POSTED: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 6:13pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - 5:20pm
It was a sad day for that quaint bunch of builders who assembled two-seat sports cars in sunny Italy and merry olde England. For on that day in 1970, Nissan, whose American sales arm was called Datsun, introduced a shark-nosed, long-hood/short-deck two seat sports coupe called the 240Z. Designed by a German, Albrecht Goertz, the Z was clean, gorgeous and fast. It was equipped with disc brakes, a 2.4-liter 6-cylinder engine and slick-shifting 4-speed gearbox. The car sold like flak jackets in Baghdad and almost single-handedly put the British particularly on notice that their days were numbered.
And now we have the 370Z with a 3.7-liter V6 and 332 snarling ponies under the hood and my fellow auto scribblers are wiping drool off their keyboards looking for creative new ways to praise the new Z.
And why not? 332 horsepower in a 3500-pound two-seater with a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic gearbox, 18-inch wheels and four-wheel-disc brakes all wrapped in a sensuous, futuristic body with a couple of hints of the original Z-car is a pretty heady mix.
And now, Nissan has peeled off the top and created the 370Z Roadster. The softop gains 130 pounds of weight and revised gearing to help it keep up with the coupe. The top is a powered affair that goes up and down in 20 seconds, seals tight, and when down, fits under a powered, hard tonneau cover.
And this is a driver’s car. The hard seats and quick steering impart a feeling of control that the Z delivers on. Power is not Mustang SVT-monstrous, but rather more sophisticated in delivery. The car produces dependable 0-60 times in the 5-second range, and more top end than you will ever truly be able to use. The engine note is intoxicating and sounds almost Italian. By the way, there is no better sound in the world than that.
Handling is razor sharp and the 370Z in either coupe or roadster form will humble some pretty pricey German machinery when the road stops being straight and starts being fun. And while savoring this automotive ambrosia, you will be sipping overpriced petrol to the tune of 18 miles per gallon in the city / 25 on the highway.
The base 370Z roadster is just over $41,000 and as loath as I am to say this though, I think I prefer the coupe. That is strictly an aesthetic comment, as a ragtop is always more fun than a hardtop. But this body was meant to have a fastback roofline, and the rather humpback shape of the roadster isn’t quite as svelte.
Like that matters.