Nissan 350Z Roadster 2008 Review
Personally, I never saw the point of chopping the top off a perfectly good coupe. Equally, there's a vocal body (my wife, hairdressers, men ageing badly ...) who wonder why you'd have a roof you couldn't get rid of at the press of a button. I'd say that a chop top adds weight and sacrifices rigidity, for all of which you're charged more.
Surely Sydney's summer sun is too savage to go topless, the traffic too congested and the air too on the nose.
Others — including, yes, those who brandish hairdryers in a professional capacity — might suggest this is of no consequence. A roofless attitude liberates a car from the functional and mundane. Lower the lid — it ceases to be an appliance and becomes a lifestyle-enhancing accoutrement.
It's also about 50 times safer. Sitting down low with the roof up, the want of rear quarter vision makes one long for a Lotus. Although the car presented here is the automatic Touring iteration as opposed to the hardcore manual Track coupe, the recently enhanced mechanicals mean the softer device won't disappoint when the open road beckons.
Introduced last year, the new VQ35HR engine comes late in the Zed's model life (a replacement with folding hardtop is due within 12 months), but it's one that should ensure its worth well after it is superseded. Some 80 per cent new, this 230kW/358Nm V6 not only bulges the bonnet suggestively, but transforms the way in which oomph is delivered to the rear wheels of what was an already muscular and responsive roadster.
Lidless versions now share the hardtop's fully-fledged powerplant with its palpable lift in low-end torque and higher redline, enabling the Roadster to transform from boulevardier to B-road brute with a good prod of the loud pedal. With five cogs as opposed to the manual's six, the auto suffices beautifully in most circumstances, the tiptronic mode imparting a degree of DIY.
Indeed, save for the want of curtain airbags, this is the only place in which the Roadster falls short of the Coupe.
It gets five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, ABS, traction control, leather trim, electrically-adjustable and heated front seats, single-zone climate control, six-CD Bose audio with steering wheel controls, Xenon headlights and cruise control.
While the Touring version misses out on the Track's Brembo brakes and — more importantly — Vehicle Dynamic Control (Nissan's electronic stability program), it receives four-wheel ABS with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, traction control system and limited-slip rear differential.
The Zed is newly shod in Bridgestone Potenza RE050A, with a 225/45R18 91W fitted at the front and a wider 245/45R18 96W at the rear.
There's a temporary use spare, which leaves overnight luggage space.
Even the lurid burned orange hue won't disguise the ageing and rather arid plastic nature of the interior, but it's functional, by no means oppressive and — in sports car terms — exceptionally decently priced.
Assertive character that the Zed was, it's more so now. Within minutes of driving away, the throaty resonance of the 3.5-litre bent six is evident, but it needs to gargle with 98 RON to stay on song. Though redline is only 500rpm north of the previous 7000, it reaches this height in a tuneful tenor, fairly hurtling from top torque at 4800rpm and maximum power at 6000.
Driven back-to-back with the more rigid and lighter Coupe, the Roadster's deficits in these respects would no doubt be evident. But it's not going to be deployed in those circumstances, leaving the lankier drivers of the latter to have their scalps seared as the Zed delivers an experience that makes you wonder where the money is in an SLK.
Accessing all of what the Zed has so readily (especially in the absence of the full outfit of electronic minders) could see the neophyte, or even those unused to powerful rear-drive cars, get bitten fairly hard.
With far more benign open-top cars to be had, those who find themselves seduced by the Zed's striking visual 'tude should be aware that roofless can translate rapidly to ruthless.
It's a measure of its dynamic competence that the Roadster feels almost as composed at speed as it does day to day.
Certainly, it's almost equally at home in both situations — as an intuitive, grin-inducing handler in the former, and eminently civilised in the latter. The most expensive Zed car at $73,990, the Roadster Touring is by far also the cheapest car of its type.
But in no sense at all should it be seen as a bargain Japanese option in a field of Germans.
However, at almost $80K less than the very best roadster — Porsche's Boxter S — the Nissan really is wonderful value for money.
Even though it's not the variant I'd want, it stands up in its own right, an accomplished and reinvigorated ride that will continue to reward as the years roll by.
The bottom line
Nissan 350Z Roadster
Engine: 3.5L/V6 230kW/358Nm
0-100KM/H: 6.1 seconds
Audi TT Roadster V6
Engine: 3.2L/V6 184kW/320Nm
0-100KM/H: 5.9 seconds
BMW Z4 3.0si
Price: $94,000 (auto)
Engine: 3L/6-cylinder 195kW/315Nm
0-100KM/H: 6 seconds
Mercedes-Benz SLK 350
Price: $115,900 (auto)
Engine: 3.5L/V6 200kW/350Nm
0-100KM/H: 5.5 seconds
Range and Specs
|Roadster Touring||3.5L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO||$17,600 – 22,220||2008 Nissan 350Z 2008 Roadster Touring Pricing and Specs|
|Roadster Track||3.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$17,600 – 22,220||2008 Nissan 350Z 2008 Roadster Track Pricing and Specs|
|Touring||3.5L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO||$16,980 – 19,990||2008 Nissan 350Z 2008 Touring Pricing and Specs|
|Track||3.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$14,190 – 18,700||2008 Nissan 350Z 2008 Track Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data