Coupe to cabrio – it’s a popular mid-life facelift for a sports car. Audi’s TT, Holden’s Astra and Peugeot’s 206 have all been successful, popular, stylish tin-tops that have benefited from some air in the hair. Now, almost a year after its debut, Nissan’s 350Z has lost its head.
This review was originally published in MOTOR’s January 2004 issue
The 350Z roadster adds exactly ten grand to the Touring coupe’s base price, but it’s not all down to the electric roof mechanism. Unlike the coupe’s Touring or Track specs, the Roadster is available in one mix-and-matched mid-spec offering: it gets the up-spec Track’s 18-inch alloys and 225/45 tyres, but the base-spec Touring’s smaller twin-piston caliper brakes.
It also scores the up-spec Bose six-CD, single- subwoofered stereo that increases volume as road speed and wind noise rises, full climate control, heated electric leather seats, steering wheel-mounted cruise control and the same six-speed manual and gruff, sometimes coarse-sounding 206kW/363Nm 3.5-litre quad-cam V6.
Mechanically it’s the same, but the power-to-weight ratio does suffer slightly due to an extra 95kg of electric roof mechanism and bracing. It’s a small price to pay, because cabrios are traditionally slow boulevard show ponies anyway: a 6.5sec 0-100km/h is close, but 15.1sec at 151km/h for the 400m is about half a second and 10km/h off the coupe. Far from slow, but speed isn’t always the point.
In fact, why not fork out the extra $2800 for the 4kg heavier five-speed slusher with manual shift? Who cares about quarter miles when you’re admiring your own top-down Saturday morning reflected smugness in shop windows?
Don’t worry too much about messing the hair, either, because the cabin’s fairly well protected from the elements; the low seating position, high windows, styled speedster cover and a rear glass wind-blocker all help to keep wind effect down.
classic MOTOR: Z4 v Boxster v TT Roadster
With roof raised – a process that takes just 16.5 seconds, including a slight nudge in the head from the folding roof – rear vision is reduced, and while it’s all sealed tight, there is a high amount of wind noise that a few layers of canvas just can’t suppress.
Chassis stiffness is impressive, with just the slightest shake over very rough roads. Thank the extra bracing, with a V-bar connecting the sills and an A-shaped crossbar reinforcing the front end. Stronger door openings and a triple member added to the seating area all add up to a stiff little chassis.
But it’s the little things that count with the Zed roadster. Like the improved operation of the dash console lid, the padded centre console and the driver and passenger knee pads. The Track coupe’s firm suspension has also been addressed in the roadster, with softer damper settings so it’s noticeably more tolerant of ripples and bumps.
The synopsis for any roadster is simple: retain all the good characteristics of the coupe while introducing as little compromise as possible. The Zed roadster shows how it’s done.
No school like old school on classic MOTOR
2004 Nissan 350Z Roadster
Engine: 3.5-litre DOHC 24-valve V6