Nissan 350Z is First Produced

The Nissan 350Z is a two seat sports car that was manufactured by Nissan Motor Co, LTD. The 350Z is the fifth generation of Nissan's Z-car line, originally introduced in 1969 (as a 1970 model year) as the Datsun 240Z. The 350Z entered production in late 2002 and was sold and marketed as a 2003 model. It was available in several trim packages and is sold as both a coupé and roadster before being succeeded by the 370Z for the 2009 model year.

After the Nissan 300ZX was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1996, Nissan initially tried to keep the Z name alive by re-creating the 240Z the following year. The car was conceived by Nissan's North American design team in their free time, and the concept was introduced in a four state Road Show in July 1998 to various car media, dealers and employees. Yutaka Katayama, regarded as the "Father of the Z" unveiled the Z concept sketch to the public when he received a motor industry award. The design, representing a modern vision of the 240Z, did not please the original 240Z designer Yoshihiko Matsuo, who compared it to the Bluebird and Leopard.

The 240Z concept was produced for the Detroit Motor Show for the following January. Nissan was unhappy with the first design as they felt the original 200 bhp (149 kW; 203 PS) 2.4 L engine known as the KA24DE that was going to be assigned made the car feel underpowered, they also felt the car was considered too "retro" or too "backward" resembling a futuristic 240Z; thus, a redesign was commissioned. During a press conference in February 2000, president Carlos Ghosn announced plans to produce the car as he felt the new model would help to assist the company's recovery.

Z Concept was unveiled in Detroit Motor Show two years later, which was similar in body shape but with a new front end. The car then underwent a minor redesign and was eventually assigned the VQ35DE engine, hence becoming known as the 350Z. The car would break its tradition of being of the first Z not to be produced at the Shatai plant.

Released on August 20, 2002, the 350Z coupé was available in the U.S. in 5 trim packages: '350Z' (Base), 'Enthusiast', 'Performance', 'Touring', and 'Track' editions. In Europe only the 'Track' trim was available, although it was badged and marketed as '350Z'.

In 2004 Nissan introduced the 350Z Roadster featuring an electrically retractable soft-top roof. In the U.S. market the car was available in just 2 trim packages (Enthusiast and Touring), while in Europe, the same versions as the coupé were offered. Nissan added the Grand Touring (GT) trim to the Roadster trim packages for 2005.

In 2005 Nissan launched a 35th Anniversary edition, with a revised exterior and interior (see Special Editions below). 35th Anniversary 6-speed manual models and Track models were a mid-year introduction, and included the 300HP/260TQ Rev-up engine. Automatic transmission-equipped 35th Anniversary edition models continued with the original VQ35DE with 287HP/274TQ.

For the 2006 model year, the 350Z received a number of notable changes for its mid-cycle facelift. The 300HP/260TQ Rev-up engine that was introduced mid-year 2005 with 6-speed manual was offered for every trim now. Purchasing a 5-speed automatic meant you still got the VQ35DE with 287HP/274TQ. The headlights now sported larger bi-xenon projectors, the front bumper had been revised, the rear taillights now use LEDs, and interior changes brought differences to the center console, among other small things. Touring and Grand Touring models have radio-steering controls standard, MP3 CD compatibility, and Satellite Radio became an available option. The 5AT transmission also received an update, which made it rev-match for every downshift.

For the 2007 model year, the 350Z was again moderately revised. The VQ35DE V6 was replaced with a new, but still 3.5 L VQ35HR V6. It produced 306 hp (228 kW) at 6800 rpm with 268 ft·lbf (363 N·m) at 4800 rpm. The hood was revised featuring a bulge reminiscent of the original 240Z. In the US, trims levels were narrowed down to 350Z (base), Enthusiast, Touring, and Grand Touring, while in Europe the same trim levels remained.

A proper sports car for the everyman. If we had just one sentence to describe the Nissan 350Z, that'd be it. While there are plenty of unobtainable sports cars out there to drool over, the 350Z's relatively compact dimensions, rear-wheel drive, two seats, muscular engine and sharp handling come at a price that real people can actually afford.

The Nissan 350Z represents the fifth generation of "Z" sports cars from this Japanese manufacturer. At its debut, the 350Z represented a key component of Nissan's rebirth in the North American market. For much of the late '90s and early new millennium, Nissan's lineup was full of lackluster cars. The Z brought back the company's spirit of fun and performance that had been missing ever since the discontinuation of the previous 300ZX.

For the 350Z's final year, only the roadster is available -- the coupe has been replaced by the new 370Z coupe. The roadster version of the latest-generation Z is expected soon. As such, most people interested in a 350Z will be looking at a used model. The 350Z's a fine choice for a used sports car, though keen shoppers will want to pay close attention to the car's changes and updates through the years.

Current Nissan 350Z

The current 350Z is sold as a convertible roadster only. The roadster is available in Enthusiast, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels. The Enthusiast trim level comes standard with a power soft top, xenon headlights, automatic climate control and power seats. The Touring adds upscale items like leather seating and an optional navigation system. The Grand Touring features luxury items from the Touring trim along with front and rear spoilers, upgraded brakes and stability control.

The sole available engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that cranks out 306 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. For this type of car, the V6 is just about perfect. It revs easily, if a bit coarsely at higher engine speeds, and develops plenty of power while managing to be reasonably fuel-efficient. Power is sent to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic.

In reviews, we've found the Nissan 350Z to be an engaging sports car to drive hard. The V6 pulls strongly when revved past 3,000 rpm and generates one of the most distinctive engine and exhaust-note soundtracks available. The 350Z's ability to provide serious grip through corners has made it a favorite of our enthusiast editors. At the limit, the car's handling can be a bit tricky, and steady hands are required.

When employed on a daily basis, the Nissan 350Z doesn't make for such a compelling companion. Road and tire noise are considerable, and the car's stiff suspension transmits plenty of shock to its occupants when it's driven on rough pavement. Inside, the Z's cabin is functional but decidedly stark. Some of the interior trim is of low quality, and the luggage capacity of the roadster is compromised, even for this class of car.

Past Nissan 350Z Models

The 350Z sports car bowed in 2003 as an all-new model. The first year there was only a coupe, as the roadster did not become available until 2004. Initially, the coupe came in base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring and Track versions, while the roadster was limited to Enthusiast and Touring trim levels. The Track trim came with lightweight wheels and Brembo brakes, but its suspension tuning was the same as all other coupes.

In these early years, the V6 produced 287 hp and 274 lb-ft of torque. Transmissions choices were either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. The Track model had the manual only. Changes were minimal in the first few years, though Nissan did release a 350Z 35th-anniversary edition in 2005. This manual-transmission model produced 300 hp (but less torque) and came in three exclusive colors.

For 2006, Nissan included the Anniversary Edition's 300-hp V6 for all manual-equipped cars. There were a host of other changes as well, including mildly updated styling, speed-sensitive steering, larger brakes for non-Brembo-equipped models, a higher-quality interior, more standard features and a newly available navigation system. The Performance trim level was dropped. This was also the first year for the Grand Touring trim level, which was similar to the Touring but had the Track's Brembo brakes and wheels.

For 2007, Nissan fully updated the V6 for all 350Zs to its latest, 306-hp incarnation. The Track trim level was dropped, but in its place came the coupe-only Nismo 350Z model. The Nismo model dropped many luxuries in favor of performance-enhancing upgrades, such as a stiffened, seam-welded chassis, firmer springs and shock absorbers, special wheels and various aerodynamic upgrades. Inside, each Nismo 350Z had red and black cloth seats, a gray-faced tachometer and a number plaque indicating its build order in the production run. Nismo models were also produced for the coupe's last year in 2008.

Considering the 350Z's gradual improvements to feature content and hardware, consumers interested in a used Nissan 350Z should generally try to purchase the newest year possible. Notable options to look for would be side airbags (they were optional on the coupe and not always standard on the roadster) and stability control (which came on Touring coupes as well as Grand Touring and Track trim levels).