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Nissan 350Z review (2006-2010)
Model: Nissan 350Z
Bodystyle: Two-door coupe
Engine: 3.5-litre V6, petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual
Date of test: March 2006
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What is it?
Nissan’s two-seater sports car received a facelift in early 2006. But only Z-fans noticed. Slightly altered headlights with bi-Xenon as standard, subtly reprofiled bumper with stronger middle section and larger reflectors, fast-reacting LED tail lights and standard RAYS alloys; we could have used pictures of the old car below and few would have noticed. The interior remained familiar too, but with higher-quality trims lessening the slightly 'cheap' feel of the pre-facelift model. Factory-fitted sat nav was the biggest news, integrating in to the dashboard and offering Nissan’s excellent 'Birdview' display. Though still, the optional BOSE stereo features a slot for cassettes as well as CDs. That’s an evocative cue too far.
Where does it fit?
Sports cars from mainstream makers are thin on the ground; the Nissan’s most obvious rival is Mazda’s RX-8. But Nissan doesn’t consider it a car with a mainstream feel – rather, a brand in its own right. It’s 350Z, not Nissan 350Z, enabling it to spar with the Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLK. Like all cars in this class, it only has two seats (you’ll not get many things human in the rear of a TT) and luggage space is rather limited, which obviously limits its appeal to some. Nissan perhaps doesn’t mind, of course; it’s happy to sell around 2,500 per year, and the more rich city boys, well-off empty nesters and hardcore car nuts it gets into them, the better – for residuals and for brand image. Nissan in the car park at Lloyds? Now there’s product placement.
Is it for you?
Nissan doesn’t speak of it, but you can’t help but sense the 350Z hairy-chested blokishness. It’s not overpowering, like Brut, but is certainly there; the low seats, the meaty gearchange, the rorty engine. Wide, squat, bulging wheelarches and all the power from the set-back engine sent to the back; it’s a muscle car coupe and ‘aint for wimps. The reality is a car that’s reassuringly easy to drive, of course – it’s still a Nissan at heart – but the image is definitely one of rippling torsos and cowboys and grrr, brought bang up to date. The 21st century muscle car, and if you don’t like wearing your heart on your designer sleeve, or driving a car that’s a fair bit different from the norm, best stick with your TT.
What does it do well?
It’s such an exciting car to drive. It looks it, with huge wide-set wheels pushed far into the corners to give it the appearance of a leopard ready to scarper. The high sides and narrow windows enclose you, the large, near-vertical wheel sits close to you and the 3.5-litre V6 engine thrills you by firing to an automatic engine blip and resonant roar. It’s worlds apart from a boring old four-pot, and performs gloriously on the road. Follow its progress by an array of flicking orange dial needles, change the rev limit light and time its pace around a circuit from the digital computer. '06 models wail out 300bhp thanks to a better inlet system and friction reductions, and rev more freely to a higher rev limit. But it’s torque from low revs that you really feel here; dial up 2,000rpm and you’re ready to take on all comers, to a pulsing, harmonious noise that howls as the revs rise. It’s delectable and seriously fast. 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds is Porsche-fast. The short-throw gearshift is direct and quick, grip is strong and the car so well-balanced, so confidence-inspiring, that you quickly turn ESP off to enjoy a few powerslides on the exits of corners. Steering is speed-dependant in '06 cars too, making it easier at parking speeds without spoiling it when the driver’s on it. It’s an accurate, quick system that makes catching rear-end slides child’s play.
What doesn’t it do well?
The ride is surprisingly knobbly on the RAYS 18-inch alloys, yet while it’s roll-free, it’s perhaps not quite as responsive in corners as you might expect. There’s a touch of softness to the steering around the straight-ahead, particularly noticeable when turning in – the car doesn’t bite quite as hungrily as you’d expect. The rear can also become light and squirm a little under heavy braking, particularly in the Roadster we drove. However, by most standards, it’s a very able sports car; just so good, you become hyper-critical. The Roadster does, however, suffer from slight but appreciable structure shudder, particularly with the roof down, and its tiny boot is next to useless.
What’s it like to live with?
A huge strut brace in the boot seems to eliminate all the practicalities of the coupe’s hatchback lid. But Nissan quotes a not-bad-considering 235 litres. How? Clever packaging, it seems; there’s even a diagram on the lid, showing how to squeeze two golf club bags in. The interior has lots of storage areas, even if some are slightly awkward, and standard Bluetooth phone operation is a positive far outweighing slightly too-high seats. The need to press the clutch before the car will start is oddly irritating, but the faint resonance you feel through the seat and gearlever at certain engine revs never is. It’s all part of the appeal, an appeal that people clearly long to buy into, given headline-grabbing retained values of well over 50 per cent after three years. Again, that’s Porsche-level.
How green is it?
Not hugely, averaging 24.1mpg and emitting 280g/km of CO2. It only seats two as well, so is a bit of a selfish use of 4315mm’s worth of tarmac. But the revised engine is at least Euro IV-compliant, cutting (twin) exhaust nasties considerably. And it’s a damn sight more efficient than its direct rival, the Mazda RX-8. Sat on the motorway in sixth, a low aerodynamic drag factor and the pootling V6 can lift mpg well into the 30s, which is a lot more creditable than the sub-20 figures we saw at the launch.
Would we buy it?
We’d buy it without hesitation. The 350Z oozes sporty enthusiastic appeal and is a good-looking coupe that actually drives as well as it looks. Fuel consumption and luggage convenience perhaps wouldn’t endear it to the more rationally-minded, nor would our exuberance when driving it, but as a sports car to thrill, the 350Z hits the bullseye. It’s not perfect; so good is the handling, we’d love a bit more feel through the controls to enjoy it even more, while the interior is still a bit low-rent in places, despite the '06 revisions. But hey – it’s £26k, comes with all you need even as standard, and never fails to thrill (and that includes wailing aural delights) when on the move. Who says cars like this are no more?
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