The popular 350Z has shed its tin top . . . Nissan’s muscular 3,5-litre V6-engined roadster steps out with a gorgeous cropped look and a soundtrack to match.The popular 350Z has shed its tin top . . . Nissan’s muscular 3,5-litre V6-engined roadster steps out with a gorgeous cropped look and a soundtrack to match. Is the 350Z Roadster, at R425 000, a snip?


When CAR road tested the 350Z in its March 2004 issue, editors remarked the “latest generation Z feels every millimetre a sportscar of the old school, but complemented with the best of modern technology that enhances the sheer thrill of driving”. And, according to Nissan South Africa, the 350Z “led monthly sales soon after launch in January last year, and notched up top selling position with a total of 507 units and 22 per cent share of its segment”.


So, what does the 350Z Roadster, which was named “Cabriolet of the Year” at the recent Geneva Motor Show, offer over and above its successful sibling?


The most obvious feature is the Roadster’s automatic soft top, which takes 20 seconds to raise or lower. When lowered, the roof stows away under a thermo-plastic resin tonneau cover in front of the boot lid, and reveals a pair of sculpted domes behind the seats. A small glass wind deflector is fitted between the seats to reduce the levels of turbulent air entering the cockpit. When raised, it is held in place by a triple lock/single latch system, which secures the roof to the windscreen header rail in three places following a pull of the central latch. The glass rear window is electrically heated.


To make up for the loss in torsional stiffness due to the loss of the metal roof, Nissan added structural reinforcements to the floor, sills and underbody. A centrally placed V-shaped cross bar has been added under the seat area connecting the sills, while an A-shaped cross bar has been added at the front to reinforce the front end.


At the rear, an M-shaped reinforcing bar – known as the Mizuno bar - is attached to the floor pan just ahead of the rear wheel arches, and links with the tip of the A-shaped cross bar to form an X-frame beneath the centre of the car. The door openings and sills, A-pillars, windscreen surround and steering column have also been uprated.


The Roadster’s engine is the same as that in the Coupé – an all-alloy 3,5-litre 24-valve twin cam V6 with continuously variable valve timing control system (CVTCS) mated with a short throw six-speed manual gearbox. The engine is said to produce 206 kW at 6 200 r/min, 363 N.m peak torque at 4 800 r/min and propel the 350Z Roadster from zero to 100 km/h in 6,4 seconds, going on to a limited top speed of 250 km/h.


The ragtop Z car’s exhaust note has been tuned to “amplify the engine’s natural growl on start up and tickover, maximising the sound between 1 000 and 3 500 r/min”, Nissan claims. Intake roar has been boosted at wide throttle openings between 3 500 to 6 000 r/min by the use of straight intake ducts and the removal of a low decibel harmonic, the manufacturer said.


Nissan says the car has a 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution and rides on a lightweight forged aluminium multi-link independent suspension. Both front and rear suspension assemblies are mounted on separate sub-frames. A Brembo braking system, featuring the company’s signature gold-coloured calipers, is equipped with ABS, EBD and EBA. EBD varies the hydraulic brake pressure on the back wheels to avoid lock-up under heavy braking, while EBA senses an emergency and ensures the full braking power is applied even if the driver momentarily reduces pressure on the pedal.


Standard features on the 350Z Roadster include: a BOSE sound system, climate control, cruise control, heated power seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, trip computer, Xenon lamps, and charcoal leather-covered heated seats. Safety equipment comprises front and side airbags, vehicle dynamic control and twin, asymmetric, roll-over hoops.


The Roadster is available in red, black and four metallic finishes – Sunset Orange, Gun Grey, blue and silver. Ventilated seats trimmed in burnt-orange leather (accompanied by matching gear shift knob and handbrake) are optional on silver, Gun Grey, Sunset Orange and Black roadsters. The hood is available in two colours: Black, which is available on all body colours, or Blue, which is available on Silver, Gun Grey or Blue cars.


The Nissan 350Z Roadster costs R425 000 (R428 000 with optional seats), which includes a three-years/100 000km warranty and three-year/50 000km Maintenance plan.


Competitors: Alfa Romeo Spider 3,2 (R369 000), Audi TT Roadster 1,8 quattro (R399 500), Chrysler Crossfire 3,2L V6 Roadster (R409 000), BMW Z4 2,5i (R395 000) and Honda S2000 (R359 000).