When the Nissan Z returned to the U.S. market in 2002 (as a 2003 model), it did so as a more affordable version of the sports car that had enjoyed iconic status in the auto world for more than two decades.
With a base price tag of under $27,000, it was a case of sticker shock in reverse. The previous Z that was withdrawn from the American market after 1996 had run in the $40,000 range.
A decade later, the Z’s price tag once again has climbed to over $40,000, but by today’s standards, it still retains the distinction of being one of the best bargains in the segment.
Such is the state of our economics today.
Under the hood, the Z has grown up a little bit as well.
It’s no longer the 350Z.
With a 3.7-liter V6 replacing the 3.5 from the previous generation (2003-09), it’s now the 370Z, rated at 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque while drinking premium fuel at a rate of 17 miles-per-gallon city, 24 highway.
It comes in both coupe (three trims) and roadster (convertible) form, the latter available in two trims -- base and Touring.
Our week with the roadster was spent in the Touring model which has the advantage of coming with an optional six-speed manual transmission.
Yes, the manual is optional.
The standard tranny on both base and Touring versions is a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters for manual gear selection and is the only one available on the base Z.
Right there is reason enough to dig deeper and pay the extra $2,000 for the Touring model, which starts at $44,950 to $42,250 for the base. But you also get leather, power-adjustable seats as standard in the Touring (cloth in the base), a Bose sound system with six speakers (over a four-speaker system in the base) and a Bluetooth hands-free phone system as standard.
The Touring model also has some option packages that are not available on the base 370Z, including one that adds 19-inch wheels over the standard 18 and upgraded brakes and another package that adds a touch-screen navigation system.
Those two packages, plus carpeted floor mats, jacked the price tag on our test model up to $50,055, which kind of rubs against the notion that the 370Z remains a bargain. But considering you’re getting a performance that rivals that of competitors that start out at that level (or higher), it’s still a pretty good deal.
Though the engine is bigger, this sixth generation of the Z is slightly shorter both in length (167.2 inches) and wheelbase (100.4) than the previous one, which checked in at 169.4 and 104.3, respectively.
At the same time, it is a little over an inche wider (72.8 inches to the 71.5 of the models from 2004-2008). That, and the did suspension upgrades included in the optional Sport package, make for improved handling capabilities in the 2013 Touring model.
If there are nitpicks to consider, it is that with a soft top, the ride in the 370Z roadster is not all that quiet (which didn’t bother me, but might the more sensitive) and the driver’s view out the back is restricted, which is common in convertibles. It makes you appreciate the rearview monitor.
Speaking of that cloth top, it opens and closes with the touch of a button with no need to unclamp or secure clamps to complete the operation. You can press a button on the Nissan Intelligent Key system or use the switch on the console to lower or raise the top. The whole operation is completed in a matter of seconds, or less time than you’ll probably spend at a stoplight if you get caught in an unexpected shower.
What you’ve got in the 370Z is a sports car that lives up to an illustrious history that dates back to the 1970s and the Datsun 270Z and in a package that rates high in both performance and niceties. Your passenger will enjoy the ride as much as you appreciate the drive.