A history of the Datsun/Nissan Z car including 240Z, 280ZX, 300ZX and 350Z
We take the all new Nissan 350Z out to test, find out why this is one of the best cars we’ve driven.
Although we are not quite sure how, the folks over at an American-based car magazine managed to talk Nissan into letting them drive the all-new 350Z successor, the 370Z. Images of the car have been seen before, but these were merely shots taken on camera phones from motorists who happen to see the new sports coupe out testing on public roads. So, although the new Z is still camouflaged, this is still the best look at the machine thus far.
According to the journos involved, the 370Z is a full five inches shorter in wheel base than its predecessor, and looks to be sporting Nissan’s kick-arse new VQ37VHR 3.7 litre V6 motor, which should be good for around 340hp. Full details will not be known until a complete specification list release from Nissan on the 11th of November. Make sure you check back here for the latest.
When you open the boot of Nissan’s 350Z there are two striking things: one is the sheer size of the rear strut brace (which takes up a reasonable proportion of the space), and the other is the sticker that explains how you can fit two golf bags in the remaining miniscule area. Obviously aimed at the American market, this sticker is a not-so-subtle hint that the boot can actually fit more than you’d think.
The 2007 350Z has come a fair way [pun intended] from the previous incarnation. The looks are subtly different, and along with a raft of minor changes, it is more powerful. Now sporting 358Nm of torque, its 230kW is transferred efficiently through the 18-inch, 245 profile rears. There’s sufficient urge that I inadvertently uttered a phrase I never thought I would: it has enough power. The team uttered a collective gasp, so let me quantify that: for the money the 350Z, as a driver’s car, is one of the best I have driven, and this particular one has the five-speed automatic ‘box, as opposed to the six-speed manual. The problem with powerful, torquey, rear-wheel drive autos is unexpected kickdown half way through a bend when driving ‘with spirit.’ Now, this problem can be eliminated as there’s a responsive sequential gearshift so you can choose to be in the right gear if you want, but I’d guess most people will leave it in automatic.
The main visual difference in the Z is the bonnet’s ‘power bulge’ which conceals the bellowing 3.5-litre V6. Peering over the bulge from the electronically adjustable leather driver’s seat has the same sensation as being in the first carriage as the rollercoaster edges its way towards the inevitable steep drop. Push the right hand pedal and you know you’re about to experience some extreme acceleration, it may be accompanied by screams (of joy, of course), and you know you’ll survive intact with a grin on your face. The 350Z holds the road like the rollercoaster does to its track, assisted by Vehicle Dynamic Control, Traction Control System and suspension that inspires confidence while never being crashy or harsh. Push into a corner and you can tell the electronics are working. Mild understeer is accompanied by buzzes and vibrations back through the pedals and in the engine bay to let you know that your excesses have been regulated by computer chips.
To haul the 350Z back, step on the drilled aluminium brake pedal and the Brembos clamp ventilated disks all round, augmented by ABS, Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Distribution. If all these acronyms don’t manage to keep you on the tarmac there are six airbags and seatbelt pretensioners (SRS). In the case of a severe frontal impact the brake pedal is designed to move out of the way, and the engine and driveshaft will break away.
If this all sounds rather too exhilarating for you on your way to play the back 9, it is possible (with restraint) to drive the Z sedately. Slip a suitably relaxing CD in the six-stacker, turn the heated seat on and let 240W of Bose audio wash over you.
On the brand level, sitting in the Z embodies the anticipation of what’s just beyond that bulge, beckoning you to press the accelerator to get there more quickly. It’s golf with a nitrous-assisted cart and a caffeine-fuelled caddy, and one where the drive is perfect just about every time. The 350Z has entered my top ten list of favourite cars. It didn’t score a hole-in-one, but it’s on the green and near the cup.
Price: Coupe 5-speed auto (as tested): $72,990
What we like
- Noise, oh that noise
What we don’t like
- You can’t put anything in the boot without it being on show
- I’m still not a fan of the switchgear
Words and photos Darren Cottingham