2003 New York Auto Show: Nissan 350Z Roadster/Convertible - Oh My
Evoking the adrenaline-pumping spirit of the 350Z, Nissan today unveiled the much-anticipated 350Z Roadster, which continues to offer sports car lovers the Z® Coupe’s high performance excitement and dynamic driving experience, but with an open top. Featuring a power-operated soft top with glass rear window, the Z® Roadster is designed to transform from top-up to top-down in about 20 seconds.
The 2003 350Z, which went on sale in August 2002, has quickly become one of the hottest selling vehicles in the automotive industry and the number one selling sports car – outselling Corvette and representing 35% of the segment. Cumulative Z® sales have exceeded 23,000.
"The Z® has always been Nissan’s halo car, representing the heart, soul and passion of the company," said Bill Kirrane, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc. "The addition of the Z® Roadster further expresses Nissan’s commitment to offering bold, exciting, performance vehicles."
The Z® Roadster will be available in summer 2003.
Fully Automatic Top Operation
The Z® Roadster’s fully automatic soft top features a heated glass rear window, which helps provide clear visibility in adverse weather conditions. And, unlike other convertibles in class, the top stows compactly under a lightweight tonneau cover, completely hiding the top when down.
Activating the top is a simple process. Push the brake and hold the button (located to the left of the steering column) and the top opens and closes.
The top is released from or secured to the windshield header with a unique three-lock, single latch located directly above the middle windshield area. The three-lock, single latch system was created to give a more secure seal, while also making the closing process easier. The Z® Roadster is the only convertible in its class to offer this type of latch system.
Designed for Comfortable, Quiet Top-Down Cruising
"One of the biggest drawbacks to top-down cruising is the considerable amount of wind noise and rattles associated with most convertible designs. With the Z® Roadster, a heavy emphasis was put on eliminating as much interior buffeting as possible, providing an unparalleled journey," said Kirrane.
During the design phase of the Z® Roadster, engineers devoted countless hours conducting wind tunnel tests. These tests allowed the engineers to adjust the Roadster’s design to route air flow to minimize interior noise and turbulence while maximizing downforce at highway speeds.
A key component to minimizing interior noise is a tempered glass wind deflector located between the seats that directs wind out and over the cabin. Seatbelt fasteners were also added to help keep seatbelts from flapping in the wind. As a result, the Z® Roadster is expected to be among the leading competitors for low interior noise with the top down.
The FM (Front Mid-ship) platform, used on the 350Z Coupe, is adopted for use in the Z® Roadster. Structural reinforcements were incorporated to strengthen the Z® Roadster unibody, including; a center floor V-shaped cross bar connecting the side sills and a front A-shaped cross bar reinforcing the front end. Additional reinforcement was added at the door openings and a triple-member was added to the seating area connecting the sides to the floor structure to provide enhanced rigidity.
Interior Suitable for a Roadster
Unique to all convertibles is the high visibility of the interior. Knowing this, the designers of the Z® Roadster put a heavy emphasis on the interior design of the car.
"When the top is down, the interior, in essence, becomes part of the exterior layout of the vehicle," said Kirrane. "We fused the two together to create one harmoniously visual design."
Since the heart and soul of the Z® is performance, the design, inside and out, needs to reflect that. Like the Z® Coupe, the instrument panel features three gauge pods consisting of the drive computer, oil pressure gauge and voltmeter, as well as modern touches such as an optional navigation system with 7-inch display. The door vents and center console have a solid, chiseled-from-a-block-of-aluminum look.
The driver’s seat of the Z® Roadster is tailored for performance. The base cushion is firm and long for additional support, while bolster cutouts under the thighs optimizes pedal operation. The seatback is sculpted with large "wings," designed to help secure drivers during acceleration. The upper side bolster is sculpted in the middle for easy shifting and steering, while the lower side bolster is designed wider and deeper to keep the driver squarely behind the wheel.
Also offered on the Z® Roadster are unique, Burnt Orange ventilated net seats*. The net-style seats are made with a woven seat cloth center insert and feature an opening in the seatback so that the driver can feel a wind flow during top-down driving. A built-in seat heater is also available for those sundown rides.
Though the Z® Roadster is executed as a sports car, thorough attention has also been paid to storage capacity – storage designed for a convertible. A lockable luggage floor box capable of storing a briefcase and other storage places are standard. There is also sufficient luggage space in the trunk even though the top is stored in the trunk area when down. The trunk has up to 4.1 cubic feet of useable room for storage.
Performance Worthy of Z® Status
The Z® Roadster shares all of the hardtop Z®’s key performance features. Power is provided by the 3.5-liter VQ35DE V6 engine used in the Z® Coupe, producing 287 horsepower and 274 lb-ft of torque, a power range that comes as a result of the engine’s intake port design and Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) technology. This enables the engine to deliver not only outstanding start-off acceleration and high-speed passing performance, but also torque characteristics suitable for city driving.
Drivability has been further improved for use in the Z® Coupe and Roadster by adopting an electronically controlled throttle, and the use of a highly rigid cylinder block combines with other measures to produce engine sounds worthy of a sports car.
Suspension for the rear-wheel drive Z® Roadster is a 4-wheel independent design. Both 6-speed close-ratio manual and 5-speed automatic transmissions are available.
Models and Options
The 2004 350Z Roadster will be offered in two well-equipped models – 350Z Roadster Enthusiast Model and 350Z Roadster Touring Model. Standard 350Z Roadster Enthusiast features include power seats, power-operated soft top, rear wind deflector, 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, automatic climate control, a choice of 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission and more.
The 350Z Roadster Touring Model adds a Bose® audio system with 6-disc CD changer and seven speakers, leather-appointed seats with heater and heated mirrors.
Side-impact supplemental air bags are available on both models, while a DVD-based navigation system and 18-inch alloy wheels are stand-alone options available for the Touring Model.
"The Z® Roadster was designed and engineered with the objective of making the best possible convertible sports car on the road," said Kirrane. "Attention to every little detail has been designed for the low interior noise, an easy, effortless latching system, high chassis rigidity, powerful driveline and head-turning looks to name a few. Objective met."