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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: Nissan 370Z Roadster Touring a tip-top drop-top

It's no easy feat to take an iconic sports car and produce a convertible version — all the while retaining the original's looks, attitude and performance. But Nissan has done an admirable job of keeping — and in some areas enhancing — the 370Z lineage with its drop-top version. The 370Z Roadster has a personality all its own.

Appearance: The convertible, even with a power- operated canvas lid, doesn't look bulky like many drop-tops. When it lowers, it goes under a hard tonneau cover and keeps the car's clean, finished look. Still, the roadster loses the coupe's sweeping roofline, a Porsche-lite profile that Peter prefers. And the Z's muscular shoulders and fender flares are highlighted more by the coupe's body lines. Either way, we love the aerodynamic sweep of the long front end and the arrowhead-shaped head- and taillights.

Performance: The first thing we noticed was the roadster had less road noise than the coupe — one of that model's shortcomings. Our tester also didn't have the SynchroRev rev-matching manual, which produces smooth shifts by matching the engine's revs to wheel speed. (It's part of the optional Sport package. We tried it in the coupe and loved it.) That said, the normal 6-speed manual does shift smoothly — you just won't feel quite like the pro as you would when helped by the SynchroRev. The Roadster, of course, gets some strengthened body elements to keep it firm, and it even felt less skittish than the coupe, probably because of extra weight. The high-revving 3.7-liter DOHC V-6 is instantly responsive to the foot; step on it and you feel all 332 horsepower hurtling the Z forward.

Interior: The power top also features auto locking, so you won't have to fiddle around with hot metal latches. The Roadster also has a glass wind deflector that is permanently mounted and features a "Z" emblem in the center. Nice touch. The rest of the cabin, impressed us — as did the coupe — with its appearance and Nissan's ability to make less-expensive materials and gauges look upscale. Once you've worked out the clumsy manual dials for the eight-way driver's seat, you get lots of bolstering and support. The Touring's mesh/leather seats also are heated and cooled. Other nice touches: There's a lockable glove box, which is convenient for a convertible, as is a shelf to store bags behind the seats. The Bose audio system sounded clear even with the top down, thanks to its speed-sensitive volume. For a two-seater, the three cup holders come in handy as does some actual trunk space. Nissan says it can hold a golf bag (we don't golf) and it even has instructions on how to fit your clubs in the trunk.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Visibility: The convertible makes up for one of the coupe's shortcomings.

Interior: Attractive and sporty instrument cluster and layout.

Trunk: It's actually useful.

Lyra Solochek

Contours: The fender flares and high shoulders are even more pronounced in the Roadster. Very attractive.

Leather-wrapped shift knob: Finally, an automaker that understands that metal-trimmed shifters get hot!

Arrowhead lights: Sharp!

The bottom line: We still think the Nissan 370Z is a lot of sports car (and fun) for the money, if lacking a bit of refinement. Lyra prefers the convertible, while Peter favors the look of the coupe.

2011 Nissan 370Z Roadster Touring

Price: $38,200 base start, $43,970 as tested

Powertrain:

3.7-liter V-6, 6-speed manual transmission, RWD

Horsepower: 332 at 7,000 rpm

Torque: 270 pound-

feet at 5,200 rpm

Seats: two

Curb weight: 3,467 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 100.4

Length, 167.2

Width, 72.8

Fuel economy:

18 miles per gallon city, 25 mpg highway

Safety features: Advanced airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, door-mounted curtains, active head restraints, ABS, traction control, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake force Distribution, front and rear crumple zones, energy absorbing steering column

Website: www.nissanusa.com/zroadster

The Daily Drivers: Nissan 370Z Roadster Touring a tip-top drop-top 07/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 15, 2011 4:30am]
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