Z Young and Z Roofless: 2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster Driving Impressions

Sections: Chassis, Powertrain

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2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster Photo Shoot 021

(Lyndon Johnson photo)

I’ve already outlined how silly it would have been to drive around with the top up on the 370Z Roadster given how great the weather was during my test week. It would be equally silly to put the hammer down on the Z’s throttle unless you’re sure there’s no John Law around — because this puppy could move.

Let’s get the legalities out of the way: I did not push the 370Z Roadster on my preferred snaky backroad test route. For one, I didn’t have time, as I outlined at the end of my first piece about the car. To feel comfortable enough with a car that I’m willing to take it on that test route at a moderate pace, I first need a few days to get accustomed to it. In the Z’s case, I only had two-and-a-half days of driving time — in other words, not enough. Secondly, the Z has too much power to go around pushing hard on the go-pedal all Bill-Nill.

That power comes in the form of 332 horses whinnying at 7,000 RPM and 270 ft-lbs of torque delivered at 5,200 RPM courtesy the 370Z Roadster’s V6 engine. Our 370Z Roadster put that power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. I would have been happier with a six-speed stick and the always-proper third pedal in the driver footwell, but the autobox in some ways was a better fit for my M.O. while commuting in the 370Z Roadster: be one with the boulevards and take it all in. My mother remarked riding in the Z with the top down was just like riding a motorcycle in that you got to smell the freshly cut grass and really notice when you were driving under a cloud or trees. That was a good observation, and probably a big reason why I loved to keep the top down as much as possible.

2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster Photo Shoot 022

(Lyndon Johnson photo)

No matter how smooth I tried to be, however, a car like this can easily romp faster than the driver might intend. Building and maintaining speed along the curvy two-lane state highways surrounding my home base was ridiculously easy, as I found when my wife and I took a barbecue run the first time I drove the 370Z roadster. I also found that when you see a Tennessee Highway Patrol cruiser approaching in the oncoming lanes and look down at your speedometer to realize you’re breaking the speed limit by 10 MPH, the 370Z has massive Nissan Sport Brakes — 14-inch ventilated disc brakes up front and 13.8-inch ventilated discs at the rear rear, with four pistons on each front brake and two on each rear brake. My instinctual stab at the brake pedal (you gotta do it before the trooper can see you light up your brake lights in their rearview, after all,) felt like it nearly put our eyeballs on the dash.

Steering in the 370Z Roadster, like the fixed-roof 370Z, is quick and direct. Rounding a long, constant radius sweeper that is well-known in my family required only about 10 degrees of steering angle be summoned. Partial credit goes to the 370Z’s ultra grippy 19-inch performance rubber and sporty suspension, which includes a two-link aluminum alloy front suspension with aluminum subframe, a four-link aluminum alloy rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, a three-point strut tower brace, and specific to our Touring edition 370Z Roadster with Sport Package, Nissan’s Euro-tuned sport shock absorbers. Steering was always precise and nicely weighted, never feeling artificial nor requiring a Herculean crank on the wheel thanks to Nissan’s speed-sensitive power steering.

The sensation of power when merging on the highway was not overwhelming. While the engine revved freely enough, the fact that its peak torque was made well past two-thirds of the way up the tachometer meant that sensation built in a controlled manner that could fool the uninitiated into thinking the 370Z is a slower car than it really is.

But then, few cars that have blown me away in terms of acceleration have been as well-balanced in handling as the 370Z Roadster. The Chrysler 300 SRT8 had a lot more power (470 horsepower) and thus highway on-ramps became veritable rocket launchpads, but attempting to flick that huge tank of a car around the same way you can flick around a 370Z Roadster is likely to end badly.

My only wish is that I’d had more time — and okay, perhaps a track day — to fully test the 370Z Roadster’s sportscar capabilities. However, given that many if not most 370Z Roadsters are unlikely to see track use and given that even our nation’s fastest speed limits would be a walk in the park for the car’s VQ37VHR V6 engine, I feel confident in saying this much: Unless you’re the exception to that rule, you’ll probably never come close to reaching the limits of this car on the street.

Disclosure: Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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