THE 350Z Coupé has done an excellent job for Nissan’s image by both managing to convince a lot of the marque’s faithful that it is still capable of building great sportscars in the spirit of the legendary 240Z, and at the same time attracting newcomers with a car that oozes performance and personality that compares favourably with the establishment. It was inevitable that a chopped-top version would follow, and after a year of US-only availability, the Roadster has now been released into other world markets, heralded by the “Cabriolet of the Year” accolade at this year’s Geneva motor show.

Convertibles generally are head-turners – little point in making one, otherwise – and the 350Z Roadster certainly is that. Especially when sprayed in the test car’s searing Sunset Orange paint with, er, matching seats, gear knob and handbrake. This car gets you noticed… And, again as it should be, the Roadster looks better topless than with its fabric roof erect. After releasing the windscreen header handle for the hood’s triple lock/single latch locating system, the black soft-top electrically folds (in 20 seconds) into a separate compartment between the cabin and the boot, beneath a tonneau. Blended into the tonneau is a pair of natty tapered fairings that snuggle up against the roll hoops behind the seats to provide a quasi-speedster look. There is a slim glass panel between the hoops that acts as an effective turbulence deflector.

A substantial bulkhead between the rear wheel suspension towers, together with other structural reinforcements, help considerably in reducing the body flex inherent in an open car. Riding on massive 18-inch alloys with 45-series tyres, the Roadster manages to soak up the worst of B-road irregularities with little apparent shake. Chassis feedback is excellent – switchable VDC vehicle dynamic control, including traction control, is standard, as is a limited-slip differential – and the steering has a meaty feel to it, all of which combine to help provide a thoroughly rewarding sportscar drive. Although front mounted, the engine is sited well towards midships to create a near ideal 53:47 front/rear static weight distribution.

Adding to the enjoyment is the deliberately tuned soundtrack of the V6 engine, a typically Nissan lusty howl conducted with a short wave of the gearshift baton between the transmission’s six forward ratios. With the plastic resin/ cotton blend fabric hood stowed, wind rush tends to subdue the distinguished noise, but with the top up there is a little more volume to savour. Then, at higher speeds, air does sneak in around the window seals, but not overpoweringly so. Incidentally, the hood’s small back window is glass and heated.

The test car was fitted with the optional (R3 000) seats, which offer lattice-like inserts that allow passengers’ torsos to “breathe”, so reducing the common problem of perspiration in the small of the back. More comfortable than they look, the seats have, as standard, all-electric adjustment (via awkwardly placed buttons) and heaters, but rearward movement is limited. However, the steering wheel is adjustable for rake – the instrument binnacle moves with the reinforced column, ensuring a clear view of the dials at all times – making a satisfactory driving position possible for all but the long-legged.

Despite tipping the scales at 1 667 kg, 118 kg heavier than the Coupé we tested in March 2004, we managed to practically match the Coupé’s times, recording a commendable 6,45 seconds for the 0-100 km/h sprint, the standing kilometre in 26,46 seconds at 203,2 km/h, and a top speed of 248 km/h. At the 6 600 red line, the 350Z is geared to be doing 61 km/h in first and 100 km/h in second, so there is no margin for error at change-up points, forewarned by a small flashing light in the rev-counter.

With this 206 kW/363 N.m 3,5-litre V6, you get the best of both worlds: it is strong on midrange torque (helped by variable cam timing) if you want to be lazy, and provides muscular acceleration if you play with the gears. Giant, progressive all-disc Brembo ABS brakes, with signature gold calipers, do an effective job of reigning in the Z.

Test summary

Looks good, sounds glorious, goes quick, handles great and provides all of these stimuli al fresco. What more could you ask of a roadster? OK, the 350Z is not unique with these qualities, but it is right up there with the best that do. We said of the 350Z Coupé that it ”… makes any journey worth looking forward to”. Ditto the Roadster – topless.

Original article from Car