The Nissan 350Z was a two-door fastback coupe and roadster sports car available from 2002 to 2009. It was the fifth generation vehicle in Nissan’s legendary Z-car series.
Nissan 350Z History and Introduction
After the success of the first four generations of Z-car series vehicles from Nissan, the automaker began facing challenges in the North American market due to a changing Yes to Dollar exchange rate and increased popularity in SUVs. As a result, the Nissan 300ZX was pulled from the United States market and had no immediate replacement. The initial redesign came in the form of a 240Z concept car, showing at the 1999 North American International Auto Show, but failed to appease most critics due to its lacking power and design that was not a major improvement from the previous generation. And then in 2002, Nissan released the 350Z. It removed the 2.4L 200-horsepower engine featured in the 240Z concept and replaced it with a more powerful 3.5L VQ35DE engine with up to 300 horsepower, plus it featured a complete exterior redesign that brought the Z-car into the 21st century.
Design and Body Styles
Ajay Panchal of Nissan Design America, located in San Diego, California, designed the 350Z with some basis on the 240Z concept but also a modern take. The sloping fastback style roofline with bulging fenders and a high waistline gave the vehicle a bit more street presence and style. While the coupe was the only available body style initially in 2002, the roadster variant was quickly launched in 2003 with an electronically-retractable roof. There were five different trim levels including the base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring, and Track, although the roadster only came in Enthusiast and Track trims. Major differences in the trim levels included a Bose sound system and more comfort-focused interior found in the Touring model, while Brembo brakes and aerodynamic enhancements came in the Track and Performance. The base model was the only one that was not available with the limited-slip differential nor Traction Control, and it also lacked cruise control and power/heated seats.
Special Editions and Later Updates
In 2005, a 35th Anniversary edition Nissan 350Z was released, featuring a 287-horsepower VQ35DE engine and an automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. The year after, in 2006, an improved 300-horsepower VQ35DE engine was available on the Track and 35th Anniversary models, along with updated bi-xenon headlights, a new front end, and minor modifications to the interior trim of most models. Another update came in 2006, when the VQ35HR engine was featured, pushing performance up to 306 horsepower and 268 lb ft of torque, raising the redline to an impressive 7,500 rpm to provide additional torque. NISMO, Nissan’s performance division, began producing upgraded 350Zs shortly after release. The R-Tune kit provided owners with new headers, cams, and pulleys to gain significant performance. By 2007, NISMO took their performance package even farther ahead of the base 350Z models, providing full body kits to improve aerodynamic performance in additional to Yamaha suspension upgrades and four-piston Brembo calipers.
Motorsports and General Success
The Nissan 350Z was widely used in professional motorsports events, including the 2004 350Z which provided to be the most successful chassis used in the Grand Am Cup Series. It also won the Super GT’s GT500 championship in 2004, after it replaced the Skyline GT-R as the Nissan entry. The Nissan 350Z could also be spotted at many SCCA events and drift championships throughout its production span. Like most of the Nissan Z-car series vehicles, the Nissan 350Z was able to come back to the market after a short hiatus and win acclaim of enthusiasts and critics alike. It continued the Z-car’s status as a well-balanced performance sports car with adequate interior comfort and superb handling. The successor Nissan 370Z (Z34) would follow in its footsteps.