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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Nissan 350Z Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Nissan 350Z Overview


It's hard to top a classic like the original 240Z, a car that captured the imagination of budget-minded performance enthusiasts everywhere. Its predecessors, the 260Z, 280Z and 300ZX soon mirrored the 240Z's success and though gradually over time, the Z car grew heavier and more expensive, it never lost its appeal with the public. When the last Z-car rolled off the line in 1996—a victim of the high dollar to yen ratio—die-hard fans both inside and outside Nissan knew it would only be a matter of time before the legendary Z returned to the streets.

Fast-forward to 2003 and we find Nissan in the midst of a performance revival. Leading the way are such cars as the Sentra SE-R, the Altima 3.5 SE and now, the new 350Z. True to the spirit of the original series, Nissan has kept the 350Z a two-seater coupe, driven by its rear wheels; unlike the original, the new Z car is propelled by a power-happy V6 attached to your choice of a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox. The familiar styling cues that made the original Z so seductive are still in place, including the long hood, short deck and sweeping rear lines that flow down to form the large hatchback opening. A set of powerful projector-style headlamps flank a wide front grille and are mirrored around back by two tear-drop shaped tail lenses; this symmetry is completed by two large chrome-tipped tailpipes that emerge just below the rear bumper.

Inside, the 350Z provides an uncommon amount of passenger space for a sports coupe. We found that even our tallest driver felt comfortable in the 350Z and was able to reach the steering wheel, shift lever and instruments without having to lean forward. The same may not always be true for drivers of lesser stature, but the 6-way manually-adjustable driver's seat and tilt/telescopic steering should go a long way toward making even these owners feel just as comfortable behind the wheel. The terrific bucket seats have been engineered to provide firm support for the lower back and thighs and feature additional side bolstering along the back and shoulders to hold you in place as you carve through mile after mile of twisting roads. Reminiscent of the first Z cars is the angled three-pod gauge cluster that sits atop the dashboard's center stack; the three gauges face the driver, displaying a drive computer, temperature gauge and voltmeter. Just below the cluster reside the audio and temperature controls as well as the built-in video screen for the optional navigation system.

While storage space has never been a major selling point for most coupes, the 350Z actually does a pretty good job of accommodating most cargo. There is a lockable storage compartment between the front seats and another beneath the rear cargo shelf that is large enough to store a laptop computer or a briefcase. Though the wide rear hatch does provide easy access to the 350Z's deep rear storage area—it has no rear seat— a large aluminum cross bar affixed to the tops of the rear-strut towers somewhat hinders the placement of bulky items.

That same aluminum cross member may be an impediment to cargo, but it is the backbone of the Z's phenomenal structural rigidity. No matter how many G-forces you manage to place against the Z, it never flexes, creeks or groans. The tight chassis is only part of the Z's road hugging appeal. With its wheels pushed to the outer edges of the car and its stiff suspension set up, the 350Z stays low to the ground and always conveys a feeling of stability and assured handling.

The heart and soul of the 350Z is its marvelously torque-laden 3.5-liter V6 engine. Rated at 287 horsepower and 274 lb-ft of torque, this power plant rockets the lightweight Z to blisteringly fast speeds in just seconds. Off-the-line acceleration is so quick that it may catch you by surprise the first time you drive the car; you'll find the same to be true of the 350Z's passing power. The six-speed manual has a short shift pattern that is terrifically precise as you move the shift lever from gear to gear. The 350Z can cruise effortlessly at high speeds and barely break a sweat thanks to the additional 6th gear.

Perhaps the most impressive feature Nissan has equipped the 350Z with is its window sticker; with a base price starting under $27K and a fully-loaded model retailing for just under $38K, the 350Z may be the most affordable performance coupe on the market. Standard equipment on the 350Z includes power windows, power door locks, air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, AM/FM CD audio system and an engine immobilizer security feature. Nissan offers four optional trim levels for the 350Z: the Enthusiast, Performance, Track and Touring. Each trim is outfitted with features and equipment designed to satisfy the varying performance and comfort levels Z car drivers have come to expect from the car.

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