It’s the best time of the year – convertible season. Summer doesn’t last long, so you have to act fast and enjoy it. Get behind the wheel, drop the top, and hit the open road.
It’s hard to determine what wheels will satisfy the most. There are so many convertible options to choose from – two doors, four doors, two seats, four seats, traditional rag tops or hard tops.
But if you’re looking for a cozy, little two-seater with substance and power, the 2013 Nissan 370Z roadster will do the trick.
For 2013, the fourth year of the current model’s life cycle, the exterior styling gets freshened with a new front fascia, LED daytime running lights and an updated sport package with new 19-inch alloy wheels, red-finished calipers and Euro-tuned sport shocks. Top up or down, the Z is a looker – it’s sculpted and sexy.
The Z shares its mechanical underpinnings with its cousin, the Infiniti G. Under the hood is the same smooth and strong 3.7-litre V-6 engine with 332 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the engine is a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters is available as an option.
My tester is equipped with the manual transmission, which features a cool SynchroRev Match system, which can match revs on downshifts. The technology monitors the clutch pedal, shift lever and vehicle speed. As you downshift, the system will blip the throttle to an ideal engine rpm for a smoother downshift as you release the clutch. The system also works when up-shifting. By smoothing the transitions between shifts, the chassis stays more balanced. And if you don’t like it – you can turn the system off with the touch of a button mounted next to the shift lever.
The Z’s drive is dynamic and spirited. The roadster is quick, nimble, and agile with plenty of road grip if you need to stop fast. The steering is direct. With a low centre of gravity and a short wheelbase, you can whip it around corners quickly and easily. It remains well balanced at all times and is a blast to drive. But the ride can be a bit jarring and stiff at times – it doesn’t soak up bumps in the road very well. Wind, engine and road noise also seep into the cabin even when the roof is closed.
This RWD sports car is also on the thirsty side; I averaged 12.9 litres/100 km in combined highway and city driving. The official ratings are 11. city/8. highway.
Top up, visibility isn’t the greatest, either. But it’s easy to rectify the problem – drop the soft top. It’s easy to do – even before you step inside the vehicle. You can lower it via a tiny button on the outside door handle. Just push and hold and the roof retracts in about 20 seconds. It’s a nice, cool feature that often attracted onlookers’ attention and admiration. You can also open or close the roof the traditional way from inside the roadster with the touch of a button in the centre console. Its power operated so you don’t have to fiddle with annoying clasps or buttons to open or close the roof.
The interior is well-finished and modern. With only two seats, it’s snug and comfortable inside. I love the heated and cooled seats available in both positions. Just turn a dial to the desired settings – you can pick between different levels of intensity so it’s not overly hot or cold.
Deeply bolstered leather seats keep you firmly in place when taking corners quickly. The driver’s bucket seat moves eight ways, while the passenger seat adjusts four ways. All power operated. The driver also has adjustable lumbar support and thigh support. I like the location of the seat adjustments on the bottom of the seat cushion because it’s easy to see what you’re adjusting.
The dashboard is attractively designed – the buttons and dials are well laid out and intuitive. Inside, there are three cup holders, a parcel box behind the passenger seat, and a parcel shelf behind the seats that’s handy for storing your purse or briefcase. Anything larger can go in the cargo area. Although it’s tight – there’s only 119 litres of space – if you’re a golfer, you’re in luck. There’s a diagram on the trunk lid with instructions on how to squeeze in a set of golf clubs.
The 2013 Nissan 370Z roadster is competitively priced, starting at $47,478 – the same price as the 2012 model.
Tech specs: 2013 Nissan 370Z Roadster
Type: Two-door, two--passenger roadster
Engine: 3.7-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 332 hp/270 lb-ft
Transmission: Six speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.9 city/8.1 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: Mazda MX-5, Ford Mustang convertible, Chevrolet Camaro convertible, BMW 1-Series cab, Audi TT