Road Trip: 2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster travel car test drives nissan
Road Trip: 2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster travel car test drives nissan
2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster, driver’s seat. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Bob McHugh

Los Angeles, Calif. – A roadster, like the Nissan 370Z, is an auto with a singular objective – owner enjoyment. Conversely, you might also call it an expensive toy with limited functionality. The latter probably explains why we’re seeing fewer roadsters (on our roads) in this fiscally responsible time. Except here, California, where the weather is (nearly-always) perfect and self-indulgence is the norm.

Ironically, the Nissan 370Z Roadster was designed by a Canadian, a talented young man called Randy Rodriguez from Surrey, BC who works at Nissan’s US design centre in (you guessed it) … California! That magic moment of divine inspiration for the 370Z’s fluid, supple and slippery styling lines apparently came while watching shark week on the Discovery Channel. Subtle styling references to the original 240Z, a sports car classic, are also cleverly incorporated into the new Z’s design.

The 370Z (Zee here and Zed in Canada) simply oozes youthful verve and vigour in both its performance and design. Okay, my youth may be a distant memory and a somewhat awkward period that a Z Roadster would surely have enhanced greatly. Maturity may also be the reason I’ve grown so fond of a suburb of Los Angeles, called Pasadena.

North and east of city centre, peaceful Pasadena is one of LA’s oldest suburbs and home of the Rose Bowl. A short freeway drive (16 km) from downtown it has six stations on the new Gold Line metro train route that links to LA’s famed Union Station. There are no beaches, no piers, no theme parks, no giant roller-coasters and no kids – well, just a few little darlings. It does, however, have beautifully preserved historic buildings, magnificent gardens, art galleries, museums and a vibrant “old town” district with theatres, bars and lots of great restaurants.

The Z’s one-touch, auto-latching convertible top can open or close in about 20 seconds and comes with a glass rear window and an integrated electric rear window defroster. It also comes with a fabric inner liner and a hinged metal body-colour tonneau cover that gives a top-down 370Z a classy finished look.

This Z has a lighter and more rigid body structure than its predecessor and a more powerful 332 hp 3.7L DOHC V6 engine. Even though this engine offers good low-end power it can also hit the high notes and redlines at pulsating 7,500 rpm, when pushed it to its limit. There’s a lovely growl from its dual exhaust pipes when you prod the gas pedal, and drive goes to the rear wheels via a viscous-type limited slip differential.

Road Trip: 2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster travel car test drives nissan Road Trip: 2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster travel car test drives nissan Road Trip: 2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster travel car test drives nissan
Old Town Pasadena, in front of Pasadena City Hall, Auditorium of the City of Pasadena. Click image to enlarge

A noteworthy high-tech engine enhancement is its Variable Valve Event and Lift Control (VVEL) system, which optimizes intake valve movements. In addition to extra power, the VVEL system improves fuel efficiency and provides cleaner exhaust emissions – the EPA rates it at 13.1/9.4/11.2 L/100 km city/highway/combined.

Wandering on less travelled roads towards the towering San Gabriel Mountains, which create a picturesque backdrop to Pasadena when weather and air conditions cooperate, was an opportunity to play with the Z’s delightful rev-matching seven-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual transmission can also be fitted (via a sport package) and it also comes with a downshift rev-matching feature, a world first for Nissan engineering.

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