I had a lot more fun than expected when I test drove this Midnight Blue 370Z Touring Roadster! During the week I had it, I drove it to several weekday meetings and photo shoots with the top down, enjoying the 70 degree weather typical of Southern California in February. On the weekend, I was given the opportunity to join my friends from Raceline USA at a track day they hosted at Buttonwillow Raceway (Thanks to Elton Lo from Raceline for the invite and Danny Nguyen from JDM Zipties for setting it up!).
At first, I felt like the odd man out in a bone stock 2013 370Z Touring Roadster, because almost everyone else in attendance drove the track day in a modified or race prepared car. I quickly got over that feeling though, because a day at the track with friends is always a fun experience. And a 6-speed 370Z Roadster is definitely a fun car to drive!
In the past, I never really liked most convertible top cars because of the way they look when the top is up. However, this car MIGHT have changed my mind on all that. This 370 Roadster did a lot to sway my closed-mindedness on convertibles. Why? Well, the answer is quite simple… the car was fun to drive. It was fast, it was responsive, and it handled well. Well, of course it did. It’s a 370Z!
Now in the fourth year of the current generation Z design (Z34), the 370Z Roadster combines the high performance attributes of the hardtop 370Z Coupe with the open-air fun of an authentic convertible sports car.
Like the 370Z Coupe, the Z34 Roadster has an aluminum hood, door panels and trunk for reduced weight. It includes additional structural reinforcement (over the 370Z Coupe) in the A-pillars and side sills to stiffen up the car. The Z Roadster’s exterior design incorporates the look and feel of the Z Coupe, including its signature long nose/short cockpit proportions, vertical door handles and distinctive headlights/taillights – along with a new (kouki) front bumper design with integrated LED daytime running lights.
I’ll be honest in saying that I’m not a fan of the convertible cloth top in the closed position. When in the down position, the convertible top is concealed beneath a full body-color hard tonneau cover, which extends forward to help create the Z Roadster’s classic “double cockpit” style interior. This tonneau cover looks awesome; it really makes the 370Z Roadster look like the premium level sports car that it is.
While I don’t think it looks cool at all with the fabric top up (not even a little bit), once you drop the top, the entire feel of the car changes. Retracting the top is easy; it’s a single-action open-close operation. All you need to do is hold down a single button on the center console to put the top up or lower it. The entire operation is relatively quick as well. Since it only takes roughly 20 seconds, you can easily go topless or put up while you’re stopped at a red light.
Driving through Hollywood and Studio City with the top down, I finally understood why people like open top cars. I get it. Driving top down completely changes the sensory driving experience. It just makes you feel more connected with the environment you’re driving through. When you’re driving through twisty roads, the open top is convenient because allows you to look further ahead into the turn. Even when you’re just cruising through a crowded parking lot, the open top is still helpful, because it offers you an unobstructed view of the up and coming actresses walking out of the local Whole Foods market with their organic kale and soy milk.
Estimated fuel economy for the 370Z Roadster is 17 mpg City/24 mpg Highway for the 6-speed manual transmission, which isn’t bad, especially for a car with the type of power that the Z34 has.
The 2013 Nissan 370Z Roadster interior is traditionally available in Black cloth. However, the 370Z Touring Roadster model I was driving came with grey leather Air Conditioned and heated ventilated seats. Touring models include 4-way power/4-way manual operation on the driver’s seat (4-way power on the passenger’s seat). These seats are exclusive to the Z Roadster – ideal for open air driving, no matter what the outside temperature. I absolutely LOVED the seats in the 370Z Touring Roadster I drove. I’m always a fan of the comfort provided by butt warmers and even better – butt coolers for sporty leather seats.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, I really loved how the 370Z’s steering wheel really made me feel like I was one with the car. The leather wrapped steering wheel features baseball-style stitching, and was sports-minded and comfortable. The thick gauge grip wheel really added to the sporty feel, but it wasn’t too thick, with improved thumb grips and palm rest areas for improved feel on long drives. I love modern conveniences like phone and audio controls on the steering wheel, and the Z34’s sporty steering wheel definitely excelled in that department.
The Z Roadster’s 2-seat layout includes a deeply scooped instrument panel with a full-length center console separating the driver and passenger’s seat. The speedometer and tachometer also include an “initial sweep” function, coming alive when the car is first started. The fuel gauge/trip computer finisher has been refined for 2013 with a new dark finish.
To the right of the steering wheel, the factory gauges atop the dashboard really added a nostalgic feel, resonating back to the original S30 240Z of the 1970s. The Z Roadster’s instrument panel retains the traditional Z 3-pod cluster with oil temperature, voltmeter and clock.
However, instead of the original Z’s AM/FM radio, we have a large Navigation screen and CD player, which becomes even better with a Sirius XM Radio account!
The Bose speaker system is really outstanding. I’m the type of person who likes to play music LOUDLY. Even with the top down, driving on the freeway, I was able to hear the details in my music loud and clear! I was amazed by the 6CD Bose audio system with eight speakers (includes dual subwoofer) that comes in the Touring Edition 370Z I was driving. The large center mounted CD head unit features MP3/WMA playback, Bluetooth Streaming Audio, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio, which I LOVE.
Underneath the center console armrest is a USB connectivity dock that is iPod compatible, but I was quite disappointed to find that the particular car I drove would continually lose USB connectivity, so I couldn’t fully play a song on my iPod or my iPhone. I couldn’t even charge the phone, because the USB dock would keep disconnecting. Most likely this is just a simple wiring issue that only affected this particular car, but it was definitely a bummer during the week I was driving it.
The 2013 Z Roadster is offered in two well-equipped models – 370Z Roadster (7-speed automatic only) and the 370Z Touring Roadster (6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic). Two option packages are offered with the Touring model, the Sport Package and Navigation.
The car I tested came with the Sport Package, and I’m glad it did. The optional Navigation Package comes with Real-Time Traffic Information and on-board Zagat Survey restaurant ratings database. I never had the chance to test a Touring Roadster with Navigation Package in real life, but I’m not sure that normal people would actually use functions like an onboard Zagat restaurant database anyway. Almost everyone with an iPhone or a Droid phone has the Yelp app already.
One outstanding feature that I loved on this 370Z Touring Roadster was the RearView Monitor, which made parallel parking on crowded side streets extremely easy! The Bluetooth Phone System was also a great feature that I always used, along with the HomeLink Universal Transceiver to open up the garage door. I really love these creature comforts, and miss them when I’m taking some of my older cars out for a spin!
The brushed aluminum pedals have rubber grips on them. This gives them a sporty look on race day, while also retaining functionality for every day driving.
Early in the morning, on the way to the race track, I had to drive through The Grapevine, which was covered in icy roads from the previous night’s snowfall. It rained the previous night in Los Angeles, but since The Grapevine is at a higher elevation, the falling precipitation turned into snow.
For the very first time in my life, I was glad to be driving a vehicle with traction control. The rear end of the car kept wanting to step out on the slippery curved roads going in the hills, but the traction light kept flashing on the gauge cluster, and the traction control successfully kept the car in its own lane. This is literally the ONLY time I ever felt that traction control was a good thing. I normally hate it. A lot.
I usually turn off traction control because I prefer to kick the tail out sometimes, and put the car’s Viscous LSD to use on selected hairpin turns and tight u-turns.
When I arrived at the track, it was just before 8:00am. The rest of my friends were already there, and I was a bit late. Still, I decided to stop and shoot an iPhone photo of Buttonwillow’s random speed limit sign as you enter the track. Also, notice how much fog there was at the racetrack in the morning!
Once I stepped outside the car, I was shocked at just how dirty the Z became after that drive through the snow-covered roads on the Grapevine! The snow was nice to look at from a distance, but the light covering of snow on the road (combined with dirt on the pavement) made the Z’s sparkling Midnight Blue paint filthy. It was a shame, because the Midnight Blue paint is one of two new exterior colors for 2013, and it makes the car look so sophisticated!
The entire side of the vehicle was covered in so much dirt that it looked more like a SCORE offroad racing vehicle than a drop top sports car! I wanted to wash the car down before driving it at the track, but to quote the immortal words of Sweet Brown, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” I had to get to the driver’s meeting!
While I was driving on the race track, my friend Danny Nguyen was able to snap a few photos of me behind the wheel. I was so glad that Elton from Raceline let me take the 370 out on the track for a few sessions. (Thanks, Elton!) Having access to the track allowed me to really test the car’s acceleration and handling in a safe environment! I prefer not to test out high speed handling on public roads. The probability of getting a ticket, damaging the car, or hurting someone is just too great, and I don’t want to risk it.
Just like the normal hardtop versions of the Z34, the 370Z Roadster Tour is nimble and quick. In it’s normal “gas saving” mode for every day driving, the car has a decent amount of torque, but it’s nothing to write home about. However, as soon as you depress the center console mounted button to put the car in Sport Mode, the car’s attitude changes entirely!
In Sport Mode, the Z accelerates even faster than normal, but that isn’t the only noticeable change. In Sport Mode, the hollow roar of the engine even sounds cooler than it normally does. While you can certainly feel these differences on the street, turning on Sport Mode makes the Z34 Roadster just come alive on the racetrack! It feels like a completely different car. The engine revs more quickly and more freely, and the car feels A LOT more powerful and more torquey.
The Z34 comes with a 332 horsepower 3.7-liter VQ37VHR DOHC V6 engine with Variable Valve Event and Lift Control (VVEL) and choice of a 7-speed automatic transmission or close-ratio 6-speed manual trans. The 6 speed transmission is unique because of its SynchroRev Match function; it automatically blips the throttle to smooth out up/down shifts and synchronize revs with the engine rpm when the driver downshifts.
With SynchroRev Match, drivers of any skill level can experience professional-like downshifting. Some people are critical of this feature, saying that real drivers should be able to rev match by themselves. That’s true, but I think this is a good feature for the 370Z. It allows the driver to focus more on braking and steering, and for the naysayers, the feature can be deactivated with a button next to the shifter for drivers who prefer to shift on their own.
Since I had the opportunity to test the 370Z Roadster’s handling on the racetrack, I also had a chance to check out the braking. Don’t let the soft top’s Malibu looks fool you. This car packs a lot of performance – something one doesn’t typically expect from a convertible. However, it’s still a Z – a 370Z.
The Z34’s standard 4-wheel vented disc brake system includes Anti-Lock Brakes with Electronic Brake force Distribution and Brake Assist. The optional Sport Package 370Z that I drove included Nissan Sport Brakes (rebadged Brembo OEM brakes!) with large diameter 14.0-inch front and 13.8-inch rear rotors (versus 12.6-inch front/rear standard rotors) with 4-piston front and 2-piston rear aluminum calipers. For 2013, the Nissan/Brembo OEM Sport Brakes now come in red when you get the Sport package. The red calipers are great. They really stand out when the wheels are spinning!
Since the 370Z Touring Roadster I was driving was equipped with the Sport Package, it came with new design 19-inch RAYS Engineering forged lightweight wheels with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires in 245/40R19 up front and 275/35R19 tires in the rear. I’ll be honest here. I think these factory equipment RAYS wheels have looks that only their designer could love, but hell… they are authentic, forged wheels from RAYS Engineering, so they’re strong and lightweight.
I had such an incredibly fun time testing out this 370Z Roadster Tour at the Raceline Track Event! I’m always happy to put my custom pinstriped/gold leafed/hand lettered helmet to use!
After a few sessions, I decided to retire the car from racetrack duties, so I could practice some drive by shooting on the Buttonwillow paddock. Thanks to Danny Nguyen from JDMZipties for this photo!
Speaking of drive by shooting, it started getting pretty cold out at Buttonwillow at the end of the day. Good thing the Valero gas station at the Interstate 5’s Buttonwillow McKittrick Exit sold black ski masks for less than $4 dollars!
I really don’t go skiing or snowboarding, so I just have to ask the question… Do people actually wear these things when they go skiing?! Wouldn’t you be slightly uneasy if you saw a big guy in a ski mask sliding towards you on a snowboard?! I probably would!
Either way, the ski mask provided for some fun entertainment as I was driving the 370Z with the top down on the freeway that cold evening.
It wasn’t until a couple DAYS later that I found out there was a HUGE manhunt for an alleged cop killer going on in Southern California!!! (I don’t really watch TV, so I usually don’t find out about local news unless someone is posting about it on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.)
NO WONDER people were looking at me from inside their cars and pointing when they saw me driving down the freeway!!! I thought they were just admiring the $48,020 dollar, 3488 lb Z roadster I was driving! I could have been wrong about that, though.
In fact, I was completely oblivious to the manhunt situation the entire time I was driving. I even snapped this iPhone pic while I was driving! Would a real fugitive take sunset photos with an iPhone?! I think not. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)
I was just enjoying the Southern California sunset, with the 6CD Bose audio system blaring music LOUDLY out of all eight speakers (including dual subwoofer)…
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair… Warm smell of Colitas rising up in the air… you know the song.
When I got back to Los Angeles area, I just HAD to take the Z Roadster for one last drive down the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, blasting some classic rock…
Ventura Highway in the sunshine… Where the days are longer, the nights are stronger than moonshine…
You’re gonna go, I know… ‘Cause the free wind is blowin’ through your hair, and the days surround your daylight there…
The 370Z Roadster Tour with Sports package is just the perfect companion for a spirited drive down the California coast. I can’t wait to drive one again!
:: Antonio Alvendia
Additional photos by Danny Nguyen & Kenny Truffin