“Heya – I need a new set of rear tyres for this please”.
“Cool”, said the tyre fitter. “But, if you don’t mind me asking, what exactly is that? I’ve never seen one before and I’ve no idea what it is …”
The Nissan 350z – possibly one of the most underrated sports car I’ve ever encountered. Not exactly subtle, especially when you own one in the orange colour like mine, and certainly not a slouch – the version I had was a genuine European model in Touring spec.
Life with a 350z
The acceleration is snappy, the noise is what you’d hope for, it has visual kerb appeal and the handling lives up to expectations, in good weather and bad. I drove it many times to Mondello racing circuit in Kildare during snow storms and across a snowy midlands, at one stage having to stop to assist a Subaru WRX out of a snowdrift … This car begs to be driven and rewards when you plant the right foot, but is equally at home in heavy traffic as the great sound system (the BOSE system I mean, not the engine!), heated seats and easy gearshift action means you don’t get cramped and cranky stuck in traffic. It also means that you’re constantly smiling behind the wheel, which is just as well as you’re usually the centre of attention in traffic jams.
MPG is as expected – around 27 if you drive like I do…
Maintenance is not excessive – regular oil changes are a necessity. New spark plugs made a big difference to mine after a few thousand miles in my ownership, and of course you have to feed the monster some nice rubber to keep her between the white lines. However, all that said, running costs are exponentially cheaper than an M3 of similar vintage, with servicing much cheaper and possible at the same garage that deals with Micras regularly …
Colour makes a big difference to these cars. The orange colour I had is what Nissan always used in their advertisements for the 350Z, and it really stood out when parked amongst lesser machinery. In fact, it just stood out, no matter what else was in the line. The colour drew your eye, and the lines reaffirmed the idea that this was a special car that promised excitement. (A side note – a buddy of mine had one too, and occasionally the two 350Zs were parked in the same line of cars – never beside each other though, for some unspoken reason. People always commented and talked about mine, but he had a dark grey version and it was hard to pick out at times amongst the sea of nondescript silver SUVs that towered over it …)
The brakes warrant a special mention – absolutely fantastic brakes, no matter what velocity you are trying to dial down. Never a heart stopping moment when trying to rein in the Z – the brembos were superb every time. After 10000 miles or so, I upgraded to a set of Mintex brake pads all round, which actually resulted in planning my stops a little better, as the car braked in such a tiny distance after I fitted the new pads that I was concerned about being rear-ended! (Note – nothing wrong with the original braking distance whatsoever, I just wanted the best pads I could afford when I had to replace them.)
And it really does have kerb appeal. I lost count of the number of times people asked to be photographed with it, including in the office car park! The smooth lines and relative rarity of these cars (when compared to an M3, S2000, TT, Porsche, etc) means that they really get attention when they appear in public. My neighbours also got very emotionally attached to the car, to the extent that I was given out to when I sold it! Not as much as I give out to myself, though, for selling my 350z. To this day, over 10 years later, it’s still the car I loved the most and I miss it like mad. No matter what I put on the driveway, nothing has ever gotten into my soul like that car did.
Why the 350z?
I had been driving the Boxster for long enough at this stage – I was getting fed up with the cramped feeling in the Porker. I also wanted more oomph. While the Boxster looked good and sounded great, it did not travel as fast as I felt it should have. (Yes, I know there was a more powerful version available, but I couldn’t find one at a price I could afford, in the condition I wanted …)
So, a Friday and Saturday were set aside to go looking for replacements for the Boxster. The list was made up of a BMW Z4 25si, an Audi S4, an Audi S6, an Audi TT 3.2, a Honda S2000 and a Lotus Elise. I was really looking forward to a couple of days of test pilot action…!
How did these motors stack up?
I ruled out the S4 and the S6 almost straight away, on the grounds that they looked too similar to the lower spec models and under-steered like you wouldn’t believe – I didn’t expect that from a quattro system, but I’ve since driven many more quattros and this seems to be an underlying trait. I also didn’t want what I saw as a family car at that stage, despite the fact that I had two young daughters ( no, I’m not a complete twit. There was already a family car in situ ).
The TT was ruled out for two reasons – it didn’t drive in a way I enjoyed nor a way I felt it should, and the dealer was a complete muppet when it came to the deal. He had been trying to sell the TT 3.2 for months, but nobody was interested as the 1.8 drove better in many people’s opinions (including mine, years later – see here). He also decided that my Porsche was not in good shape, with impending engine doom and bad paintwork … hmmm …. ??!
The Honda was binned as I enjoyed being free of the VTEC lunacy that comes from driving a fast VTEC powered Honda ( I had a genuine 4 door Civic VTI in my earlier days, which was an absolute hoot, but eventually having to rev the life out of it to get any real performance wore me down ).
The Lotus Elise (S1, couldn’t afford an S2) was an amazing car to drive … well, I say car. I think I mean roller skate. It was right down on the deck (as standard), really small inside (I kept elbowing the salesman when I changed gear!), and unbelievably loud …. and uncomfortable …
And the Z4? No thanks. It just didn’t fit the bill, and to this day I’d be hard pushed to tell you why. I just didn’t feel right driving it, and I tried a few different ones.
This was a problem…I was coming home from the final Z4 test when I stopped for coffee to see what else I could find. A quick carzone search using various parameters suddenly produced a Nissan 350z, which at that point, I’m ashamed to say, I’d never heard of. But it was close by and I’d nothing better to do …
So, why did I buy it? Firstly, the dealership were absolutely amazing. I dealt with the head salesman in Ken Lawford Motors, who eyed me up as I pulled in with the Boxster, and then politely approached me as I wandered into the showroom. A detailed and knowledgeable discussion around what I was looking for led us to reach a financial deal that suited both of us, and then he went off to get the Z. After the test drive, he said to me that people only really buy these cars after they drive one. And he was right – this was the first car that I completely fell in love with on a test drive.
My advice to any and all reading this – go find a good 350Z (they’re getting on a bit now) that has not been molested and has a good service history, and take it for a spin. Oh, and bring your wallet … you’ll not be leaving empty handed!
Nissan 350z – Vital Statistics
|Power||206 kW (276 bhp) @ 6200rpm|
|Torque||363 Nm (268 lb/ft) @ 4800rpm|
|0-100 km/h (0-62 mph)||5.7 seconds|
|Maximum speed||250 km/h (155 mph)|
|Fuel consumption (average)||11.7 l/100km (24 mpg)|
|Fuel type, tank capacity||Petrol, 80 litres|
Forged steel connecting rods,
Microfinished one-piece forged crankshaft,
Nylon intake manifold,
|Cylinders and valves||V6, 24v|
|Transmission||6 speed manual, short throw (Nissan FS6R31A)|
|Drivetrain||Rear wheel drive|
Note – over the years, Nissan tuned these models to produce more horsepower, maxing out at 306 bhp in the final years.
Nissan 350z Touring (2004) Specification (additional over standard spec)
Over and above the standard rocket ship, the Touring version of the 350z that I had benefited from the following additions:
- Leather heated seats ( two settings for the heat, and they were really nice in the winter! )
- Bose stereo with 6 cd changer
- Cruise control
- Xenon headlamps ( I think this as the first car I ever had with Xenons, and they were really good – just as well, this car covered distance remarkably quickly! )
- 18″ Rays alloys ( in my opinion, the only wheels for this car )
- A Viscous Limited Slip Differential ( see here for an explanation )
- Vehicle Dynamic Control ( see here for an explanation )