2006 Nissan 350Z
By James Riswick
In an era when sporty coupes have become nearly extinct, the Nissan 350Z soldiers on doing its part to maintain the species. With cars like the Toyota Supra, Mazda RX7 and Mitsubishi 3000GT long gone, the Z car sits comfortably in a class by itself offering a unique blend of two-seat body style, quick handling, and vicious power from the now 300-horsepower V6. The difference between the Z and its deceased comrades is that itís affordable, starting at a very reasonable base price of $27,650.
Inspired by the original iconic Datsun 240Z and based upon the same Nissan FM platform that also spawned the Infiniti G35 and FX lines, the 350Z keeps its costs down by sharing many bits and pieces with other Nissan-family cars. The throaty 3.5-liter V6 is the most powerful version of the engine found in such diverse vehicles as the Nissan Quest and Infiniti M35. Thereís a reason for this powerplantís popularity Ė it offers smooth thrust thatís neither peaky nor brutish in delivery. Connected to a mechanically direct 6-speed manual, the Z will turn in 0-60 times in the mid-five-second range (a 5-speed automatic is offered, but it drops horsepower to 287.)
The Zís FM platform refers to the ďfront mid-engineĒ lay-out that centers much of the carís weight and translates into very neutral, confidence-inspiring handling. The steering is direct and offers a great mix of being both firm and responsive. This is a fantastic car to take into the twisties.
Inside, you sit far down with a belt line reminiscent of a plastic Berlin-wall reaching up to your chin. Along with below average head room, the cabin can be a little confining, especially for taller drivers (itís made worse in the 350Z Roadster when the top is up).
The Z does have one of the best steering wheels in the business, though, and itís made better by the innovative gauge cluster that moves up and down with the wheel (it doesnít telescope). Ergonomic accolades end there, however, as the HVAC and radio controls are located too low on the dash considering the upper area is inhabited by mostly redundant gauges and a large cubby covered by a rather cheap piece of plastic. This area can be filled with a navigation system, which at least makes the dash look better. But without voice commands or a touch screen, Nissan's GPS system is a waste of money in comparison to those offered by Honda and Toyota. Fit and finish is average, and the trunk is compromised by an intrusive structural cross brace.
That leaves the Z as a driverís car first and foremost. Its edgy profile still turn heads nearly four years on, and nothing has come along that offers a similar package for the money. With great power and confidence-inspiring handling, the 350Z is not only maintaining the sports coupe species, it has evolved it in ways that would make Darwin proud.
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Pictures of the Nissan 350Z
Click pictures to enlarge
Posted February 26, 2006
Photos courtesy of