Used Nissan 350Z review: 2003-2005
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It might be the last letter in the alphabet, but ‘Z’ is the first that comes to mind when thinking of the great sports cars Nissan has made over the years. It came into being with the great Datsun 240Z sports coupe in the early 1970s and has continued to identify the company’s sports cars ever since.
Today it’s used on the 350Z, Nissan’s current sports car that first hit our roads back in 2003. When launching the 350Z, Nissan’s then managing director, Leon Daphne, said it was the company’s “halo” car, designed to represent the “heart, soul and passion” of the company.
The 350Z continued the rich history of Nissan sports cars dating back to the iconic 240Z. With two doors and seating for two the 350Z is not a car for the family. It’s the car owned by those without kids, or those who want a second fun car for the weekends.
The 350Z range was made up of three models: two coupes and a roadster. The Touring Coupe was tailored more to those who wanted their sporting motoring with a slightly softer edge than its Track Coupe cousin. It came with leather trim, drilled alloy pedals, Bose sound system with six-stack CD player, and rolled on 17-inch alloy wheels for a suppler ride. The Track Coupe had all of that, but had a more defined sporty edge with 18-inch alloy wheels, bigger disc brakes and electronic stability control.
The Roadster could be transformed from a comfy and secure coupe to an open top cruiser at the push of a button, when the power roof would fold down out of sight.
The 350Z’s power came from a wonderful 3.5-litre double overhead camshaft V6. When asked it would willingly deliver to the tune of 206 kW at 6200 revs and 363 Nm at 4800 revs. Down low there was plenty of torque on tap, whether you just wanted to cruise along without changing gears, or if you wanted to slam your foot to the floor and race through the gears.
The 350Z was superbly tractable at low speeds, but ask it for its best and it would pin your ears back like few others. If you wanted it would reach 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and race through the 400-metre dash in 14.5 seconds.
But it wasn’t just a straight-line hero; it really came into its own on a winding country road where you got to experience its full performance repertoire. Buyers had the choice of a six-speed manual, which was criticized for its less than precise gearshift, or a five-speed auto with a paddle shift manual mode. Final drive was fittingly delivered through the rear wheels.
The 350Z boasted an almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution. It was marginally heavier on the front than it was on the rear, but the near perfect distribution was one of the reasons the 350Z had a wonderfully balanced chassis.
Underneath it had independent all-alloy suspension front and rear, speed sensitive power steering and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes. There was also a raft of electronics to keep a watchful eye over proceedings. All models had ABS antiskid brakes, brake force distribution, brake assist, and traction control. On top of that the sporty Track Coupe also had stability control and more powerful Brembo brakes.
Inside, the 350Z was snug. There wasn’t a huge amount of space to stretch out, you felt surrounded, but there was a sense of security and plenty of support if you wanted to push things to the limit.
IN THE SHOP
Generally the 350Z is trouble free with few problems coming to the surface in the first few years it has been on sale. The earliest cars now have around 60,000 km on the odometer if they’ve been used daily, but there are a number that have been reserved for weekend use and haven’t got as many kays under their belts.
The wonderful double overhead camshaft V6 is robust and doesn’t appear to give much trouble at all. It does, however, require PULP or better to be used. Likewise the transmissions and drive train seem robust and reliable. The chassis generally is standing up well, although there are some reports of high tyre wear.
IN A CRASH
The 350Z’s safety package was comprehensive, with all models having dual front and side airbags, and the Coupes also having curtain airbags. Add to that a responsive chassis and powerful brakes, with an extensive array of electronic driver aids, and the safety package is an impressive one.
Greg Bird has owned his 350Z for the last four years, but has used it as a weekend car and it has only clocked up 35,000 km. He says it’s easy to drive, whether driven down to the local shops or hard around a racetrack. The steering is razor sharp, the handling great, while the engine has good torque and a good spread of power through the rev range. It’s also been economical, and utterly reliable. He’s not so rapt in the rear visibility, which he says is poor, the interior noise level, and the high level of front tyre wear, which he says was fixed under warranty.
Derek bought his 2003 350Z Touring second hand when it had done 14,000 km and sold it when it had 35,000 km on the clock. He says it was the best car he’d ever driven. It had great performance, and loved corners and straight lines, and he loved the firm ride. The fuel consumption was 14.2 L/100 km around town and around 8.5 L/100 km on the open road. His only complaints were a squeak in the driver’s seat and the cheap look of the interior plastics.
• chunky styling
• sizzling V6 engine
• good road holding
• responsive chassis
• powerful brakes.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Good looking thrill-a-minute sports car with a great engine and agile chassis.
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