TOP DOWN SHENANIGANS
2013 Nissan 370Z Roadster
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Feb 3, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by Doug Stokes Okay, the big boss here at LA Car calls and asks if I’d like do a review story on the all-new Nissan Sentra. As usual, my response is, “Yes sir, sir, no problem sir.” But then, two short days before the car is due to arrive, I get the news: “The Sentra’s not available” “Okay, no problem, thanks.” “… But (unspoken: YOU LUCKY DEVIL) we’re putting you into a 370Z (roadster).” “Okay.” And that’s how I get to drive the $50,000.00 convertible in the accompanying photos, top up most of the time—on one of the coldest, longest, wettest weeks in recent southern California memory. How cold and wet is it? Well, local (terminally-tanned local LA TV icon and full-time weather god Dallas Raines is wearing a raincoat over a really heavy Mackinaw and pointing at the big screen with mittens (and that’s to do the weather report in studio!).
I was going to tell you that this car is like Jekyll and Hyde. But it’s more like it somehow transformed me into a So Cal version of the infamous Londoner. Blame it on the weather, but I can only find two modes with the latest iterations of the Z: old lady and old bat-out-of-hell. I know this is the “Touring” model, but my driving was definitely bi-polar: go or slow. Now, about the car. The Z tradition goes back almost 45 years and this open version is in the latest and best tradition of the line. Lots of horsepower, crisp handling, room for two, a great engine sound (top up or down) and very little extra space for any sort of haulage).* Driving a Z is a lifestyle choice. So is driving a station wagon or riding a motorcycle, but you know what I mean here. There’s just no way you can explain this one in terms of utility. Let’s talk about the ragtop. In a word: wonderful. Almost as solid and quiet as a hardtop, this el foldo puts on one of those wonderfully complex metal ballets on opening and closing that (as infrequently as I actually did it) never failed to entertain. Most of the complex high tech stuff and wonderment that’s in modern machines really can’t be seen: ABS brakes, variable valve timing, direct injection, e-stabilization. And above all those things, this (very solid) soft top is great visual fun.
Once inside (top up or down), everything that one needs to conduct business is right about where you’d want it. The driver’s seat is quite adjustable, but I found myself wanting to sit just a bit higher. This machine has very tall sides, with the top edge almost at shoulder level. This makes looking to the side and back more of a task than just a quick eyeshift. The built-in (standard) Bose sound system works nicely. If you’ve read any of my reviews you know that the Sirius system’s dial (the free three month evaluation period that comes with the car is like the old dope peddler down on the corner of Main and 3rd of course) is welded on channel 71 all test drive long. Seeing out of the Z (top up) is another thing. The backlight (window) is just miniscule. The good news, though, is that the 370Z has one of the best back up cameras I’ve ever used. I’m really wishing that it could be turned on while one is going forward for a really good look rearward. As it is, top-up lane changes are of the dive-in rather than the drop-back style: See the lane, commit with the right foot, and just carpe the ding-dong Diem.
In the words of a completely different poet, “This baby’s got back.” The Z has a big butt (“all the better to store that fascinating top in … Stokes” I can hear me spitting through clenched teeth.) In fact, this car’s shape can best be explained by the word—muscular. Short, broad in the beam, replete with a nice set of evil Xenon eyes (headlights) and all centered over four really huge tires (P245/40R19 fronts and P275/35R19 rears) mounted on a set of seriously spectacular forged alloy wheels. And behind those (almost lacey) wheels, there’s a set of even more serious brakes. As few as five years ago, this giant set of multi-piston stoppers would have been standard issue for a full-out race car. Here, they righteously back up the sort of speeds that the Z’s 300+ horsepower overhead cam V-6 (332 to be exact) can generate—and generate rather quickly. Of course, with tires as broad as this beast bears, and with this sort of aggressive sports suspension, one might expect that the ride might be…oh, let’s call it “sporty”. No, let’s call it direct, and while we’re about it, let’s mention that hitting a row of lane markers at speed sounds (and feels) like someone is unloading a burp gun into the side of your car. Rough, uneven road surfaces are not all that much fun in this one. Any sort of combination of hard acceleration and direction change can cause a fair degree of drama. This feature works nicely to keep one awake, however. Did I mention that you should not buy this car for its cargo capacity or ultra-smooth ride? What your $50,055 (that includes a $780 destination charge) buys is an incredible array of (unseen) technology. The base $44K give you all the motor, handling, and safety stuff, heated/cooled seats (I used both modes), Bluetooth, a Bose eight-speaker sound system, cool “Z” sidelights, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and a even set of matching “microfinished crankshaft and camshafts.” To get our test car’s number up to the $50K sticker, we mentioned earlier there are two packages, the “Sport” that puts the giant wheels and brakes aboard, adds a limited slip differential, and a set of those really strong “sport” shocks we mentioned in the “stiff ride” paragraph earlier. That package adds $2,830.
And, for only $2,150 more, there’s the Nissan Navigation System that adds yet another layer of high tech to what looks, on surface to be a simple “roadster”. Not a huge fan of “nav” systems, I came away thinking that this one was actually pretty good, which means that I got some limited use out of it. In the 360 miles that I rolled up with the 370, I never found myself driving this car hard, I mean really hard, for anything more than a few blocks. Not that the car isn’t a king-hell, gang-busters handling piece that has a motor that spools up with (far) more than ample gusto. But something about its demeanor just doesn’t invite, entice, or suggest that sort of probing of its limits. In all candor, I find that driving this car is bit more like work than fun (that may well have been a function of the weather, but there it is). Not that one buys a 370Z to pinch pennies on the 91 octane that this one wants, but Uncle Sam sez that you’ll average 20 miles per gallon on the good stuff. Again, what did you buy a big-bore sports car for in the first place? Surely not to boast about fuel economy to your gym mates. Okay, the sum-up at word 1,358: Stiff ride, top-up rear/side vision questionable, stowage capacity non-existent, and legendary Z-Car speed and style in a topless version. Where did I go right? When can I get the Sentra, please. *This one’s rear storage space (I can hardly call it a trunk) measured out at a miniscule 4.2 square feet. See above notes about why you would think of buying this style of automobile. For more information about Nissan products, go to www.nissanusa.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name: 2013 Nissan 370Z Touring Sport Roadster Price: $44,170 (base) $40,055 (as tested, including destination charges) EPA fuel economy ratings: 17mpg/city, 24mpg/highway (with six-speed manual) Engine: 3.7 liter DOHC V6 with Variable Valve Event & Lift (VVEL) Horsepower: 332 at 7,000 rpm Torque: 270 pound-feet at 5,200 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel drive Transmission: Six-speed manual with SynchroRev Match Front suspension: Independent, double wishbone, die cast aluminum subframe, twin-tube shocks, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent, multi-link, steel subframe, twin-tube shocks, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: Ray’s lightweight, forged aluminum wheels-19X8 front/19X9 inch rear 245/40R19 front/275.35R19 inch rear Bridgestone Potenza tires Brakes Front: 14-inch vented with four-piston calipers Rear: 13.8-inch vented with dual-piston calipers Nissan Sport Brakes with NISMO Performance Brake Pads/ABS/EBD/BA/VDC/TC Dimensions Total length: 167.2 inches Total width: 72.8 inches Total height: 52.2 inches (with top up) Curb weight: 3,497 pounds