­trol of this car — is what makes it so ap­peal­ing.

Noth­ing beeps, noth­ing nudges you away from the lane edge, noth­ing obe­di­ently fol­lows the car in front. You’re driv­ing this car, not just point­ing the nose. That said, when the roof is up, it con­spires with the pas­sen­ger’s tall roll bar to cre­ate a solid side that could hide an 18-wheeler when you do a shoul­der check, and the mir­rors aren’t very large. A blind spot mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The soft top raises and low­ers elec­tri­cally, and hides un­der a metal ton­neau that clunks and bangs when it opens and closes, in one of the nois­i­est con­vert­ible op­er­a­tions I’ve heard in a long time. But the top is well-in­su­lated, and the Z isn’t any­where as loud in­side on the high­way as I would have ex­pected.

Un­like the coupe, which is avail­able in four trim lev­els, the road­ster comes in one, which in­cludes heated and cooled seats, nav­i­ga­tion, au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol, Bose stereo and a tire pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem. It lacks some fea­tures found on more up­dated de­signs, such as LED head­lights in place of the Z’s xenon bulbs; its cruise con­trol isn’t adap­tive, and it doesn’t have smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity through Ap­ple CarPlay or An­droid Auto.

The only avail­able op­tions are a $4,100 sport pack­age that adds

19-inch light­weight wheels and per­for­mance brakes, or a red “Bor­deaux” roof in place of the black one, which can only be added to sport-equipped mod­els, and which adds an­other

$1,500 to the price. As good as the 370Z looks on the out­side, the in­te­rior isn’t up to the price tag, with its dated de­sign and too much hard plas­tic. The seats move ahead and back elec­tri­cally, but you use plas­tic di­als to ad­just the height, and it’s a tight fit for large hands to reach down to turn them. The steer­ing wheel tilts but doesn’t tele­scope, although I like that the en­tire in­stru­ment clus­ter moves with it, so the gauges aren’t hid­den when the wheel is moved. The big tach is front-and-cen­tre, while the speedome­ter is to its right and re­quires a side­ward glance, and I’d like to see ‘em switched. En­gine rpm may be im­por­tant, but not get­ting speed­ing tick­ets is more of a pri­or­ity for me.

Stor­age space is about as tight as you’d ex­pect. There’s one cupholder, door pock­ets, and a small cov­ered con­sole cubby box. There are stor­age wells be­hind the seats, but it’s tough to squeeze items back there to stash them. Trunk space isn’t af­fected when the roof is stowed and it han­dled a cou­ple of overnight bags. If you fol­low the in­struc­tions glued in­side the deck lid, you should be able to fit in a golf bag.

The 370Z sits in its own lit­tle niche among twoseater drop-tops. It’s about $8,500 more than the prici­est Mazda MX-5 soft top, but some $7,400 less than the least-ex­pen­sive Audi TT con­vert­ible, and be­low mod­els like Porsche’s Boxster or the Mercedes-Benz SLC. It’s an aging model, but it still has enough to of­fer its fans. And if Nis­san does pull the plug, I think it could po­ten­tially be­come as much of a col­lectible as the orig­i­nal Dat­sun Z that spawned it.

PHOTO BY JIL MCIN­TOSH/DRIV­ING.CA

2018 Nis­san 370Z Road­ster

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