Nissan 350Z Buying Guide
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While Nissan’s outstanding Skyline GTRs have become increasingly computer-generated, its respected Z-car range gradually got back to basics. Echoing the ultra-successful 240Z of 1969, the 2003 350Z relied on good, old-fashioned grunt, rearwheel drive and a curvy coupe body with loads of soul. It’s a formula that provides big grins, lairy slides and a weapon of choice for drifters and tuners alike.
Z-car tradition ensured the 350Z came with a normally-aspirated six-cylinder powerplant – in this case a big, growling 3.5-litre V6. With 276bhp and a wall of torque it thumped to 60mph in six seconds and on to 155mph. Despite a whopping weight of over 1500kg, the 350Z’s combination of six-speed gearbox, talkative steering, balanced chassis and that muscular engine note made it a revelation.
Available in standard and GT specifications, the 350Z offered British buyers big Brembo brakes, 18in alloy wheels, xenon headlamps and climate control. The optional GT pack proved extremely popular, adding heated leather seats, Bose stereo and cruise control.
The Japanese domestic market 350Z (Z33 or Fairlady Z in Nissanspeak) was sold in four varieties, differing in trim levels from UK cars and offering an extra 10bhp. Many were brought onto British soil, so second-hand buyers should be aware of imports with smaller wheels, softer suspension, povertyspec brakes and even an automatic ‘tiptronic’ gearbox.
October 2004 witnessed the launch of the Roadster, an awkwardly-styled drop-top 350Z with added weight but an uncompromised driving experience. The 35th Anniversary Z special edition came out in 2005, also known as the GT4. It boasted 296bhp thanks to revised pistons and cam profiles, plus Rays alloys and Ultra Yellow, Super Black or Silverstone paintwork.
Eventually, Nissan replaced the early 350Z’s VQ35DE engine with the VQ35HR, meaning 308bhp. Along with a minor facelift, it made the 2006 350Z a model worth waiting for. Today the 350Z is a firm secondhand superstar and one of our favourite performance cars full stop. Highly recommended.
NISSAN 350Z 2003-2009
Engine: 3.5ltr V6
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (early model)
TUNING A 350Z
The 350Z is very tuneable, with 1,000bhp possible. The first upgrades should be coil-over suspension, stiffer anti-roll bars and uprated brake pads. Next, an induction kit should be accompanied by a plenum spacer, followed by a performance exhaust with sports cats and high-flow Y-pipe. An ECU remap or piggyback ECU is essential. For more, sports exhaust manifolds, big injectors and head work do the trick. Then comes forced induction. A supercharger means up to 450bhp, while single or twin turbo kits provide anywhere between 380 and 600bhp. Fit a 3.8 or 4.2 stroker kit and there’s potential for much, much more…
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The 350Z really has a right to the Japanese reputation for reliability; there’s little to go wrong. First check the model you’re buying – grey imports (usually badged Fairlady) can offer lower equipment levels but attract bigger insurance premiums. A 350Z’s engine should feel smooth and strong, but its transmission may show signs of abuse; check for clutch slip, a notchy gearchange or clicking from the rear axle, likely to be caused by worn driveshafts. Brakes squeak if under used, tailgate struts fail and CD players can skip – no big deal. Finally, be vigilant for accident damage – plenty of 350Zs leave the road backwards into hedges!