Posted Sep 18th 2012 2:58PM
Convertibles are a highly specialized tool that come with compromises. They require a warm climate and sunshine to achieve their promise, but at the same time stick you with sacrificed rigidity and extra weight all year round. Many droptop drivers happily accept those trade-offs, but the deal-killer for me is privacy. I just don't like everyone at the intersection knowing what's in my iPod, or that Ira Flatow and Science Friday are about to take a short break.
So I am not a convertible person, but with days becoming shorter and summertime temperatures fading from the five-day forecast, I certainly didn't mind setting aside my predilection for closed quarters to enjoy this 2013 Nissan 370Z Roadster.
- This thing is expensive! $51,478 as-tested in our case for the sport packaged equipped model. The starting price of a base 370 Roadster is $47,478, which is over $6,500 more than the coupe's base $40,978 price. For comparison's sake, the base price of a 2013 Ford Mustang GT Convertible with a 420-horsepower V8 is $38,008.
- Nissan is lauded for its V6 engines, but the 3.7-litre isn't one of my favorites. Here it produces 332 hp at 7,000 RPM and 270 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 RPM. The torque isn't there to push you into the seat at any speed. Rather, the engine needs to be worked to find the power higher in the rev range, which is fine because...
- This transmission is excellent. Nissan's six-speed manual is terrifically precise and feels stout enough to handle much more power than it's being asked to divide here. The Touring model gets SynchroRev Match as part of the sport package, which, with S-Mode engaged, blips the throttle on every downshift to match the engine's RPMs to the transmission. It's great to enter a gear with the engine already waiting for you and the sound it makes has you feeling like a race car driver who knows what he's doing.
- While Nissan recommends that you operate the convertible top with the parking brake engaged and the brake pedal depressed, the car can just be left in Neutral (or any other gear except Reverse, for that matter) in order to flip its lid. That said, if the car is moving, the top won't budge. It's also slow, clunky and loud in its operation. With the roof up, the car's silhouette is different than the coupe's and not as flattering in my eyes. Lastly, when putting the roof down after it rained, I noticed the roof itself leaves dirt marks on the cover under which it's stowed.
- This is strictly a two-seater that I suspect wouldn't be very comfortable for drivers and passengers over six-feet tall. The trunk is also miniscule (4.2 cubic feet) and there's only a couple of small parcel shelves behind the seats. A practical vehicle this is not.
- It feels like a Miata in terms of size, though from behind the wheel it's more like the larger, heavier Mustang to drive (the Mustang GT Convertible weighs only 122 pounds more, while the Miata – with a retractable hardtop – weighs 886 pounds less).
- The EPA estimates the 370Z Roadster will return 13.8L/100km (17 mpg) in the city and 9.8L/100km (24 mpg) on the highway. I spent most of my time with the car off the highway, and my right foot was certainly having fun. That translated into 14L/100km for the week it spent with me. Oh, and premium fuel is recommended.
- The 370Z Roadster's price has it competing with cars like the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, BMW Z4 and even Porsche Boxster, while cars like the Mustang and Camaro Convertible offer much more power and practicality for far less money. There just isn't an equation that adds up to the 370Z Roadster being a good bargain. The hardtop, on the other hand...