There are few Japanese car companies that enjoy as rosy an image in North America as Nissan does when it comes to two-door sport coupes. While other manufacturers from their native land such as Toyota and Honda hoarded their fun to drive coupes in the 1970's for the domestic market, Nissan (then called Datsun) wowed the world with the 1970 240Z. This small but not undersized vehicle proved to be an overwhelming success for the company, and it helped to create an image for Nissan that transcended the standard economy car and hatchback perception that most Japanese automakers enjoyed overseas at the time. The 240Z would be produced continuously throughout the decade, seeing several upgrades in both horsepower and engine size in order to better compete with other sports cars from Jaguar and Porsche.
In the 1980's, the Z car tradition was kept alive through a procession of cars that would slowly increase in size until the sports coupe had fully morphed into a grand touring vehicle. The first real growth spurt occurred in 1980 with the debut of the 280ZX, which added luxury equipment and a longer wheelbase in order to better satisfy American buyers. With a generous 180 horsepower, the 280ZX was still capable of turning in hot laps, but after four years of production Nissan once again tinkered with their formula to create the powerful 300ZX.
The 300 ZX represented the culmination of the horsepower wars that were underway on the streets of Japan in the mid-80's. Adding a more powerful turbo engine to the coupe, Nissan increased the output of the ZX to 230 ponies. It wasn't until 1990, however, that Nissan really took the gloves off with a re-designed version of the 300ZX which churned out 300 turbocharged horsepower. Unfortunately, while the vehicle was an excellent performer, it had bulked up to the point where it had little in common with the original spirit of the 240Z.
After several years of hiatus, used car buyers can once again take advantage of Nissan's penchant for two-door performance with the 350Z coupe. This attractive, quick and well-engineered vehicle is an attractive option for those in the market for a used coupe in the tradition of the original Z car. This article examines both the performance details and design aspects of the 2003 - 2007 Nissan 350Z in order to illustrate what makes it one of the best used coupe bargains available.
2003 - 2007 Nissan 350Z
With so much riding on the history of the fabled Z cars, Nissan had to pull out all the stops in order to ensure that the new for 2003 350Z didn't disappoint performance fans. While the 2003 - 2007 Nissan 350Z is larger than the original 240Z, it is considerably lighter than the previous generation of vehicle to bear the Z moniker, namely the 300ZX. Combined with a powerful engine and excellent driving dynamics, the 350Z is an excellent balanced between the nimble agility of coupes past and the comfort and features list that modern buyers expect.
The 2003 - 2007 Nissan 350Z is well served by a sports-oriented edition of the company's 3.5-liter VQ V-6 engine. There were several revisions made to this motor over the course of the 350Z's evolution. Producing 287 horsepower when it debuted, in 2005 a 35th Anniversary edition of the car bumped the engine's numbers up to 300 ponies, a figure which would further rise to 306 in 2007 when ordered with a manual transmission. Torque actually fell somewhat from 274 lb-ft to 268 over the same period of time. All versions of the car can be outfitted with either a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission, and depending on trim level aggressive braking packages and other track-ready features can also be added to the vehicle.
The 350Z is best suited as a GT car, given its 3,100 lb curb weight and substantial dimensions. Convertible editions of the vehicle can add several hundred more pounds to the platform. Adding to its grand touring status is a well-appointed cockpit, which can be adorned with such features as automatic climate control, power everything, comfortable heated leather sport seats and DVD navigation. The 350Z is a very comfortable two-seater which feels much more spacious inside than some of the other sport coupes on the market.
The 2003 - 2007 Nissan 350Z is one of the most mature used coupes available, and its plethora of configurations and excellent power and comfort make it a standout on secondhand car lots across the country.