2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster first drive review

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Call it open for business.

Actually, you should call it the 370Z Roadster, that is, because a) it no longer has a roof and, b) the word "Convertible" has been spoken for by the similarly zoomy roofless Infiniti G37. The two are distinctly different in look and feel, even if performance is almost the same--thrilling.

In this case, the overall package is so sharp, Nissan folks are openly comparing the new 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster to the Porsche Boxster, a comparison that holds interesting weight once you drive it in and around the winding hills looking over Silicon Valley.

What's not to love about the newest iteration of the 370Z? Not much, as we found out cruising the shaded switchbacks about five miles from High Gear Media's vast headquarters at the very nerve center of venture-capital-land. More so than the squatter 350Z, maybe even more so than the classic and beloved 300ZX twin-turbo, the 370Z Roadster and coupe are the kinds of sportscars you can cheat on Porsches with, and not feel the twinge of guilt as you leave it for your daily driver.

Nissan 370Z: One rocking ride

Motor Authority's first impression of the 370Z Roadster? More of the same as with the coupe. The new body ushered in for 2009 on the coupe just rocks, and with the top removed, it shows off some sculpted haunches and those witty arrow-shaped taillamps even better than in the roofed car. The four inches Nissan removed from the car's wheelbase in migrating from 350Z to 370Z gives it a more sportscar-like, more authentic proportion. There's even a little hint of the earthshaking Nissan GT-R at the junction of the roof and windshield. More than anything, we decided as we scoped out photography, the 370Z passably resembles the new BMW Z4--which can top out at $60,000 if you're not careful. A pair of humps are formed into the tonneau that hides the top, for more speedster flair. And like it did with the body panels, Nissan trimmed out the interior of this new Z far better than the past edition. The gauges move with the tilt steering wheel, the materials look better, the shapes are simpler, and there's enough jazz in the metallic rings on gauges, climate controls and ancillary meters to elicit the approval of parking-lot gawkers.

The shortened body did have an ulterior motive: making the 370Z a far better handling and riding sportscar than before. It's not too much of an exaggeration that it's the best-performing Z ever, since the original ran on skinny tires and a four-cylinder engine, and since the 300ZX twin-turbo felt as heavy as it looked. The engine is a familiar one, the 3.7-liter V-6 that graces almost every Nissan worth reviewing here on Motor Authority. Here it turns out 332 horsepower and hits a high 7500-rpm redline, but offers plenty of torque at lower revs. While Nissan quotes 0-60 mph times of less than 5 seconds, some of the buff-book magazines (who reads magazines anymore?) have dropped below the 5-second mark in accel runs. With either the six-speed manual or the seven-speed paddle-shifted automatic, the 370Z is rare to miss a shift. Oddly enough, we preferred the automatic to the manual, with an explanation. The six-speed manual's everything you'd expect and a sweet complementary piece to the rear-drive Z's suspension, plus its rev-matching software ensures you won't graunch gears in quick shifts. But the paddle-shifted automatic enhances the Japanese feel, like the Mitsu Evo's paddle shifters do, and turns the experience to the videogame feel that keeps your attention to steering instead of shifting.

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