Nissan 370Z Roadster a ‘want to own’ car

A lot has changed in the world since I was a young man in college back in the early ‘80s.

If you were away from home and wanted to make a call, you used a payphone.

If you needed directions, you bought a map.

We didn’t have computers or laptops and a tablet was something you used to write letters, put in an envelope with a stamp and mail to the person you wanted to receive it.

And back then, the one car that everyone wanted to own was the “Z.”

While I was a starving college student working two jobs to pay tuition and keep Spam and Ramen noodles on the table, I had a college buddy who was lucky enough to drive a 280ZX. And on occasion, he’d let me borrow the Z.

Of course, back in the dark ages before DVRs, MP3 players and instant messaging, the maker of the “Z” was known by its original name, Datsun.

But everyone wanted a “Z.”

It’s nice to know that some things haven’t changed.

Three decades later, the Nissan 370Z is still one of the most aspirational vehicles on the road.

For the 2011 model year, the rear-wheel drive Z is available in coupe and roadster body styles.

This week I had the chance to spend time behind the wheel of the 370Z Roadster, which is available in base and Touring trim levels.

I have to say, it brought back a lot of memories

There is something special about driving a Z.

A 3.7-liter V-6 engine producing 332 horsepower powers the current model. Mated to a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed automatic transmission, the Z is engineered to be an exciting, fun-to-drive performance machine that hugs the road.

It is also available with all the latest technology, including the Nissan Intelligent Key system (which I really, really like), heated and cooled ventilated seats (which came in handy during the Texas Heat Wave of 2011), Bluetooth hands-free phone system, XM Satellite Radio and the advanced Nissan navigation system, to name but a few.

Nissan has done a very nice job with the convertible roof. When the top is up, I’ve been very impressed with how little noise enters the cabin — which is something you don’t normally find on most convertible models. It’s also easy to use and when the top is down, the windscreen behind the seat does a great job at cutting down the wind turbulence.

The 370Z also has a long list of standard safety equipment, including six airbags, front active head restraints, vehicle dynamic control with traction control and tire pressure monitoring, among many other features.

Pricing starts around $32,000 for the coupe body style and around $39,000 for the roadster.

While a lot has changed since my college days, it is good to know that the Z is still one of the hottest cars on the road.

For those in the market for a two-seater, the Z is a must for the test drive list.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

MODEL:

2011 Nissan 370Z

2-seat coupe or roadster 

Rear-wheel drive

Trim packages:

Coupe, Coupe Touring, Coupe NISMO, Roadster, Roadster Touring

PRICE RANGE:

$32,000-$45000

ENGINE:

3.7-L V6 (332 hp/270 torque)

TRANSMISSION:

6-speed manual

7-speed automatic

EPA: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway

FUEL: Premium unleaded

TRACTION CONTROL:

Vehicle dynamic control with traction control

BRAKES: ABS with brake assist, brake control and electronic brake force distribution

LENGTH: 167.2 inches

WHEELBASE: 100.4 inches

WIDTH: 72.8 inches

HEIGHT: 52.2 inches

WEIGHT: 3426-3497 lbs.

TRACK: 61/62.8

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 19 gallons

TIRES: 18-, or 19-inch

TRUNK: 4.2 cubic ft (roadster)