The 350Z rocked out.
But 10 years on is it now in its greatest hits era?
When the 350Z was released in 2003, Nissan generated brand awareness by producing a short film called “the RUN”, which replicated a classic French film call the Rendezvous. This smartly made “short” showcased the 350z racing through the streets of Prague in the Czech Republic, at speeds up to 200kph. The film was deliberately gritty but still felt carefully manufactured.
It was a very precise and calculated product release designed to excite and delight car enthusiasts.
It was polished and the journalists agreed and painted it as the next big thing.
So… Love it or hate it the 350z was introduced to the world like a pop star, clean cut, charming and singing romance songs, hell it was the automotive equivalent to Ricky Martin!
10 Years have passed between the 350’s release and this test. Every 350Z has been around the block with the average one sitting between 150,000 and 170,000kms on the odo. Even Ricky has been rocking for 10 solid years and is quickly moving into his greatest hits era. So the question has to be asked.. does the 350Z still have it?
Let’s work from the inside out.
This Nissan was aimed at businessmen, someone who had the cash to buy it, but probably wouldn’t spend all their time in it. Knowing they needed to make an impression Nissan spent some serious coin on making the cabin all about the driver.
The first thing you notice after the solid click from the seat belt buckle as it proudly announces “you’re in”, is that everything in this car is driver focused.
The instrument cluster pivots with the steering wheel, which was a great feature, but annoyingly it can’t telescope as a result.
The additional center dash gauges are pointed directly at the driver; I remember my shock when I first saw the digital speedo amongst them, thinking that’ll never catch on.
If you doubt that this car is all about the driver try sitting in the passenger’s seat… You’ll die from boredom! You can’t even glance at a dash gauge without being obvious to the driver and there isn’t so much as a glove box in front of you. Yep a completely bare dash greats you, except for a lonely pop-out cup holder. So, unless you’re happy playing angry birds on your phone, there might be a fight for the driver’s seat.
Speaking of which, the seats themselves are made from thick sturdy leather (with warmers) and have stood the test of time… so far.
Luckily there is only one really annoying feature in the cabin which comes from a more romantic time and that is the tape cassette player. I’ll never fully understand why Nissan thought this was required in 2003! Iremember being completely dumbfounded that an amazing BOSE sound system would come standard with a tape deck! Poor form NISSAN.
Beneath the bonnet of the 350z lives a lively 3.5 litre V6. The all-aluminum quad cam V6 has been tweaked in the aspirations of performance to satisfy the Z car heritage. Technology such as variable valve timing and lightweight components allow continuous revving of up to seven thousand RPM, exactly what is needed for a spirited drive through twisty roads, and exactly why you buy this car. Our test car was a track model, as opposed to the touring model, and was fitted with a 5sp automatic transmission, not our choice but did its job well and didn’t alter our smiling faces.
With 363NM of torque and a throaty growl the engine pulls well from under four thousand revs and can be driven around windy roads fast without requiring the revving of its life. However when stretching its legs and beyond six thousand RPM it can be harsh, the deep growl turns into some sort of farm equipment noise which comes across as fake, and you look down to find you’re not actually going as fast as you thought.
Also peak power is found over six thousand RPM, so if you’re going for lap times prepare to give up some refinement.
The 0-100km/h time of the Z is respectable at well under 7 seven seconds, but to be honest the car is not really made for standing start racing.. It’s all for corners!
Fuel economy when driving the way god meant wasn’t that great for a smallish car and the tank fell quickly, however driven gently the 350z can deliver under 12 litres per 100km.
Taking it all in the chassis, gearbox, exhaust note and the engine all fits well and makes the Z an exciting drive.
This 350Z does some very interesting things. At times during our test drive I felt at odds with the Z. For instance; its suspension rides fairly firm but doesn’t inspire the confidence when taking corners at speed and can be easily unsettled. The engine makes a fantastic noise under acceleration, but it doesn’t match the speed, or rather the noise is artificial and doesn’t reflect the actual acceleration. This Track spec is fitted with massive Brembo’s, yet I didn’t feel confident with its ability to stop at speed, as 2/3rd’s of the peddle travel only exerted 40% of the braking capabilities, meaning you really have to stretch your leg to stop quickly.
However, there is no doubting the Z’s sex appeal, our test car featured the Z’s colour “lemans sunset”, which still attracts attention from onlookers and its ten years old! When you catch a glimpse of this car in a reflection, sitting so low, compared to other cars it only adds to the theatre, even if its stop start traffic you know it’s not a Camry. The Z has sports car written all over it, the styling is effective inside and out.
The cabin feels sporty and apart from the mentioned tape deck it doesn’t show its age. Who doesn’t love some additional gauges in their sports car! If anything the 370z is the only reason the 350z seems outdated.
Unfortunately, in the 350z’s case, owning a sexy sports car means sacrificing in the comfort and practicality department. But in its category the Z isn’t all bad and Nissan did attempt to deliver some practicalities.
As it only has two seats there is a large boot, with hatch style access. Unintelligently Nissan placed a rear strut brace right across the boot with flashy trimmings, its looks great but takes up a lot of room. If you carefully follow the instructions you can even fit golf clubs in the boot, upsettingly I fear many Z’s have been purchased for this reason.
It’s small so it’s easy enough to park without the cameras and sensors expected on cars today. It rides low but still maintains acceptable clearance front and rear, only scrapping on the largest of curbs. The fuel tank is large for a small car so fuel range is excellent, meaning long trips are no fuss.
The suspension on the Z is firm, I mean firm on smooth roads, forget about bumpy roads with potholes. We did pick some pretty rubbish roads for our test, suspension was tight, no crashing over bumps or interior pieces falling off. It dealt with potholes quickly but we felt them in every part of our body. One would suspect that the track spec’s stiffness would pay off best on the track.
The Z really is all about the driver, despite the suspension being firm the seats offer excellent support and comfort. The steering wheel is a proper thickness and of course its leather rapped. All up these refinements make the stiff Z as comfortable as can be.
It was great to enjoy the talents of the Z for a whole day, but we know with the state of Victoria’s roads as an everyday car it could get tiring. However for spirited driving it does not disappoint, it’s addictive, turns heads and puts a smile on your face like most modern pop songs.
Even though our test car was ten years old, nothing rattled, nothing fell off, and nothing appeared to be out of place. Considering the price of 350z at the moment if you can find one that’s been well looked after it’s a bargain! Just like Ricky Martin the Z continues to rock on even though retirement is near.
|Pros:||The 350z is after all a Nissan. This means they can be serviced cheaply, parts don’t cost the earth, build quality is good, and the car has been designed by people who know what a sports car is!The depreciation of the 350z has already taken the big hit compared to its new price (60K+) there isn’t much more to loose and bargains can be had. If you’re looking for a rear wheel drive sports car with genuine pace and some practicality built in the Z is in a category of its own and hard to go past. It can still be compared to cars that cost three times as much.|
|Cons:||Being a niche sports car the Z has limits, its a specific car for a specific person. Its not fuel efficient, it only has 2 seats, the boot is cramped, it rides low, it runs on expensive tyres and brakes, and it only has a Nissan badge!The 370z has been out for a while and its starting to drop in price, this is probably the one thing that will kill the 350z and push the price even further towards a Kia Rio. The 370z is a tweaked 350z and has only been improved in every way, if you are looking at a 350z and your budget can stretch why wouldn’t you get a 370z.|
|Our test car was equipped with a fun killing automatic box, yes I know.. However some fun can still be had and I’m sure if it was life and death I would make those tyres chirp! There is traction control fitted but its not needed with massive grip from huge tyres and an auto box when are you going to need it?|
|With the lemans sunset paint job of our test car heads were turning every which way and particularly old people couldn’t get enough of the 350z|
|She asked me if it was practical… I told her there is no back seat. See said “That’s just stupid”|
|Most people including my friends respect the 350z as a sports icon, its not the quickest or the best looking, or the loudest but no one is going to cut you off in traffic.|
|Cruising in this car is very satisfying, heads are turning, the Z handles great. Plus you only have to take one friend with you.|
|The Z is probably limited to weekends away simply because of the luggage space. If you had to go away in it for a month I fear your spine may never be the same again, in fact the suspension may cause brain damage.|
||363nm @ 4800rpm|
||Unleaded (premium recommended)|
||206kW @ 6200rpm||
||REDBOOK 350Z Link|