Imagine starting a low-carb diet the day before you get invited for dinner to the best Italian restaurant in town.

Or being offered one free ticket to the Super Bowl and then realizing the game is the same day as your wedding anniversary.

That’s how I felt most of last week.

Throughout the week I had a stunning blue 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster in my possession. Or, more to the point, in my driveway.

There are three people in my immediate family. There are two seats in Nissan’s convertible sports car.

And therein lies the source of my frustration. Even going back to middle school math, I’ve never been able to figure out how to divide three into two.

So on a Saturday that was mostly sunny and warm, the 370Z Roadster sat alone in my driveway as the family and I traveled out of town for a couple of youth soccer games. And on a Sunday that was nearly as warm and sunny, it sat alone as we went out for breakfast, went to church, ran errands and then went to another soccer game.

No, the Z did not sit untouched for the week. I commuted about 40 miles each weekday to and from work. I looked for excuses to run out on various errands. And I took it out a couple of times for hourlong test drives.

But that’s not the same as living with a vehicle for a week as one’s primary transportation, which is how most of my test cars are evaluated.

That’s not to suggest there wasn’t enough drive time to assess the 370Z Roadster. On the contrary, its scintillating appeal and sizzling performance are evident at first glance and first drive of Nissan’s venerable sports car.

The Z-car has been around for four decades if you count a five-year hiatus beginning in 1997. During that time, it has been everything from a barebones sports car to a luxurious four-place touring coupe.
The convertible version has been around less than half that long, debuting in 1993.

Until the current model, drop-top Z-cars haven’t performed as well as their coupe counterparts. That’s typical of most make and model convertibles because they ride on less rigid platforms and weigh more than the fixed-roof versions on which they’re based.

But Nissan took pains to ensure that it didn’t also subtract performance when it eliminated the top on its new 370Z. It achieved this by creating a chassis rigid enough to resist the twisting and flexing that can plague contemporary unibody vehicle platforms when their roofs are removed.

Additional bracing still was needed to match the coupe’s crisp handling, but not enough to overburden the Roadster. Even with its fully automatic, fully lined and insulated top – motorized convertible tops always weigh considerably more than fixed roofs – the Roadster Touring with automatic transmission is just 175 pounds heavier than the coupe.

That makes it just a tick slower than the coupe on zero-to-60 dashes. Mash the 370Z Roadster’s throttle and you won’t notice. It has enough thrust at launch to set you back in its superbly supportive and comfy seat, and enough highway passing punch to effortlessly power past slower vehicles.

Tackling the twistiest off-highway road is effortless, too.

The test vehicle was equipped with a $2,800 Sport option package that replaced already beefy 18-inch standard tires with 19-inch beasts: 245/40 up front and 275/35 in the rear.

The beasts have ferocious grip and complement a well-balanced, front-engine/rear-drive powertrain and a suspension that won’t allow the 370Z Roadster to lean in corners and shrugs off mid-turn dips and bumps.

Despite its exceptional and exceptionally rewarding handling, the 370Z Roadster is surprisingly pleasant to operate on leisurely drives. Be forewarned, though, that road rubbish such as oversized expansion strips make it clear that this is still a sports car.

The occasional harshness seems a fair tradeoff for a car that welcomes every opportunity to prove itself in tight benders and never fails to exceed performance expectations.

Expectations of senses-satisfying touring on warm, sunny days are standard equipment on every convertible. But the 2010 370Z is unusual because it can delight and excite the senses even after the driver spends 10-12 seconds raising its fully automated roof.

Assuming it’s on the road, of course – which wasn’t often enough for my taste thanks to that two-person occupancy limit.
 
Scott Wasser is executive editor of MaineToday Media. He writes a weekly auto column for the Sunday Telegram and other newspapers. He can be reached at
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