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In the Maxim Garage: Nissan 370Z Roadster

I catch the two valets driving my borrowed 370Z Roadster about a block from my South Beach hotel. As I approach, heart pumping, one valet is shaking the wheel in his hands, pointing out something in its cockpit to the other. I walk up and ask one of the guys what the hell they’re doing. One of them replies, “I’m just re-parking it, sir.” I almost believe him.

As they sheepishly drive off, I stop and think: these are guys who fondle Bentleys and Aston-Martins all day, yet they’re lavishing attention on the Z, a sports car that regular dudes can actually afford. Nice one, Nissan. 

A day later, I’m top down on the Tamiami trail, a desolate two-lane ribbon of blacktop that stretches far into the Big Cypress National Preserve. Swamps and stumps and nothingness surround. It’s the ideal place to call up the metallic gurgle of the Z’s 6-cylinder engine, via the chunky, mechanical shifts of the six-speed manual. One hundred miles an hour feels like sixty, and there’s still a scary amount of horsepower left. Wide, sticky summer tires and extra low seats give the car a flat, stable feel even when driven flat out. Downshifts sound sublime (even better with the top down), thanks to automatic throttle blips that match the engine’s rpm to its speed. Out here, it’s a damn near perfect drive.

We stop at the Big Cypress visitors center, and an intern seems surprised that we missed seeing any alligators lurking roadside. “They’re all over,” he says. “You just gotta slow down and look.” 

Slow down? In the Z? No thanks.

2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster Tour
Price: from $40,520
Engine: 3.7-liter DOHC V-6
Torque: 270 lb.-ft @ 7000rpm
Horsepower: 332
0-60: 5.3 seconds