2005 350Z New Car Test Drive
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.
This year 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 badging. 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 color 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.
Bottom line: The Nissan 350Z is no poser. It more than delivers on the promise of its stellar looks. It's a real sports car with serious GT performance. The Roadster adds wind-in-your hair freedom.
Nine variants of the Nissan 350Z are available: six coupes and three roadsters. All come equipped with the same 3.5-liter V6 engine.
Differences among them lie primarily in trim. Different size wheels and tires, however, give the models distinct personalities. The exception is the Track model, which features higher spring rates and shock damping along with bigger brakes.
All models for 2005 get several new standard features, including a Tire Pressure Monitor System, a driver's seat front and rear lifter, heated outside mirrors and a faster processor for the optional navigation system. The clutch effort for manual transmissions has been reduced, and automatic transmissions now come with rev-matching blips of the throttle on the downshifts.
The base Nissan 350Z ($26,500) comes standard with 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, vented front and rear disc brakes with ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, dual stage air bags, seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, automatic temperature control, 160-watt AM/FM/CD with six speakers, power windows (with auto-up/auto-down on both sides), power door locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, vehicle security system, a leather steering wheel and shifter boot, comfortable cloth seats and pre-wiring for satellite radio. It comes with a six-speed manual transmission.
Enthusiast ($28,450) is the most popular model. It adds xenon headlamps, HomeLink universal transceiver, cruise control, traction control, viscous limited-slip rear differential, aluminum pedals, day/night rearview mirror, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors. The Enthusiast model is also available with a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode ($29,450). The Roadster Enthusiast ($34,150) reverts to the 160-watt stereo and fabric seats but keeps the four-way power driver's seat and two-way power passenger's seat. Neither the seats nor the mirrors get heaters.
The Performance model ($30,650), available only with the manual gearbox, adds 18-inch wheels and tires, Vehicle Dynamic Control (an anti-skid system), and a tire-pressure monitor.
The Touring model is available with manual or automatic transmission. The Touring automatic ($31,800) comes with leather-appointed seats with a four-way power driver's seat, a two-way power passenger's seat, and seat heaters, heated mirrors, and a 240-watt Bose CD6 with cassette and seven speakers. But it does not come with Vehicle Dynamic Control or the aluminum pedals, and it's fitted with the 17-inch wheels. Order the Touring model with the six-speed manual ($33,400) and you get all the luxury stuff plus VDC, 18-inch wheels, and the aluminum pedals; it's a Performance model with leather and other luxury goodies, in other words. The Roadster Touring models add supplemental side airbags.
The Track model ($34,300) gets vented Brembo brakes, 18-inch rubber mounted on lightweight aluminum wheels, and front and rear spoilers. It comes with the cloth, but is equipped with VDC, the viscous differential, xenon headlights, tire-pressure monitor, HomeLink, aluminum pedals (of course), the electrochromic mirror, and illuminated visor vanity mirrors (to ensure your hair is safely tucked under your helmet).
A side air bag and curtain air bag package ($569) is optional on the hatchback and a very good idea, as is the supplemental side air bag option ($250) on the Roadster Enthusiast. A DVD-based navigation system ($2,000) is available.
No sunroof, no T-top is available on the hatchback, so if you like high-performance, top-down motoring, your choice is the roadster. Nissan says high-performance parts will be available from Nismo, the company's racing division that competes at Le Mans and other sports car venues. Look for engine, suspension, and body bits.