There’s plenty to like about Nissan’s iconic Z car, but age proves to be its biggest downfall.
– Detroit, Michigan
I recently listened to Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn speak at length about how sports cars are “very important for the brand.” You can see a little proof of that in the ongoing updates to the flagship GT-R, but aside from that, there’s not much to say about Nissan’s sporty offerings. New prospects like the IDx concept have been shelved, and the 370Z, on sale in its current generation since 2008, has largely been left alone.
So what am I to make of this 2017 370Z Roadster that, as tested in Touring Sport trim, crests $50,000?
- Nissan’s naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V6 is at its best here in the 370Z; it delivers a linear wave of power that’s easily accessible at all times, even though it sounds a bit coarse, especially at higher revs. No, 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque aren’t impressive by modern standards – a turbo-four Ford Focus RS is more powerful – but it never feels inadequate, especially considering the portly 3,503-pound weight of this loaded droptop Z.
- Never mind the fact that I audibly sighed when I saw the automatic transmission lever sticking out of the center console, the seven-speed gearbox is a good partner for the big V6. Sure, I’d much prefer the six-speed manual with its trick rev-matching feature, but as far as automatic transmissions go, this one doesn’t feel like it’s actively trying to castrate the whole experience. It holds gears high in the rev range, quickly swapping cogs as needed. Plus, the steering column-mounted shift paddles are large and great to use, should you feel like slapping through the ratios yourself.
- Old as it might be, I still like the way this car drives. There’s a great amount of feedback through the chassis and steering – the car really communicates what it’s doing at all times. Steering is direct and quick to respond, and it’s easy to learn the car’s behaviors and know its limits, to make the most of spirited drives.
- This convertible shape isn’t my favorite version of the Z – I love that fastback coupe – but this car’s design has aged incredibly well. Even eight years on, it still looks fresh, modern, and sporty. Maybe it’s the yellow paint, but this Z attracts the eyes of passers-by everywhere it goes.
- This has got to be one of the slowest, clunkiest convertible tops I’ve used in some time. It’s alarming that this test car, with only 1,900 miles on the odometer, makes so many horrible noises during roof operation – at one point while retracting the roof, the soft top and body panel actually scraped against each other. Plus, unlike a lot of other power-folding tops, this one can’t be operated at any speed – you have to be at a complete stop. All things considered, this setup certainly makes me appreciate the beautiful simplicity of the Mazda MX-5 Miata’s toss-it-over-your-shoulder manual top.
- The interior doesn’t match the $50,000 price tag. Hell, it doesn’t match the $41,820 base price, either. Sure, it checks most of the necessary boxes – power-adjustable, heated leather seats, bluetooth, navigation, and more – but it’s missing niceties like a telescopic steering column, not to mention must-haves like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The materials, design, and switchgear all look and feel their age. This interior may have been good for 2008, but in 2016, I know Nissan can do better.
- More than anything else, it’s the price that kills this car for me. A fully loaded Miata is almost twenty grand less than this top-trim Z. Worse yet, $50,000 buys you a really nice Chevy Camaro Convertible with a V8 engine, and it creeps up on the base end of Porsche 718 Boxster territory. Even at its base price, this car doesn’t feel $10,000 better than a loaded Miata, despite having more power. There’s a lot to like about the Z, but until Nissan spends some time and energy really sprucing it up for the modern day, it will continue to be a step behind the competition.
- Chevy Camaro Convertible
- Fiat 124 Spider
- Ford Mustang Convertible
- Mazda MX-5 Miata
- Porsche 718 Boxster
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com