The 2009 Nissan 350Z is not a BMW Z4 in looks or performance, but it comes tantalizingly close to that kind of legendary status. Unlike many two-door convertibles that claim to be sports cars just because they are convertibles, the Nissan 350Z really is a sports car and brings along with it plenty of sports car credentials to make it a seriously fun car to drive. The real difference between the Nissan 350Z and the BMW Z4 is the overall level of refinement, with the 350Z let down by its absurdly stiff suspension and incongruously low-grade plastics in the interior - BMW would never let these kind of things slip, but then again a BMW Z4 will set you back up to $20,000 more. The Nissan 350Z is basically unchanged this year, but is looking forward to an upgrade in the next year or so after the 350Z Coupe has taken its turn at being transformed into the 370Z Coupe this year.
2009 Nissan 350Z Performance
The 2009 Nissan 350Z is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that pumps out an impressive 306hp and 268lb-ft of torque. That is a lot of power for a little car, and it reaches 60mph in around 5.5 seconds. It features standard Continuously Variable Valve Timing that adjusts the valve timing according to the intake flow and rpm with the result being improved fuel economy and engine performance. Both a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift, and a six-speed dedicated manual transmission are available, but the jerky clutch on the manual means that for our money the automatic is a better option, especially since it includes Downshift Rev Matching to ensure a really smooth transmission.
In the handling department the 350Z is pure sports car, tuned with the stiffest suspension we have come across in a long while that makes bumps feel like crashes and doesn't do much for the comfort level. Nevertheless there is plenty of road balance and, if you can ignore the jittering on small bumps, cornering provides more than adequate grip. Steering is nicely weighted with rack and pinion power-assisted steering that feels direct and responsive and the overall feel is tight and sporty.
Fuel economy is not bad for a V6, at 17/24mpg in the manual and 17/ city/highway in the automatic transmission models. This is pretty much on par with other convertibles.
2009 Nissan 350Z Interior and Features
Nissan did so well on the performance of the 2009 350Z, that it is really a shame that the interior remains under-par. For a car that retails for well into the $30,000 range, one would hope for a higher quality interior that reflects the sports car mood. Instead we are given low-grade plastics, flimsy pull-out cupholders, a glove-box door that is so ill-fitting that it barely closes and a complete lack of any sort of soft touch surfaces. Next to the BMW it really looks like the poor cousin.
The two seats on the Nissan 350Z are as tight as you would expect in such a small car, and comfortable enough for normal driving but long hauls may lead to sore backs. Access in and out of the car is also a challenge for those less supple amongst us, but no worse than other small convertibles on the market. Storage is not too bad, with small bins behind the two seats, and about 4 cubic feet of space in the trunk.
The soft top of this convertible can be stowed in less than 20 seconds with the power function, and features an electronic tonneau cover, the whole process being simple and easy.
There are several trims available on the 2009 Nissan 350Z. The Enthusiast trim features cloth seats, automatic climate control, cruise control, power accessories and power outlet. There is also a keyless entry remote, universal garage door opener and heated mirrors. Upgrade to the Touring trim and get heated seats, a Bose stereo and leather upholstery plus an optional navigation system. The Grand Touring gets uprated brakes and an anti-skid system.
2009 Nissan 350Z Safety
In government crash tests the 2009 Nissan 350Z earns an impressive five stars for front impact driver side impacts and four stars for front impact passenger side impacts - pretty good for a convertible. Safety features are plentiful and include traction control, 4 wheel ABS, front airbags and electronic brakeforce distribution. The Grand Touring includes anti-skid system, and side impact airbags are optional on all trims.
- Front airbags
- Electronic brakeforce distribution
- Traction control
- Tire pressure monitor
Overall the 2009 Nissan 350Z is a great performance sports car that rivals the best in its driveability, but is let down by its budget interior and overly stiff suspension. Nevertheless it is a convertible that is sure to turn heads for its pure style and V6 growl as it approaches.