It looks and feels like a sports car, shame it sounds like a Nissan Altima.
2011 Nissan 37OZ Roadster
When the weather turns cooler, the sun is shining and the road is clear, the only thing better to enjoy it with than a sports car is, naturally, a convertible sports car.
And the Nissan 370Z Roadster certainly qualifies as a car worthy of said beautiful, sunny day and clear roads. Really, it is almost a perfect two-seat drop-top, a true sports car in every manner - except one. One small yet key component to it being a sports car, a component that deserves just as much prominence and gravitas as the horsepower. But in this case it just doesn't match up; it's the sound.
See, first of all, this is one sexy looking car. First came the coupe in 2010, then the Roadster version this year, and both cars just smack you in the face with their sportiness. The muscular haunches, the short overhangs, the sharply raked head- and tail lights; really, there aren't many cars on the road that look as good, even in this decidedly un-sporty colour, of which Nissan calls "black rose". Especially in the Roadster, this is a car you want to be seen in on a sunny day.
But you want the sound to match the look of the car - aggressive, powerful, sporty. Yet what comes out of the exhaust pipe is more fitting for a Nissan Altima, not the company's second-sportiest car (with nods to the GT-R). When driving down the road, you want the engine to attract the stares; the car's shape will do the rest.
For driving fun, though, the power is more than enough for your sports car thrills. With 328hp - more than a Porsche Boxster or Cayman S - you certainly feel it when you put your foot down to the floor. The smooth V6 spools up quickly and hammers the driver back in the seat on heavy throttle.
But when you hit the loud pedal, you want something, well, loud; not just a muffled blat to come whimpering out the back. Where is the roaring explosion that should raise the hairs on the back of a driver's neck? Where is that gutteral soundtrack of a high-performance car going through its paces? It just leaves an enthusiast wanting more.
The engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission; certainly not a bad operator, though the manual shifts (via nice, big paddle shifters mounted to the steering column) could be just a bit quicker. I would still opt for the six-speed manual gearbox, an amazing piece of kit that automatically matches the revs of the engine to the gears as you shift down. Of course, those downshifts would sound marvelous with a different exhaust system.
The interior is very driver-oriented, with the tachometer in the centre of three big dials (the speedo is to the right). The comfortable, supportive seats sit deep in the cockpit for a cosy, secure feel. The rest of the interior is high quality - not much leather except for the seats, but the materials are top-notch nonetheless. And the three gauges sitting atop the dashboard not only harken back to the old Datsun 240Z, but add that business-like, sports car touch.
There's a glass wind deflector to control your hair movement when the roof is down, and on those rare occasions when you want to close the automatic top, it takes about 20 seconds. Wind noise is a little louder than you would like with the top up, especially through the driver's side. At least you don't have to worry about being annoyed by the engine noise.
The handling of this rear-wheel-drive Roadster is superb, and its features include speed-sensitive steering and a new brake system, which is easy to modulate. What's more, the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) lets you hang out the tail just enough for a smile before reining in the car; turn it off and you can smoke the rears all day long.
This car has a full list of options, including sat/nav, a great Bose stereo, keyless entry and ignition and load of other goodies. But the one thing I wanted the most just wasn't there - a sports car sound.
In fact, I would certainly recommend buying the 370Z Roadster - as long as you know of a good aftermarket muffler shop.
Price base / as tested Dh201,000 / same
Engine 1.8L 3.7L V6
Gearbox seven-speed automatic
Power 328hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque 363Nm @ 5,200 rpm
Fuel economy, L/100km 11.8L/100km