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NISSAN'S NEW CONVERTIBLE ROAD STAR
Nissan's mighty 370Z sports car now has a soft-top sibling. The dramatic 370Z Roadster, designed from the outset as a convertible, is ready to join the awesome GT-R and thrilling 370Z Coupe to complete Nissan's sports car offering. Lower, leaner, lighter and faster than its predecessor, the new Roadster celebrates 40 years of the Z.
"When work started on the 370Z some four years ago we decided from the outset that there would be a drop-top version as well as the coupé, so both were designed and engineered side by side. As a result we have been able to ensure the Roadster is notably stiffer than its predecessor to guarantee there has been no compromise in the area that matters most in a sports car: dynamic performance."
Pierre Loing, Nissan's European Vice President for Product Planning.
At a glance
... and structurally stiffer, too
Sports car fans who have been waiting patiently for the new 370Z Roadster to arrive in Europe will have to wait a little longer before they can enjoy the full wind-in-the-hair sensations... a further 20 seconds.
That's all it takes to transform the 370Z from snug roof up two-seater to a dynamic roadster. And lowering and raising the fully automatic soft-top can be completed with one push of a button with no fiddly latches to open or close.
The new 370Z Roadster has been designed from the ground up as a convertible, promising no dynamic compromises in its on road behaviour. As a result, it offers the same dramatic performance, road holding and rear-wheel drive handling as the highly acclaimed 370Z Coupé, but with the added bonus of fresh air fun.
Like the Coupé, it is powered by the latest version of Nissan's multi award-winning 3.7-litre V6 engine now developing 328PS. Recent modifications have ensured the unit is now fully compliant with tough Euro 5 emission legislation.
And also like the Coupé, it's available in two versions: 370Z Roadster and GT Pack. Every Roadster is comprehensively equipped as standard with a new design of 18-inch alloy wheel, engine stop/start button, electrically adjustable seats, Bluetooth connectivity, remote phone and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, wind deflector and xenon lights.
The GT Pack adds leather seats with soft net fabric inserts, a bespoke eight-speaker six CD Bose audio system and cruise control. Also standard on GT Pack models is the luxury of air conditioned seats. Chilled air can be circulated through the seat's netting material to keep the occupants cool even if the sun is beating down. And on a winter's day, heated air can be piped through the seats to keep driver and passenger warm.
Options include the availability of a seven-speed automatic transmission - the first time there has been an auto option on the Roadster in Europe - while the standard six-speed manual comes with the bonus of Synchro Rev Control, the only manual transmission in the world with automatic downshift rev matching for perfect racing gear changes.
Also available as an option is Nissan's Connect Premium, an advanced 40GB hard drive based Satellite Navigation system with a new high resolution display screen.
"Since sales began a year ago, the 370Z Coupé has reaffirmed Nissan's status as a maker of truly exciting sports cars as exemplified by cars like the GT-R. The arrival of the Roadster adds another string to 370Z's bow, bringing serious performance to the open top market," said Vincent Wijnen, Nissan's European Vice President for Marketing.
Nissan 370Z in detail
Some convertibles look better with the roof down, some with the top in place. The new 370Z looks at its best whether the hood is up or down. By starting design of the Roadster at the same time as work began on the Coupé, Nissan designers have been able to ensure the soft-top version has a sophisticated silhouette with better, more natural, integration of the hood into the overall design.
The distinctive result echoes the ‘Z character' with a blend of sweeping curves and aggressively short overhangs while the shape of the roof itself flows more naturally into the rear of the car when the roof is in place.
When lowered, it tucks away under a body-coloured hard tonneau cover which combines with the glass wind deflector mounted between the reinforced seat surrounds behind the occupants to reduce wind turbulence at speed, allowing occupants of the ‘double cockpit' to enjoy fully the sounds and sensations of open air performance motoring.
Other design cues already seen on the Coupe have transferred to the Roadster. They include the distinctive boomerang LED rear and arrowhead front lights, while familiar ‘Z' features such as the vertical door handles, twin tail pipes and ‘Z' badges in the side repeaters are also present.
Inside, the driver-focused cabin also boasts many features now synonymous with the Z, such as an engine stop/start button, floor hinged throttle pedal, wide and soft pads mounted on the central transmission tunnel to protect occupants' knees during enthusiastic driving, a centrally placed tachometer and three separate hooded dials - now including an oil temperature gauge - sitting centrally on the top of the dashboard and angled towards the driver.
Significant changes have been made to the design of the Roadster's roof. It is now fully automatic and there's no longer a need to latch it manually into place. The roof can be lowered at speeds upto 5 kph.
Switchgear to open and close the roof has been logically placed on the centre console between switches for the cooled/heated seats, while the roof can also be lowered from outside the car by pressing and holding the door locking button for three seconds. It takes just 20 seconds for the roof to be raised and locked into place or lowered out of sight beneath its tonneau.
The fabric hood has been given a smooth inner lining partly to hide the hood frame and partly to reduce noise levels, while the system uses a new hydraulic pump that's silent in operation in place of the electric motor used previously
"We have spent a great deal of design and engineering time and expertise to ensure that the roof of the 370Z Roadster is fully integrated into the overall design of the car. It not only looks better than before, but it is quicker and more efficient in its operation," said Pierre Loing.
Like the 370Z Coupe, the new Roadster is a more focused sports car. It sits on a wheelbase shorter by exactly 100mm (2550mm vs 2650mm) while the front and rear track widths have been increased by 15mm and 55mm respectively. At the same time, the car's centre of gravity has been lowered: the engine and transmission are 15mm lower than before, while the seating position has been reduced by 10mm. The result is a car that feels eager and more responsive... more ‘glued' to the road.
Overall, the 370Z Roadster is 4250mm long, 1845 wide and 1325 high.
The suspension layout follows a tried and tested formula with double wishbones at the front and a multi-link rear end, but both have been extensively revised. They are lighter yet stronger than before but with greater lateral stiffness to minimise the effects of camber change.
Forged aluminium alloy links at the front are 25 per cent lighter than used previously, while the revised subframe - a high vacuum diecast alloy cradle - delivers a similar weight saving. Other changes at the front include reinforced steering arms and bigger front hub bearings while the hollow anti-roll bar is not only lighter but also 35 per cent more effective.
Weight savings at the rear come through lighter aluminium alloy castings, but the major changes are to the increased stiffness of links and the cradle itself. As at the front, larger hub bearings and a stiffer yet lighter anti-roll bar complete the picture. High response shock absorbers help provide a compliant ride.
Overall weight has been reduced by a substantial 97kg over the 350Z Roadster, despite the new car having greater standard equipment. The weight saving can be partly explained by the use of aluminium for the doors and bonnet, as well as the fact that the 370Z was conceived from day one to be a convertible, meaning the car's architecture needed less reinforcement. Indeed, it is just 28kg heavier than its Coupé sister.
High levels of handling and overall refinement are among the benefits of a more rigid body structure. Torsional stiffness at the front of the Roadster has increased by 40 per cent and at the rear by 45 per cent. Vertical bending stiffness at the rear has been improved by a massive 60 per cent - all helping to deliver an enhanced dynamic performance.
Hydraulic speed sensitive rack and pinion steering has also been revised to provide more communicative feedback and better response around the dead ahead position. The system delivers greater agility around town and enhanced stability at motorway speeds.
Braking performance, too, has been enhanced with larger diameter ventilated discs front and rear and the adoption of a variable ratio brake pedal which provides more movement for easier control at low speeds, but a firmer pedal at higher G. The new system has greater resistance to brake fade under sustained usage while new pad material helps reduce stopping distances at the same time as lowering brake dust and reducing brake squeal. The brake pad material has been upgraded specifically for Europe, where average speeds are generally higher than in America or Japan.
A full complement of electronic safety aids includes the latest generation ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA).
Engine and drivetrain
At the heart of the Roadster is the latest version of Nissan's potent 3.7-litre 24 valve quad cam V6 VQ engine, with Variable Valve Event Lift (VVEL) technology. For the 2010 model year, the engine is fully Euro 5 compliant.
By optimising valve timing the engine produces 328 PS in manual form (auto: 328 PS), an increase of five per cent, while torque rises to 363 Nm. With VVEL the engine is six per cent more fuel efficient and, by ensuring optimum air/fuel mixture at all times, it is more responsive, too.
VVEL is compact and mechanically comparative simple with just 13 moving parts, half that of some rival systems. As the valves themselves control the intake phase, response to throttle inputs is immediate. In tests, Nissan engineers have recorded response times up to 32 per cent quicker than rival variable valve systems that retain conventional valve springs.
There are two transmission options on the 370Z Roadster, a six-speed manual and a new seven-speed automatic. When equipped with a manual gearbox, the 370Z emits nine per cent less CO2 than its predecessor at 262g, a figure which rises to 12 per cent for the automatic at 254g. Fuel consumption is 11.2l/100km for the manual and 10.9l for the automatic.
Top speed for the Roadster equipped with either manual or automatic gearbox is 250kph, while acceleration to 100kph is achieved in 5.5 seconds in the manual-equipped car and 5.8 in the automatic.
When the manual gearbox is used in S-Mode (standard on GT Pack), Nissan's new Synchro Rev Control (SRC) technology is automatically engaged. SRC ensures that engine revs are always at the optimum level when the driver is changing gear, delivering perfect ‘heel and toe' changes every time.
Sensors on the clutch and on the gear lever itself monitor driver actions to blip the throttle on down shifts and maintain constant engine revs when changing up. As the sensors detect clutch pedal movement, the SRC system is primed, coming into operation when the gear lever is moved. By matching this information to vehicle speed, SRC knows whether the driver is slowing for a corner or changing up through the 'box.
For the first time in Europe the Z Roadster is available as an automatic and Nissan has developed a sporting transmission that perfectly matches the character of the car. While it can be driven as a conventional automatic, enthusiastic owners are more likely to regard it as a clutchless manual, using either the centre shift lever or steering wheel paddles to change gear. This has influenced its development to the stage where it has the fastest manual mode shift time of any automatic.
A high level of lock up prevents automatic up shifts in manual mode at high revs at the same time as reducing high fuel wastage caused by torque converter slip. Its settings also allow strong engine braking and instant engine response under acceleration. The more traditional D-mode is suited to more relaxed driving, around town - with obvious benefits in terms of fuel consumption.
Downshift Rev Matching (DRM) automatically blips the throttle on down shifts in manual mode to smooth gear changes still further.
Generous standard equipment levels are a feature of the standard 370Z Roadster and include a Stop/Start button with Nissan's Intelligent Key, 18-inch cast alloy wheels, sports brakes and a viscous limited slip differential. Seats are electrically adjustable and audio/phone controls are mounted on the steering wheel while Bluetooth connectivity is a standard. Customers can choose between a black or Bordeaux coloured soft-top.
The GT Pack versions add heated and ventilated leather/net seats which are available in black or Bordeaux, a premium six CD Bose sound system and cruise control. The GT Pack also incorporates Synchro Rev Control technology on the manual version along with Uphill Start Support to ease hill starts.
Among the principal options are Nissan's advanced hard drive-based Connect Premium satellite navigation and music storage system. The 40GB hard drive can store much wider map coverage of Europe at the same time as offering 9.3GB storage for music files downloaded from personal CD collections. The system incorporates a high resolution dashboard touchscreen, DVD functionality and iPod/ USB connectivity.
The 370Z Roadster is available in a unique Black Rose shade, while Nissan's pioneering Scratch Shield paint, which ‘heals' minor scratches to keep the bodywork looking like new, is also optionally available.
"The 370Z offers dynamic performance, comfort, advanced technology and plenty of equipment. Now the Roadster adds the thrill of open top motoring to that list, but with absolutely no compromise to any of the Coupé's attributes," said Vincent Wijnen.