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Nissan 370Z convertible

 

With good looks and impressive power, the new Nissan 370Z sure is fun to drive

Convertibles might have a glam image - but it's hardly a dynamic one. Mind you, there are a few exceptions that prove the rule - Mazda's MX-5 and Porsche's Boxster the most notable, both designed originally as cabrios, rather than coupe spin-offs.

The majority are developed from hard-top cars, and aim for good looks over athleticism. But chopping the roof off doesn't translate well to a country where sunshine equates to sunburn, quite apart from any dynamic compromises.

Still, Nissan's topless 370Z looks promising. It's 65mm shorter than its 350Z predecessor, with a shorter wheelbase, yet it's wider - the wheel arch extensions emphasizing that width.

The rear window is bigger than before, though it's still little more than a letterbox and supplies very little rear vision. The rear three-quarter's not much better, and this is a car that could really use a reversing camera.

It could also use a larger boot; the 139 litres merely adequate and just as restricted roof up, as the fabric lid stows into a sealed compartment that's part of the cross-car bracing.

The extra braces and roof equipment add 61kg, offset by other weight savings to ensure this car tips the scales at just 49kg more than the coupe.

Despite the roof's inner skin outside noise remains disconcertingly clear with the engine off, and the car remains noisy under way - though you are more aware of the powerplant at play. Which reminds you why you buy any 370Z.

Because it drives very rapidly indeed. The 245kW/363Nm from this 3.7-litre V6 goes to the rear wheels via a seven-speed auto transmission that automatically blips the throttle on downshifts to match revs - at least in manual mode, using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Drive with brio and you'll find this car's remarkably stiff - there's very little more flex than the coupe - which means ride remains harsh. Fine when you're fanging, less so during your daily commute.

That's when you'll notice the lack of storage space despite the handbag stowage spaces behind the front seats; and the wind buffet - your eye-line's in still air, but your hair certainly isn't.

Mind you, that's also when you'll notice the cabin looks smart, if functional - and perhaps that the co-pilot's pew is a tad wider than yours, with both fixed low and centrally to enhance the drive feel.

And this car really is a lot of fun to drive. It always feels focused, muscular and characterful.

Trouble is, if you want the ultimate 370Z you'll still buy the coupe. For this $81,000 convertible may look good, but living with it is a different matter. The poor view out makes it hard work to maoeuvre round town with the roof up; and the wind buffet means you won't look good unless you stick to slow cruising, when you'll notice the hard ride.

Meanwhile the equivalent hard-top is five grand cheaper, and a smidge more capable of hard-out open road shenanigans, while delivering a slightly better practical proposition every day.

See the Nissan 370Z for sale.

Read a review of the Nissan 370Z Coupe.


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