At AUD$69,990 the premium for going topless in the new Nissan 350Z is very
reasonable. For just 17 percent more than the base hardtop coupe, you can enjoy
wind-in-your-hair motoring and flatter your ego on those lazy summer days.
The Zed’s transformation into a Roadster has brought a small trade-off in
structural rigidity – it’s certainly acceptable but it isn’t as tight as, say, a
current Saab convertible. If you want to hit the circuit in a Zed we suggest the
hardtop coupe (which is also 85kg lighter). Some of the Roadster’s lost chassis
stiffness is regained with the fitment of additional structural reinforcements
including heavy-duty undercarriage cross-frames. But telltale signs of chassis
movement are the creaking from the windows when entering a steep driveway and
some steering column chatter.
The roof mechanism is electrically operated but it does lack polish – not
surprising given the modest price hike. The Roadster’s fabric roof uses a
central latch on the top of the windscreen header rail that we found quite
awkward to use. The roof opening/closing ballet also involves automatic tilting
of the passenger seat backrest. Curiously, the driver’s seat doesn’t tilt – that
means a tall driver needs to duck his/her head to avoid a swinging canvas flap...
With the roof up, the 350Z Roadster isn’t claustrophobic inside but
rear-quarter visibility is poor. The single-layer fabric roof - with its metal
frame exposed inside the cabin - also allows a lot of noise to penetrate.
Perhaps this all part of the Zed’s sporty nature - and a sign of a bit of cost
cutting... On the upside, the rear window is glass and comes with a demister.
When retracted, the soft-top is also nicely hidden beneath a composite hard cover.
Roof down and the 350Z Roadster is in its element. We didn’t experience any
buffeting with the side windows up or down and it’s easy to hold a conversation
without needing a raised voice. A wind deflector is located between the seats,
which helps minimise wind noise.
With its roof folded beneath the rear cover, the 350Z Roadster is a
coffee-cruiser’s dream come true. Meaty but well proportioned from all angles,
this is one sexy looking machine – the sharply styled headlights and taillights
serving as attractive focal pieces. The Roadster also gets the same 18 x 8-inch
rims as fitted to the Track-spec hardtop coupe – these complete the outfit
nicely. The twin-outlet exhaust and air intake system are also designed to turn
heads with a gruff note.
Onboard, the cabin continues modern styling themes. Decked out in
high-contrast leather, the 4-way adjustable electric seats are comfortable and
the driving position is suitably sporty. The driver is fronted by a large
central tacho with a speedo, fuel level and coolant temp gauges shuffled to the
sides. A voltmeter, oil pressure gauge and digital trip computer are also a
glance away on the centre of the dashboard. An adjustable shift-light is also
Other interior appointments include cruise control, illuminated vanity
mirrors, ambient temperature display, seat warmers, drilled aluminium pedals,
knee pads, remote central locking, immobiliser, power windows and mirrors. There
are also front and side airbag complemented by seatbelt pre-tensioners and load
limiters and a rollover protection bar.
Some of the in-cabin ergonomics
are a bit questionable and we were also disappointed by the lack of easy storage
– nowhere good to throw your mobile phone, for example. There is, however, a
lockable in-cabin enclosure suitable for a laptop and two smaller enclosures
behind the seats plus a centre console and in-dash box.
The boot – which Nissan claims is big enough to fit a set of golf clubs - is
shallow and suffers from a high load lip. A space saver space can be dug up from
beneath the false floor.
The biggest drawcard of the interior is a spine-pounding Bose Audiopilot 240W
sound system. Headed by a tuner/cassette/in-dash 6-disc stacker unit, this
system uses seven speakers (including a large sub) and is very
bass-strong. The Zed’s automatic climate control system is also refreshingly
easy to operate, but we noticed a lot of heat coming through from the trans
That underbonnet heat comes from Nissan’s impressive VQ35DE 3.5-litre V6. The
new V6 offers ample torque at all revs and can capably run to the 6100 rpm
redline. With 363Nm of torque at 4800 rpm and 206kW at 6200 rpm, the Zed’s
VQ35DE is one of the most powerful naturally aspirated sixes on the market. Our
only criticism is an overly aggressive electronic throttle control strategy,
which makes balancing the throttle a fine art. There are no prizes going out for
engine related NVH either.
From a technical point of view, the all-alloy VQ35DE employs DOHC, 4-valve
heads featuring continuously variable inlet cam timing and direct-fire ignition.
The compression ratio is set at 10.3:1, which means 95+ RON fuel is recommended.
Interestingly, the tank of fuel supplied in our test car caused a considerable
amount of detonation - a subsequent refill with 98 RON fuel eliminated this.
The 350Z Roadster can be bought with a standard 6-speed manual (as tested) or
an optional 5-speed auto. The manual ‘box offers a close spread of ratios that
are easily accommodated by the torquey engine, but the shift action is firm and
too notchy for our tastes - it’s certainly not a flick-of-the-wist gearchange
like in a Mazda MX-5. The clutch pedal also has some weight and the friction
point in our test car was a long way off the floor.
In a straight-line, the 1458kg Roadster manual can effortlessly grunt its way
to 100 km/h in under 7-seconds. And, despite copping some fairly hard driving,
our test 350Z Roadster returned decent overall fuel economy – about 12.5-litres
per 100km. Fuel tank capacity is 76 litres.
True to its Z ancestors, the 350Z is a rear-wheel-drive machine. Crouched on
double A-arm aluminium front suspension and a 4-link IRS (with tower braces at
both ends) the 350Z is set-up to spit its tail out in low-speed power-on
manoeuvres. In wet conditions, this is especially the case – the traction
control system prevents excessive wheelspin but you can still get the Zed
sideways without much effort. On the other hand, the Roadster comes together
quite well on a more flowing winding road – its overall balance is impressive.
In a straight line the 225/45 front and 245/45 rear Bridgestones offer good grip
but don’t provide the lateral adhesion we’d expect from such beefy tyres. Note
that VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) is fitted only to the Track-spec hardtop
In contrast to our previous 350Z Track-spec test (see
New Car Test - Nissan 350Z Track), the suspension of the
Roadster is perfectly suitable – firm but not uncomfortable. Note that the
Roadster uses different suspension settings compared to the hardtop coupes.
The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is about perfect for this type of
vehicle – direct, nicely weighted and communicative. No complaints except for a
hint of tramlining.
The Roadster isn’t available with the big Brembo anchors fitted to the
Track-spec hardtop coupe. Instead, it comes with the 296 and 292mm
ventilated discs found in the entry-level 350Z. Although not impressive to look
at through those 18-inch rims, the Roadster’s brakes perform well in street
applications – there’s good pedal feel and reliable stopping power. Hard-braking
stability is excellent thanks to the latest ABS and EBD systems and emergency
Our test car had driven more
than 9000 hard ‘media miles’ and it had a couple of small, perhaps related,
faults. The front tyres were very rumbly, one of the rear storage enclosures
wouldn’t close and the centre ashtray was a very loose fit. Aside from this,
the car was well assembled and nicely finished.
So what’s the Zed Roadster like to live with for a week? Well, it’s perfectly
useable for Monday to Friday traffic wrestling or weekend cruises and hills
blasts. But there are some wearing negatives. We frequently struggled with
access problems caused by the long doors and forward seating position – if
there’s a car parked next to the Zed it’s very difficult to get in or out
without bumping the door. The lack of a ‘throw-zone’ for a mobile phone and the
relatively firm, notchy gearshift also proved tiring.
There are two main attractions to the 350Z Roadster – its sensational looks
and that grunty VQ35 engine. Some drivers will also revel in the easy
power-slide set-up of the chassis – great for showpony acts. Apart from these
drawcards, though, the rest of the vehicle is really quite ho-hum. Still, in the
high-power soft-top league, the AUD$69,990 350Z Roadster stands up as decent
If you’re into the 350Z the ragtop version is well worth the extra money.
Why You Would
- One of the sexiest vehicles on the market
- Torquey and powerful engine gives excellent performance
- Good steering and ride
- A small premium over the base hardtop coupe
Why You Wouldn’t...
- Only two seats and not much in-cabin stowage
- Roof system has signs of cost cutting
- Despite TRC, it can still get crossed-up with oversteer
- Chassis not as rigid as some other soft-tops
The Nissan 350Z Roadster was provided for this test by Nissan Australia. www.nissan.com.au