Sports cars like the Nissan 370Z Roadster are surprisingly fuel-efficient, and environmentally friendly…

Los Angeles, California.

The Nissan 370Z (Zee or Zed) oozes youthful energy with its edgy design and wholehearted performance. Add warm California air to enhance the open sports car driving experience and roll back a few years, at least temporarily.

My two days in Los Angeles were spent mainly in and around Pasadena, a short freeway drive (16 km.) northeast of the downtown core. There are no beaches, no piers, no theme parks, no giant roller coasters and no kids … ok, just a few little darlings. It does have beautifully preserved historic buildings, magnificent gardens, art galleries, museums and a vibrant “old town” district with theatres, bars and many great restaurants.

This “Z” was designed by a Canadian. A talented young man called Randy Rodriguez from Surrey, B.C. who works at Nissan’s US design centre in California. That magic moment of divine inspiration for the Z’s fluid styling lines apparently came while he was watching “shark week” on the Discovery Channel. He also has cleverly incorporated some subtle styling references to the original 240Z, a classic sports car.

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-horsepower 3.7-litre DOHC V6 engine. 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.

A noteworthy high-tech engine enhancement is its Variable Valve Event and Lift Control (VVEL) system, which adds extra power, yet improves fuel efficiency and provides cleaner exhaust emissions.

Wandering on less travelled roads towards the towering San Gabriel Mountains, which create a picturesque backdrop to Pasadena, was an opportunity to play with the Z’s delightful rev-matching 7-speed automatic transmission. A 6-speed manual transmission can also be fitted (via a sport package) and it comes with a downshift rev-matching feature, a “world first” for Nissan engineering.

It’s a snug driver cockpit that offers limited storage (although there is some extra space behind the seats), a single cup-holder centre console and a pull-up style park brake. I used all the rear travel provided on the driver’s seat and had the seat cushion set to its lowest position – a 6ft- plus tall driver is likely to have space issues.

Getting in or out of the low-slung Z wasn’t as painful an exercise as I feared it might be, but if you suffer from back or joint ailments a taller vehicle would definitely be a better choice. The hip point for the driver’s seat is very low and you sit with legs extended forward, viewing the road ahead over what suddenly seems like a much longer hood.

Its short windshield and surrounding glass give Z a chopped racy appearance and the moulded design of the tonneau cover enhances its classic “double cockpit” roadster styling. Vertical door handles have become a signature feature of modern Z cars. Auxiliary turn signal lights, on the front fenders, also hail from older generations of Z.

An exceptionally good power-to-weight ratio allows an under-six second 0 to 100 km/hour acceleration time and puts this Z into elite sports car territory. Yet, when you consider its comparatively good fuel economy numbers and sane pricing, it’s still one of the smarter “expensive plaything” purchases.

In Canada, the Roadster is offered in a Touring trim with both 6-speed manual and 7-speed automatic transmissions. Touring automatic comes with both Sport and Navigation packages in Canada, but these packages are optional in the US. There’s also a basic (non-Touring) edition of the 370Z Roadster that sells for $41,470, south of the border.

Not too long ago, high-performance cars guzzled fuel, belched smog and were a workout to drive. Not so now, sports cars like the Nissan 370Z Roadster are surprisingly fuel-efficient, and environmentally friendly.

Contact: bob [dot] mchugh [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Quick Specs – 2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster:       

Trim levels:                                                Touring M6 & Touring A7

Price (Canada):                                          $47,478 & $55,008

Power:                                                       3.7-litre V6, 332-horsepower

Transmission:                                            6-speed manual & 7-speed automatic

Fuel consumption:                                     11.6/8.0 L/100 km (city/highway)

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