I was a owner of one Nissan 350Z some years ago, a red unit. Pretty rare in europe, the color isn't very common I can say after visit some Z meetings around Spain or France. Firstly, I want to advise that I can't be objective in this review as this car was and is my favourite daily car.
The Nissan 350Z recaptures elements of the original Datsun 240Z. It's fast, it's fun, it's pure sports car. And, like the original Z, it's affordable, or at least attainable.
In 2005 Nissan commemorates 35 years of Z production with a special anniversary edition coupe, and there's much more to the model than just the unique badge. A significant dose of performance has also been added, including a bump in engine output to 300 horsepower, big Brembo brakes, 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels and improved aerodynamics. There's also a new, very special high-chrome pearl Ultra Yellow pigment on the colour chart.
The coupe, introduced as an all-new model for 2003, and the convertible, which debuted last year, get important upgrades, new features and revised transmissions. All 350Zs share the same sports suspension and Nissan's superb V6 engine, which punches out 287 horsepower and strong torque. Both models come standard with racy hardware: a six-speed manual gearbox, carbon-fiber driveshaft, drive-by-wire throttle, anti-lock discs vented front and rear with electronic brake-force distribution. Add the convenience features that come standard, such as automatic temperature control and a premium stereo, and the price of the Nissan 350Z is compelling.
Coupe or roadster, the 350Z delivers racecar handling, rear-wheel drive, and thrilling acceleration performance. The suspension keeps the tires glued to the road through fast chicanes. Bounce over the curbs on a road racing circuit and the Z will hold its line. Styling details like the controversial industrial-design door handles ensure this car will never be called bland.
Nissan says the 350Z was designed to be a sports car an enthusiast can live with every day. While its firm ride, abrupt throttle response, and awkward cup holders don't make it a great place to drink coffee, eat doughnuts, and make phone calls on the way to work, it is a comfortable car with usable cargo space, and getting in and out isn't impossibly awkward. Order a version with the excellent five-speed automatic, and you'll have a better commuter for the daily stop-and-go. But,..., we all know what we are searching with this kind of car.
Bottom line: The Nissan 350Z is no poser. It's a real sports car with serious GT performance.
The 350Z looks aggressive with its bulging front fenders and fast back. The shape of the Z suggests a mid-engine design. The engine is in fact in front of the driver, but it's behind the front axle. That's why Nissan calls it a front mid-ship placement (somewhat similar to the Mazda RX-8 design).
The Z shares its under-body architecture with the Infiniti G35 coupe and sedan. Moving the engine rearward evens out weight distribution, which improves handling balance. The Z Roadster adds more than 80 kg to the hatchback's 1630 kg, but the weight front/rear weight split remains at 53/47 percent. It's balanced well for accelerating out of corners.
An extremely short front overhang and a short rear overhang make for agile handling. It also means you don't scrape driveway transitions like you do in a Corvette. Bulging fender flares make the Z look like it's ready for the racetrack, which it is.
The hatchback's shape helps the Z slice through the air with a minimum of drag (0.29 on the Track model). The Roadster's more traditional coupe outline isn't quite as slippery, attaining a drag coefficient of 0.34. (But what do you care when you've got the wind in your hair?) Underbody airflow is managed well, with zero lift on the front (and zero lift on the rear of the Track model). All this math adds up to relatively low levels of wind noise, even in the Roadster with the top up, and a stable sports car at high speeds.
With the top down, conversation in the Roadster required only slightly raised voice levels; the stereo did, however, have to be cranked up a bit.
Inside the 350Z is a cockpit designed for driving, helping the driver quickly become one with the car. The carbon-fiber colored cloth seats are form-fitting, supportive and comfortable, made of a soft material that grips the body in the corners. The driver's seat bottom features a mound in the center at the front to restrain the driver from sliding forward under deceleration. Aggressive side bolsters grip the waist to hold the driver in place. The leather seats in the Touring model feel a little firmer than the cloth, and are available in charcoal, burnt orange or frost. Either cloth or leather are good choices in this car. The supportive seats and a driver's dead pedal mean you never feel like you have to hang on.
The seating position should be good for drivers with long legs, though the steering wheel felt a little close when the seat was adjusted for the legs of a six-footer. It's worth noting, however, that this feeling went away the moment the key was turned in the ignition. The Roadster boasts an inch more headroom than the hatchback, thanks to the articulation of the top's various mechanicals.
Tilt the steering column and the main pod of gauges moves with it, ensuring a clear view of the instruments for drivers of all sizes. The instruments consist of a big tachometer and flanking speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges. Reminiscent of the original Z, nestled in three pods on top of the dash are a voltmeter, an oil pressure gauge and a digital trip computer. They look retro-cool, but reading them requires more than a glance.
Two toggles to the right of the steering wheel operate the trip computer, used to check outside air temperature, distance to empty, speed, average mileage, and average speed. It has a stopwatch function (to check out those 0-60 times), and a tire-pressure monitor for 18-inch wheels. With the Trip Computer, the driver can program a shift light to come on at a certain rpm. The small red indicator on the tachometer begins flashing about 500 rpm before the preset engine speed is reached, whereupon it comes on solid. You can program it for the ideal shift points for acceleration or fuel economy, then let your peripheral vision pick up the indicator. We've seen race cars with this feature (though the red shift light is sometimes as big as a golf ball). If you don't like this feature you can turn it off.
The interior of the Z seems to suggest a carbon-fiber race car tub. The material surrounding the shifter and forming the centre dash looks like carbon fiber. Likewise, the large expanse of grey material lining the door panels suggests carbon fiber in appearance. The quality of the materials is okay, though some of the pieces would never be allowed in an Audi. It looked austere at first, but grew on us. Stylish interior touches, such as the inside door handles integrated into aerodynamic pods for the side vents, give the Z a racy, modern look; with the AC at work on hot days, the handles chill to fit their frosty look. Passengers often grope for the door release the first time they try to get out, distracted by the big grab handles adorned with genuine aluminium and relieved by the Z's dot motif.
Stylish audio controls include a big volume knob, clearly marked buttons for channel seeking, and six station buttons that can be preset simply by holding them down. Below the radio are three large knobs for the automatic climate control system, which comes standard.
Nicely designed wiper and headlamp controls are mounted on short stalks. The leather-wrapped steering wheel looks and feels great, and comes with cruise controls. Overhead are well-designed map lights and a bin for sunglasses. Power window switches are auto-up/auto-down. Two power points are available, one in the center console, the other in the bulkhead between and behind the seats (but neither is conveniently located for radar detectors).
The Z is not the best place to drink things.
Turning the key and hearing the engine roar to life is the first indication the Nissan 350Z is no poser. Turning onto a winding road proves this beyond a shadow of doubt. Sharp steering, terrific handling, and excellent grip make it a real driver's car. This car is very fast with brilliant acceleration. The Roadster's additional weight, a result of the platform strengthening to increase rigidity, no doubt adds a tick or two to the 0-60 measurement but isn't noticed in everyday driving.
Mounted longitudinally and driving the rear wheels is Nissan's excellent VQ V6 engine. It's smooth and sounds like a big sports car engine. It generates lots of torque at low rpm, pulling smoothly from about 2000 rpm. Maximum torque of 274 pound-feet comes at 4800 rpm, tapering off as 287 horsepower is reached at 6200 rpm. The engine is still pulling smoothly as the rev limiter steps in somewhere just north of 6500 rpm, but this engine is more about low-rpm torque than high-revving horsepower. Nissan's Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System helps the V6 produce a nice, linear band of torque. Drive-by-wire technology reduces mechanical weight and complexity.
The short-throw shifter feels good and it's effective. The six-speed gearbox shifts quickly and deliberately. It feels perfectly synchronised, making shifting easy and enjoyable. Clutch pedal effort has enough heft to remind the driver that this is a serious sports car. With the Roadster's top down, the exhaust tone is music to the driver's ears, rising and falling melodiously and crisply as the gears are worked through the turns on a twisty road.
The automatic transmission works great, really smooth and responsive, and it didn't leave us feeling like we were missing out by not having the manual. With manual mode selected, the automatic holds lower gears right up to the rev limiter, upshifting only when the driver desires. Downshifts are electronically managed to ensure an overly rambunctious pilot doesn't over-rev the sweet V6. The delicious exhaust tone is wasted on Roadsters fitted with the automatic, though, when it wanders almost aimlessly up and down the scale as the engine slips seamlessly amongst the gears.
Handling feels taut and well controlled in both hatchback and Roadster. These cars really stick through fast sweepers, allowing the driver to keep the throttle down. The steering is sharp and accurate and the Z changes directions brilliantly in transient manoeuvres, without excessive understeer turning in or sloppy oversteer coming out. Cornering is flat, without much body lean. The ride gets jouncy on bumpy roads, most noticeably when cruising slowly, but it doesn't beat you up and we expect a firm ride with a sports car like this.
Buffeting at highway speeds with the top down was much less than we expected, thanks to the tempered glass deflector mounted between the rollbars behind the seats and to racy body panels tapering back from each of the seat positions. Anti-flap seatbelt retainers further reduce the perceived buffeting effect. Rear side vision loses little to the convertible top, as the hatchback's quarter panel already blocks a sizable area of blind spot.
The brakes are easy to modulate, fun to use, and do a good job of stopping the car. Electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist come standard on all 350Zs. Just like it sounds, electronic brake-force distribution improves stopping performance by dynamically balancing front and rear braking forces. Brake Assist is a mechanical system that appli.
The Nissan 350Z stands alone in its price class. This is the car for drivers who want serious sports car performance in a GT body without shelling out the big bucks. And Nissan has added a truly sporty variant to the mix with the 35th Anniversary Z.
Its rear-wheel-drive chassis is rigid and its suspension is taut for excellent handling. The V6 engine delivers lots of torque for strong acceleration performance. Whether you opt for the six-speed manual gearbox or the five-speed automatic, there are no dogs in the lineup. The interior is the weakest link here, but it grows on you with a little time spent living with it.
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