BEFORE THE CURRENT 370Z Coupe's great-grandfather, the 240Z, rocked the sportscar establishment, there existed another sporty Nissan.
Called the Fairlady 2000 in its homeland of Japan and sold elsewhere as the Datsun Sports 2000, the pint-sized sportscar was available only as a roadster and was released with the aim of beating the established European marques in the budget sports segment.
Its low price, track-ready performance and outstanding reliability saw it gain popularity in the USA and Australia. For Nissan, it laid the groundwork for the affordable sportscar revolution that would be launched with the 240Z in 1969.
It was also the direct predecessor of the Z-car line, but since the arrival of the 240Z in the late 1960s there hasn't been a convertible derivative that appeals on all fronts - timeless style, performance and driving experience.
The all-new 370Z Roadster aims to change all that. New levels of comfort and refinement elevate it over the outgoing 350Z Roadster, and improved performance from its 3.7 litre V6, capable RWD drivetrain and stiffened chassis means it's definitely no hairdresser's car.
Like its Datsun-badged ancestor, the new Roadster once again has the Europeans squarely in its sights. However rather than MGs and Triumphs, this time it's the Audi TT, BMW 135i convertible and BMW Z4 sDrive35i that Nissan is targeting.
The 370Z Roadster adopts the look and feel of the 370Z Coupe, maintaining the long nose and short cockpit proportions of the 350Z, right back to the original 240Z.
From the front bumper to the trailingg edge of the doors, the 370Z roadster's sheetmetal is identical to the Coupe. The new rear panels have a sharper and sportier edge than the 'heavy' rear proportions of the previous 350Z Roadster, Nissan's designers managing to retain much of the 370Z Coupe's flowing lines.
The 370Z Roadster features a shorter windscreen than the Coupe (a styling and aerodynamic element common to most convertibles).
While the long and flat rear deck changes the Roadster's silhouette, the cleverly-designed rump ensures that the muscular, purposeful design remains true to the 370Z's mission.
Inside, the 370Z Roadster is almost identical to its hardtop sibling.
Seats are trimmed in black leather, the driver’s seat getting four-way power/four-way manual adjustment while the passenger seat has four-way power adjustment.
The knee pads on either side of the centre stack are trimmed in suede rather than the coupe's leather and a button for the roof mechanism has been added to the centre console, but all else remains largely unchanged. Even the small shelves and cubby holes behind the seats are still there, with no intrusion by the roof mechanism into cabin space..
For a more detailed rundown of the 370Z's interior, check out our review of the 2009 Nissan 370Z.
The main feature of the 370Z Roadster, of course, is its roof. Lowering or raising the roof is completed in just 20 seconds, controlled inside by a centre console-mounted switch, and from the outside by a button on the door handles. The inside trim of the roof - which now gets a fabric lining - features a seal that conceals the roof spars from view, while also providing greater noise insulation.
Behind the occupants, the canvas roof features an enlarged glass rear window with an integrated electric rear window heater.
The shape and position of the glass wind deflector, located between the fixed headrest bars, has been optimised to prevent turbulence reaching the cabin.
Designed side-by-side with the Coupe, Nissan says the loss of the hardtop roof has barely affected 370Z Roadster's dynamics. There is additional structural reinforcement in the A-pillars and side sills, along with reinforced doors and boot openings. The rear chassis cross-member has also been strengthened.
As with the Coupe, safety features include Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) is standard, but can be partially disabled via a dash-mounted button.
Nissan dual-stage supplemental front air-bags figure among the standard safety features, including front seat-mounted side-impact supplemental air-bags, new door-mounted curtain air-bags, and seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters.
The 370Z Roadster's mechanical package is, according to Nissan, identical to the hardtop's setup.
Power is provided by Nissan's VQ37VHR 3.7 litre V6 petrol engine developing a healthy 245kW and 363Nm of torque. Equipped with Nissan's VVEL variable valve lift system, Nissan has been able to improve throttle response and power output, while also improving fuel economy.
Fuel economy for the 370Z Roadster is 10.9L/100km on highway for the seven-speed automatic and 11.2L/100km for the six-speed manual transmission. By comparison, the hardtop uses 10.4 l/100km with the automatic, and 10.5 l/km with the manual.
The manual transmission comes standard with Nissan's SynchroRev Match system, which automatically matches engine RPM to whichever gear the driver is about to select. Whether it be an upshift or a downshift, engine revs are matched perfectly with the car's road speed, and the system eliminates the need to heel-toe on downshifts. Of course, the system can be disabled for drivers who prefer to blip their own throttle.
The seven-speed automatic also rev-matches on downchanges, and is equipped with a pair of steering column-mounted shift paddles. A plus-minus plane on the shifter itself also enables manual selection of ratios, however the pull-to-downshift, push-to-upshift layout is not our preference for a performance car.
Power is taken to the rear wheels via a carbon-fibre driveshaft and a viscous limited-slip differential.
Transmissions, brakes and suspension are identical to the 370Z coupe. That means the Roadster rides on a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, and big Akebono brake calipers (four piston front, two piston rear) clamp down on 355mm ventilated rotors at the front and 350mm ventilated rotors at the rear.
To Nissan's credit, weight distribution is also identical across the two models - 53/47 front to rear. The new 370Z Roadster is 25kg lighter than the 350Z Roadster it replaces and only 55kg heavier than the 370Z Coupe automatic (manual 60kg heavier).
The 370Z Roadster does have one advantage over the current Coupe. While buyers might have been disappointed that the 19-inch Rays aluminium-alloy wheels were not available with the 370Z Coupe when it launched last year, the Roadster is fitted with them as standard. An increase in wheel width (fronts are 9 inches wide, the rear wheels are 10 inches wide) enables wider rubber to be mounted onto the rims too, with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 245/40/R19 tyres on the front and 275/35R19 tyres on the rear.
The 370Z Roadster with six-speed manual gearbox and SynchroRev Match bears a Manufacturer’s List Price of $74,990, while the seven-speed automatic with Downshift Rev Matching is priced at $77,990 (plus dealer delivery and statutory charges).
The 2010 370Z Roadster is available now.