2007 Nissan 350Z

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2005 Nissan 350Z

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

The 350Z has the styling and performance expected of Nissan's iconic "Z" sports car.
Pros:
  • More power
  • Racy styling
  • Fast
Cons:
  • Stiff, long-throw clutch
  • Wide, heavy doors
  • Little cargo room

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 Z car lost its way as a pure sports car for years, though, because it became overly soft. However, it still sold well here because the softer versions had wider appeal to comfort-loving Americans and could even be had with a back seat for kids.

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.

Strong Seller
The 350Z has consistently been a strong seller, thanks to its racy styling, high performance, affordability and hatchback coupe and convertible versions with a variety of equipment. It has been one of the world's most popular sports cars, with more than 200,000 sold worldwide.

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
Nissan decided against retro 240Z styling and gave the 350Z a modern, aggressive appearance, although its "open mouth" grille looks like it should be covered with at least a chrome bar or wire mesh.

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
The array of trim levels is dazzling. The 350Z comes as a Base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring, Track and 35th Anniversary coupe. It's also sold as the Enthusiast, Touring and Grand Touring convertible.

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.

Higher Horsepower
The Track and Anniversary Edition get a new 300-horsepower version of the car's V6, while other models continue with a 287-horsepower version of that sophisticated dual-overhead camshaft engine.

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
The Anniversary Edition coupe adds such items as brighter paint, leather upholstery, heated seats, power driver and passenger seats, an upgraded sound system, unique alloy wheels and anniversary badges.

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
On the flip side, the 350Z isn't especially friendly in town. Low seats, high door sills and long, heavy doors make it difficult to get in and out even for the nimble. Both the stylized outside and inside door handles have a design that is more unique than practical.

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
The hatchback's opening is extremely high, and a hefty crosswise structural brace in the long, shallow cargo area can seriously hinder loading and unloading. The convertible has a smaller trunk with even less depth. No wonder the car has a cargo compartment label that has a diagram and reads "How to store two golf bags." However, there are small storage bins behind the seats.

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.

Roomy Interior
The dashboard is generally nicely designed, although the interior has too many cut-rate materials. There is plenty of room for occupants, and supportive seats invite spirited driving.

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.

Tricky Clutch
The clutch has a long, hard throw and nonliner action that can cause jerky starts. Those who do lots of driving in stop-and-go traffic are advised to get the automatic transmission, which has a manual shift gate.

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.

Impressive Brakes
The brake pedal has a linear action that allows smooth stops, and the standard anti-lock all-disc brakes provide impressively short stopping distances.

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.

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BB05 - 4/18/2014 10:16:04 PM