2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster

More often than not, when a manufacturer revamps an existing model, they make it larger and add more stuff….and that usually includes a higher MSRP.

But in the case of the latest 370Z Roadster, Nissan has downsized the car and dropped the price tag. The 2010 iteration of the latest Zed-car is shorter, lighter, has a smaller wheelbase, and costs less than before. It is, however, a smidgeon wider – some 33 mm – than its predecessor, which is a good thing. As far as more stuff goes, content is up, and for most typical buyers, that�s also a good thing.

"Customers interested in the Roadster – as opposed to the 370Z Coupe – tend to be technologically savvy," explained Nissan Canada�s product planning manager, Hugh Wickham, at the launch in San Jose. "They like the extra features and don�t mind paying for them. They also tend to be slightly older and wealthier."

This car�s predecessor, the 350Z, carried a base price some $4500 higher, and the new 370Z Roadster, which is due to hit showrooms sometime in mid-October, will start at just under $47,000, topping out at about $55,000 with all the bells and whistles.

Or should I say all the buzzers and buttons. Among other things, you can get heated and ventilated bucket seats, an automatic engine rpm synchronizer, rear wind deflector, seven-speed automatic transmission, and a power top that can be raised or lowered while you�re standing outside the car. This latter function is accomplished via Nissan�s "Intelligent" key fob feature, and allows you to activate the top by pressing a small button located on the driver�s side door beside the door lock. Slick. As for the engine rpm synchronizer, it instantly revs the engine when you�re downshifting – with either the manual gearbox or automatic transmission paddle-shifters – to match the tranny speed, and gives a more hands-on sensation when driving the car with – er – enthusiasm. Most boy or girl racers would know this as heel-and-toeing or blipping the throttle.

Power is nicely delivered by Nissan�s redoubtable VQ-series V6, which in this configuration, develops some 332 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of torque. Designers have also made the engine a little louder than it used to be, giving the latest incarnation a sportier, more visceral feeling. The 370Z Roadster is not a quiet car. You can choose from either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission, and this may be one of those rare cars that is equally quick with either one.

In fact, the entire car feels sportier and funkier than before, and on the road, is virtually glued to the asphalt. Handling is exemplary – thanks to increased body stiffness and revised front and rear suspension components – and there is no hanky-panky or compensating for over/understeer during high-speed cornering. Just pick your line, get your speed sorted out and drive through it. During the vehicle launch, in an around the hills behind San Jose and San Francisco, we had the chance to fling the new 370Z Roadster through a seemingly endless array of tight corners, switchback, one-eighties, and slinky S-bends, at speeds guaranteed to get the attention of the local law enforcement authorities, with no drama, mishaps, contretemps or whoopsy-daisies. I�d love to run this car through a slalom or put it on a track sometime.

That said, noise suppression is not what it could be. On the highway, the car makes a huge din, especially with the top up, which seems to amplify road and wind noise. Lots of racket coming up through the floorboards and wheel-wells too. In short, the new 370Z Roadster is very much a sports car, with all that goes with it. Personally, I preferred driving it with the top down.

And regarding said top, it�s made out of cloth, as opposed to vinyl, has a glass rear window, and will raise/lower in about 20 seconds via a centre console-located button. It stashes away neatly in the trunk, but, apparently still leaves enough cargo area to carry a set of golf clubs. It has also received a bit of a re-design….for aesthetic reasons, according to Hugh Wickham. "The previous version looked better with the top up than down," he concedes. "The new one has a different roof profile." It can also be raised or lowered while the car is in motion….up to 5 km/h….while creeping along in traffic, for example. No having to put the car in Park or Neutral and activate the hand-brake, in other words.

The 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster will be offered in six different trim levels, with the top model having a hard-drive Navi system, plus larger 19-inch alloy wheels, and upgraded brakes. And here�s something to keep in mind: the original version of this car, the 300Z Roadster, introduced in late 1993, had a starting price of just under $61,000, and the predecessor to the latest version – the 350Z – started at about $55,000. You can thank Nissan�s response to a "stressed" market for the price drop.

AT A GLANCE 

Type: Two-seater sports car

Price Range: $46,998 – $54,998

Engine: 3.7 litre V6

Horsepower/Torque: 332 hp @ 7000 rpm / 270 ft. lb. @ 5200 rpm

Transmissions: Seven-speed automatic / Six-speed manual

Drive: Rear-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 12 city/8.0 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Mazda Miata, Porsche Boxster S, BMW Z4, Audi TT Roadster, Chevrolet Corvette, Mercedes SLK.

Like: Reasonable base price, huge driveability factor, abundant power, spectacular handling.

Don't like: This is a loud car, can do without rpm synchronizer, power top mechanism a little worrisome.

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