2005 Nissan 350Z
This 2005 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Nissan brought back its long-running "Z" sports car in 2003 with the 350Z after a seven-year hiatus. The "Z" was dropped after 1996 because the automaker was financially troubled and needed an image-boosting auto. The new Z has been such a hit that now-prosperous Nissan is offering a 35th Anniversary version.
Yes, it's really been 35 years since the first Z debuted as the affordable 1970 240Z sports car. It was the first Japanese auto to be highly and widely respected, with racy styling and strong performance.
Lost Its Way
The last Zs were pretty good again in the 1990s, although they had become overly complicated and too pricey by 1996, costing up to $45,579.
Sales dipped in the first half of 2005 partly because the word is out that there will be a revised Z for 2006, although Nissan says no radical changes will be made. For one thing, all manual-transmission versions will get the 300-horsepower V6, which isn't offered for all 2005 Z trim levels.
No Retro Look
Prices of the two-seat, rear-wheel-drive 350Z range from $26,800 for the base hatchback coupe to $39,300 for the top convertible version.
Dazzling Array of Trim Levels
All have a 3.5-liter V6 and come with the same 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. The higher the price, the more equipment the car provides.
The base coupe is arguably the best buy. Besides being the lowest-cost version, it's pretty well equipped with everything from climate control and a good sound system to heated power mirrors, power windows and power door locks with remote keyless entry. However, the lowest-priced convertible costs a lot more, with a $34,450 list price.
The 350Z is quite fast with the 287-horsepower V6, which has lots of torque to cut down on gear shifting with the manual transmission, doing 0-60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. However, a downshift from sixth to fifth gear or, better yet, to fourth gear is needed for the best 65-75 mph passing time. The same likely is true for the 300-horsepower version because it has no huge horsepower gain and less torque than the 287-horsepower V6.
Estimated fuel economy isn't bad for a high-performance sports car: 19-20 mpg in the city and 25-26 on highways, depending on the engine and transmission.
Anniversary Edition Coupe
Unlike the Ford Mustang, which often is mistakenly called a sports car, the 350Z is a genuine sports car, with athletic moves only low-slung two-seaters can provide.
Daily Driving Problems
One must be careful parking the 350Z because it's impossible to see where the front of the car ends from the driver's seat. The extremely low front end thus can easily be damaged by concrete parking spot barriers found at convenient stores, shopping centers and other such places.
High Cargo Opening
There isn't much cockpit storage space, and occupants sit so low that their elbows stick up at an awkward angle over high door tops. Cupholders invite spills because they're placed far back on the console, and the pop-out dashboard cupholder is flimsy. Climate controls are large and clearly marked, but sound system controls are small. Don't search for a glove box because it doesn't exist.
The 350Z thrives on such driving. The steering is heavy, but precise and communicative. The short-throw manual gearbox works OK, although it calls for some muscle because it's rather stiff. Also, it's hard to slip the car into reverse gear.
The firm, all-independent suspension provides excellent handling, although it's happiest on smooth roads; wavy pavement causes a jittery ride. The ride is close to being harsh if the Z is equipped with 18-inch tires; 17-inch tires are standard on lower-line versions and have more sidewall area to help absorb road shocks. All 350Z wheels can be easily scraped on curbs and they aren't inexpensive.
An old-fashioned prop rod holds up the heavy hood, but at least most fluid filler areas are put at the front of the engine compartment. It has a race-car-style crossways structural brace to enhance the car's rigidity and thus improve its handling.
At the end of the day, the 350Z wins over lots of folks with its styling and performance despite its faults, which are more easily accepted on sports cars than on other types of autos.