The Nissan 370Z is often referred to as the Nissan GT-R's baby brother, not because it is a little mommy's boy car but because it has a dark side just like its bigger brother, the tar-shredding Nissan GTR super sports car.
Just raring to go.
Like its bigger, and much more expensive and seriously rapid big brother, the 370Z is also all muscle and tattoos and even though it is not quite in the same league it can also kick your butt if you run out of talent while trying to play hammer-it-like-Hammond.
But you know what? I love it. In this era where cars are going softer, greener, all subdued and more and more like smart phones, Facebook, blog, twitter and tablet on wheels, the 370Z is still the real thing; a driver's car that doesn't want to wrap you in cotton, or buzz you when you are getting dopey, or apply the brakes when you get too close to other cars or the garage wall, or nags you incessantly when your seat belts are not clicked or a door is not closed properly.
You see, the white coats at Nissan properly reckon that if you want to drive a rapid, true sports car you need to be alert, awake and aware and do all the above without having to be nagged to do it. They probably also expect 370Z owners not to run out of experience and talent when they saddle up this little beast.
Geyser's in love
My affection for Nissan's Z cars started years back when I first drove the 350Z, predecessor to the GTR and the current 370Z. Since then I have driven both the previous and current GTR's as well as the latest 370Z hard-top and soft top and liked, no fell in love, with them all.
What true petrol-heads find so alluring about the Nissan Roadster is its simplicity, understated looks and enormous appetite for performance.
I have to confess I didn't originally fall for the charm of the new Roadster because to me the fully-dressed Coupé looked better and handled slightly better than the half-naked, soft-top, which shares 90% of its gene pool. In fairness, the media drive when the new Roadster was launched in this country took in some rather bumpy stretches of tar and the old Cape Doctor was howling hard enough to upset even the finest auto thoroughbred.
But just recently I got to spend a week behind the wheel of the soft-top and most of my first-impression reservations floated away the first time the roar of its muscular V6 bounced off the Chapman's Peak mountainside. This really is the poor man's GTR, not as wild but with that same well-balanced cling and sharp handling which put it ahead of just about everything in its class.
What true petrol-heads find so alluring about the Nissan Roadster is its simplicity, understated looks and enormous appetite for performance. It is also powered by the same a growling 3.7-litre, 24-valve quad cam V6 that bangs out 245kW and 363Nm in the hard top. Like the Coupé, the Roadster will gobble the 0-100km/h stretch in 5.5 seconds (manual) and 5.8 seconds (automatic) and is also electronically nurse-maided to a top speed of 250km/h.
Handles like a dream
Like the Coupé, the wind-in-your-hair model feels as though it can and wants to go faster and it handles like a dream, thanks to its sharp and quick steering, excellent balance, glue-like grip and rock steady composure, although if you get your line wrong or hit an uneven patch in a fast corner things can become quite twitchy.
Like any good sportscar's, the 370Z's living quarters are snug.
Our test car was quite striking with its pearl white bodywork and black soft top and because of its rather bland looks it doesn't give the impression that it is all that keen to grow horns. But that perception changes very quickly when you fire it up and put some life into the rev counter.
Like the true sports car that it is the Roadster doesn't have acres of cabin space. The cabin is as tight as a fighter jet and clear of any unnecessary clutter and gizmos... just a small steering wheel (which, unfortunately, doesn't offer the luxury of being fully adjustable), stubby gear lever, racing drilled pedals and snug racing seats - and what more do petrol-heads really need?
Smile for the camera
At speeds that could severely damage your bank account if you get zapped by a hidden camera, the 370Z lightens up at the front end, probably because the car is about 120kg lighter than the previous model, a little shorter, and also a teeny bit faster. The huge 19-inch low-profile rubbers, direct steering and taut suspension give it a real go-kart feel when cornering fast on uneven surfaces.
Thanks to some considerable work on the body, torsional stiffness has been improved by 45% up front and 40% at the rear so there is hardly a sign of the shiver-and-shake tendency which drop-tops tend to suffer from.
The roof lowering strip show lasts just 20 seconds from press button to fold-away which is cool look-at-me- posing feature.
The folding sequence.
The occupants do get buffeted about even though a wind deflector reduces cabin turbulence to a degree, but then that is something which any open-top driver expects and lives with...It's called wind-in-the-hair driving after all. Two-door sports cars are known for their fun, not necessarily for their finesse and one has to feel the wind, smell the exhaust fumes and delight to the aural symphony, particularly in this car when it's muscular V6 is howling and growling with pleasure.
Like the metal-top, the Roadster offers the choice between a seven-speed automatic or a six-speed manual (which, Nissan claims, is the only manual transmission in the world with downshift rev matching for perfect racing gear changes). Our test car was kitted out with the auto box which is quick and smooth. In fact, the sprint time of the auto is just 0,3 slower than the manual box.
It also confidently balances GO with STOP and one of the most outstanding characteristics of this car is its phenomenal brakes. Large ventilated discs front and rear and the adoption of a "variable ratio brake pedal" which provides gentler control at low speeds and a firmer pedal feel at speed, are backed by ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA) so when you really stomp down on the brakes it almost feels as though your eye-balls and the front windscreen are going to pop out.
It's good to know that while you can get some serious "oomph" out of this car, excellent brakes ensure you can stop it too.
The Roadster comes with six airbags, including side curtain airbags. Other standard equipment include electrically adjustable leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, remote phone and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, Bi-xenon lights, a digital 6 CD/MP3 audio system, with 8 Bose speakers, 2 sub woofers and IPOD compatibility.
Also on the list of the nice to haves are climate control, auto-dimming rear view mirror, automatic interior temperature control with in-cabin micro-filler, power heated leather seats with slide resistant cloth inserts, a viscous limited slip differential and an energy-absorbing steering column.
Optional extras on both the Coupé and Roadster include an upgraded infotainment system that offers an advanced 40GB Satellite Navigation system with touch screen, DVD playback, USB and auxiliary inputs for audio and video, 9.3GB storage for music recorded from CD and Bluetooth audio streaming.
The new Roadster is a full-house power and fun package, as impressive under the whip over a mountain pass as it is idling along in commuting traffic. It's not cheap at R587 225 (including a three-year/90 000km service plan and a three-year/100 000km warranty) but anybody addicted to high-octane el fresco driving will find it easy to fall in love with this honest sports car.
Bizcommunity.com motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through iafrica.com, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.
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