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Road Test


Nissan 350Z

by Ian Barrett

22nd November, 2007


Nissan 350Z 
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I can still remember my first glimpse of Datsun's then new 240Z coupe back in about 1970. The original 240Z was a knock-out when it was first unveiled. It was basically a Datsun 1600 chassis, with a warmed up 2.4L SOHC six shoe-horned in from Nissan's flagship luxury saloon. Boasting 113 kW and 198 Nm of torque, the car could manage 0-100 in a bit over 8 seconds. The fully independent suspension, front disc brakes and rack & pinion steering added to its quick response, performance and handling. It came wrapped in a stunning 2-door coupe body which some described as a cross between a Jaguar E-Type and a Fiat Dino, with a dash of Toyota 2000GT thrown in.

The 240Z was a great little car with fine dynamics and some real sporting ability, which left its mostly-British competitors off in the scrub. And with a price tag of just over $3,500, it cost much less than anything vaguely comparable on the market. But from there, the Z-car,  as it was affectionately known, went steadily downhill. With the passing years, each succeeding generation grew fatter and less sporty, while ADRs conspired to stifle any performance gains expected as engine capacity steadily increased. The sports cars of the past were changing their footprint as they transformed into grand tourers.

But after thirty-something years, Nissan have gone retro, in both form and concept. Their  hero car is back - with a vengeance! We recently drove the 'track' version of Nissan's 350Z coupe and found it a worthy successor to its illustrious forebear, regarded as somewhat of an icon in the modern motoring world. Nissan's latest still has great looks and with a strong emphasis on aerodynamics, even to the control of airflow under the body. Now sporting a revised 'speed hump' in the long bonnet - just like the 1970 model - it performs as well as it looks. And we mean seriously performs!

Nissan's revised aluminium 3.5 litre 24-valve V6 with CVVT now puts out 230 kW @ 6,800 and 358 Nm @ 4,800 rpm and is matched to a slick 6-speed manual transmission featuring close-ratio gearing from 1st to 5th for high performance driving and an overdrive 6th speed for long-legged highway cruising. This is sufficient to blast the 1,480 kg device from 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds and to give it an estimated top speed of 265 km/h. Yet, even though it's a power plant which just loves to rev, we found it quite tractable at the lower end of the tacho, with more than 90% of peak torque available between 2,000 and 7,000 rpm. This makes for a vehicle which is easy to drive quietly around the suburbs when necessary. But you'll soon be longing for a stretch of open road!

2007 Nissan 350Z coupe

The 'track' version of the 350Z has handling and braking to match. Front suspension is strut type, while the rear is an independent multi-link design. Both ends feature stabiliser bars and strut tower braces. The engine/transmission is set well behind the front wheels, and this, together with the liberal use of alloy components in both engine and suspension, gives the 350Z a near-ideal 53/47 weight distribution. Together with a viscous LSD, it has great agility, and generally sticks like glue, but with crowd-pleasing oversteer readily available on demand. But we prefer to leave that sort of thing to others! It's a delight to be behind the wheel even at 8/10ths. Naturally this level of expertise comes at the expense of a fair thirst for PULP (and premium tyres), and a firm ride, although it's nicely controlled. It is a sports car, so who's counting?

The 'Go to Whoa' department is equally well looked after in the track version, with massive ventilated Brembo brakes in combination with ABS and EBD. And this is further enhanced by Nissan's version of ESP, code-named Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC). We tested the braking ability and can report that we were fully satisfied with ability of the 350Z to manage the performance capability of this modern day wonder! As expected, such a vehicle's top class primary safety credentials come with the full complement of secondary equipment. Inside, there are seat-belt pretensioners and side/curtain airbags, in addition to the usual  driver/passenger front airbags.

Which brings us to the interior creature comforts. Leather trim, drilled aluminium pedals, Bose 6-CD premium sound system (MP-3 compatible with 7 speakers), steering wheel audio controls (illuminated), climate control air conditioning, cruise-control, electric windows/mirrors, adjustable steering wheel (height only). A novel and very practical feature is the instrument pod which moves up and down with the wheel! The 4-way power adjustable leather sports seats (heated), feature specially shaped thigh supports for the driver’s seat which hold the body firmly in place during enthusiastic driving.

Nissan 350Z 

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The classic 3-bay auxiliary gauge pod atop the dash is similar to that of the original 240Z. In spite of the leather bits, it does have a very plastic look about the interior, with large swathes of the black variety on the dashboard and door trims. Again, just like the 240Z. Otherwise, fit and finish is exemplary in true Japanese fashion. Even under the bonnet, where the beautiful alloy strut brace is a work of art in itself!

Storage space is at a premium, but amenities include the addition of a cup holder on each door panel, a new CD storage net on the passenger side footwell, a lockable rear luggage box (there is no glovebox) behind the passenger seat and a nook or two in the aluminium-look centre console. We're talking pure sports car, so luggage capacity beneath the rear hatch is naturally restricted, due in part to another poorly disguised strut brace across the rear. However, a diagram under the hatch lid shows the correct way to load no less than two sets of golf clubs, with the proviso that it "cannot accomodate all types of golf bags". We can certainly believe that last part!

And the current price for the Nissan 350Z is from $62,990 (RRP) for a manual coupe, whilst the track version (as tested) is from $67,990 (RRP).

Nissan's 350Z is never going to be a totally practical day to day means of transportion, but it has a beautiful balance of unique style, comfort, performance and value. Nissan has hit a winner. The sheer driving pleasure, the image, the exhaust note, all struck a chord with us. That's what sports cars are all about!

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Other Nissan content: here.

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