2006 350Z New Car Test Drive
Upgraded for 2006, the Nissan 350Z remains the flag carrier for the rejuvenated Nissan lineup. Like the original Datsun 240Z, it's fast, it's fun, it's pure sports car. And, again like the original Z, it's affordable, or at least attainable.
The most fundamental change for 2006 is the expanded installation of the more powerful V6 previously reserved for the Track model and last year's 35th Anniversary Edition to all models with the manual transmission. Other functional upgrades include larger wheels, more responsive power steering, better brakes, improved lighting and added audio features.
Carried over are all those features that make the 350Z such a performance bargain: carbon-fiber driveshaft, drive-by-wire throttle, anti-lock disc brakes vented front and rear with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. Add the convenience features that come standard, such as automatic temperature control and a premium stereo even in the base Z, and the price is compelling.
Available as a 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 commuter for the daily stop-and-go that will still leave a grin on your face after a quick run down a favorite racer road.
Bottom line: The Nissan 350Z 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.
Eight variants of the 2006 Nissan 350Z are available: five Coupes and three Roadsters. All come equipped with one of two versions of the same 3.5-liter V6 engine, and all but two come with a choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic.
For 2006, all six-speed manual transmission models get the 300-horsepower engine. Automatics come with the 287-hp version. (This changes for 2007, when Nissan will certify the automatics with the more powerful engine.) Minimum wheel size increases an inch, to 18 inches; all non-Brembo brake-equipped models get larger rotors; bi-Xenon HID headlights and LED taillights are standard; steering power assist is now vehicle-speed related instead of engine-speed; and the optional Bose stereo adds MP3 capability. Three new paint colors are offered: Interlagos Fire, with a special, hue-shifting pigment that changes from dark brown to dark-bluish purple, depending on the viewing angle ($500), Silver Alloy and Magnetic Black.
The base 2006 Nissan 350Z ($27,650) comes standard with 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, heated outside mirrors, cloth seats with eight-way manual driver and four-way manual passenger adjustments and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter boot. It comes with a six-speed manual transmission.
The Enthusiast model ($29,350) adds HomeLink universal transceiver, cruise control, traction control, viscous limited-slip rear differential, rubber-nibbed aluminum pedals, illuminated steering wheel audio controls and switchable electro-chromic rearview mirror. The Enthusiast model is also available with the five-speed automatic transmission ($30,350). The Roadster Enthusiast is available with the six-speed manual ($35,050) or five-speed automatic ($37,050) and comes with a four-way power/four-way manually adjustable driver seat.
The Touring model is available with the manual ($32,450) or automatic transmission ($32,950). The Touring comes with leather-appointed seats with a four-way power driver's seat, a two-way power passenger's seat, and seat heaters, and a 240-watt Bose CD6 with MP3 capability and six speakers plus subwoofer. The manual transmission Touring gets Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Nissan's electronic stability control system. The Roadster Touring models come with six-speed manual ($37,650) or five-speed automatic ($38,650) and offer as a no-cost option a blue top in place of the standard black.
The Track model ($34,550) gets vented Brembo brakes, 19-inch lightweight aluminum wheels and front and rear spoilers. It comes with the cloth, but is equipped with VDC, the viscous differential, HomeLink, the aluminum pedals and the electro-chromic mirror.
The new 2006 Grand Touring model comes with the Track model's wheels and body aero parts and VDC. The coupe is available with the six-speed manual ($35,850) or five-speed automatic ($36,850); likewise, the Roadster is available with the manual ($40,000) or automatic ($41,000).
A DVD-based navigation system with upgraded graphics and functional improvements for 2006 is available on the Touring and Grand Touring models ($1800). A choice of Sirius or XM Satellite Radio is offered on the Touring and Grand Touring Coupes ($350).
Safety gear on all models includes dual-stage front airbags, with seat-mounted side airbags on the Roadster Touring and Grand Touring. Antilock brakes with Electronic Brake-force distribution and brake assist and traction control are standard. So is a tire pressure monitoring system. A side air bag and curtain air bag package is optional ($620) on the base Coupe and a very good idea, as is the supplemental side air bag option ($250) on the Roadster Enthusiast.