Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Nissan 350Z Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Nissan 350Z Overview

Body
Z-licious

If you are seeking evidence that Nissan's comeback performance is more than just a Flash-in-the-Pan act, you need look no further than the all-new Z Roadster. Hot on the heels of the Z coupe's introduction, Nissan has wasted no time in getting the roadster to market—which is no small feat in the automotive world. The Z Roadster builds upon the athletic good looks of the coupe, hiding its retractable soft top beneath a flush-fitting tonneu cover. With its top down, the Z Roadster strikes one of the most stunning profiles on the road, equally at home with such hallmarks as the Porsche Boxster and Chevrolet Corvette.

Like its coupe counterpart, the Roadster is offered in two versions: Enthusiast and Touring. Enthusiast models come nicely equipped with power seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, Xenon headlamps and your choice of a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual. A step up to the Touring model adds heated leather seats, a Bose audio system with six-disc CD changer and heated outside mirrors. Both trims provide a one-touch power-operated soft top with a glass rear window. The soft top operates easily and uses a unique three-point latching system to better secure it at the windshield pillar. Options include 18-inch alloys, a GPS navigation and a Bose audio system.

Unlike the coupe, the Roadster gets only one suspension setting and although it is intended to strike a balance between comfort and performance, you'll likely find that the Z Roadster's overall ride still leans heavily toward the firm side. But you can forgive the occasional rude jolt when crossing over speed bumps because the handling this roadster displays is nothing short of breathtaking.

Toss the Z Roadster into a curve, drop into second and lay open the throttle; what comes next can only be described as seat-of-your-pants fun. Turn-in is instantaneous with excellent feedback telegraphed through the thick three-spoke steering wheel. The Z's rear end stays firmly planted right up to it limits and even when it begins to break loose, you can easily bring it back in line with the proper combination of steering and throttle reduction. Perhaps the most surprising experience is the complete absence of body flex, a trait all-to-common in cars without a fixed structure above the doorsills.

The Z's dominance in the handling department is made all the more sweet by the terrific rush of power derived from its 3.5-liter V6 engine. Rated at a staggering 287 horsepower, the Z's engine sings the sweetest song at full throttle yet purrs like a content lioness at idle. You'll really want to opt for the manual transmission with this car because Nissan has one of the best in the business. The Z Roadster's six-speed manual is so tight and has such short throws that it's almost impossible to miss a gate when shifting; equally impressive is the quick uptake of the clutch pedal that allows smooth, jerk-free starts and nearly undetectable gear changes.

Once inside the Z roadster, you may find the cabin feels a bit cave-like, but as soon as you drop the top and let in some natural light, the interior seems to cheer up. You'll find the seats are well designed to hold you at the hips and shoulders, but that they really could do with some additional lumbar support. The Z Roadster provides great legroom for tall drivers and its headroom is, well, limitless. The Z's handsome controls are placed well within reach of the driver, with a set of large rotary knobs to adjust the settings for temperature, air direction and fan speed. The gauge cluster is housed in a neat three-ring binnacle that moves in conjunction with the tilt wheel, a nice touch that keeps the steering-wheel rim from blocking the instruments.

Nissan says they worked particularly hard on insulating the Z Roadster's cabin from wind buffeting and noise; their accomplishment are duly noted as the Z turned in one of the most satisfying rides we've experienced to date. Credit goes partially to the low-slung cockpit and partially to the glass windscreen that resides between the seats. With the side windows up, only the tops of our heads felt the turbulent dance of Mother Nature's breath, even at highway speeds.

For the money, we think that the Z Roadster represents one of the best sports car buys on the market today. For just a shade over $30K, you get awesome power, terrific handling and a pretty impressive standard equipment list. Nissan truly has done right by the spirit of the original Z car.

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