The Nissan 350Z is a two seat sports car manufactured by Nissan Motor Co, LTD. The 350Z is the fifth (and current) generation of Nissan's Z-car line, originally introduced in 1969 (as a 1970 model year) as the Datsun 240Z. The 350Z entered production in late 2002 and was sold and marketed as a 2003 model. It is currently available in several trim packages and is sold as both a coupe and roadster.
After the Nissan 300ZX was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1996, Nissan initially tried to keep the Z name alive by re-creating the 240Z the following year. The car was conceived by Nissan's North American design team in their free time, and the concept was introduced in a four state Road Show in July 1998 to various car media, dealers and employees. Yutaka Katayama, regarded as the "Father of the Z" unveiled the Z concept sketch to the public when he received a motor industry award. The design, representing a modern vision of the 240Z, did not please the original 240Z designer Yoshihiko Matsuo, who compared it to the Bluebird and Leopard
The first concept model was produced for the Detroit Motor Show for the following January then later at the Los Angeles Auto Expo. Nissan was unhappy with the first design as they felt the original 200 bhp (150 kW) 2.4L engine known as the KA24DE that was going to be assigned made the car more underpowered, they also felt the car was considered too "retro" or too "backward" resembling a futuristic 240Z thus a redesign was commissioned. During a press conference in February 2000, president Carlos Ghosn announced plans to produce the car as he felt the new model would help to assist the company's recovery.
A redesigned model, the Z Concept, was unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show two years later, which was similar in body shape but with a new front end. The car then underwent a minor redesign and was eventually assigned the VQ35DE engine, hence becoming known as the 350Z. The car would break its tradition of being of the first Z not to be produced at the Shatai plant.
Design and layout
The 350Z is a front engine rear-wheel-drive two door sports car designed by Ajay Panchal of Nissan Design America (San Diego, California).
The vehicle features the long-hood short-deck design common to the Z-Car family. Currently, external design highlights include: sloping fastback style roof line, unique brushed aluminium door handles, high waistline, and bulging fenders that are pushed out to the corners of the vehicle.
Interior cabin design is straight forward with brushed aluminium accents. The main gauge pod is mounted directly to the steering column allowing their movement to coincide with steering wheel adjustments. Additional gauges are mounted in a centre triple gauge cluster. The 350Z interior does not have a conventional glove box, instead it makes use of various storage compartments located either behind or between the two seats.
Released on August 20, 2002, the 350Z coupe was available in the U.S. in 5 trim packages: '350Z' (Base), 'Enthusiast', 'Performance', 'Touring', and 'Track' editions. In Europe only the 'Track' trim was available, although it was badged and marketed as '350Z'.
In 2004 Nissan introduced the 350Z Roadster featuring an electrically retractable soft-top roof. In the U.S. market the car was available in just 2 trim packages (Enthusiast and Touring), while in Europe, the same versions as the coupe were offered. Nissan added the Grand Touring (GT) trim to the Roadster trim packages for 2005.
In 2005 Nissan launched a 35th Anniversary edition, with a revised exterior and interior .
For the 2006 model year, the 350Z received a number of notable changes for its mid-cycle facelift. The 300HP/260TQ Rev-up engine with 6-speed manual was offered for every trim now. Purchasing a 5-speed automatic meant you still got the VQ35DE with 287HP/274TQ. The headlights now sported larger bi-xenon projectors, the front bumper had been revised, the rear taillights now use LEDs, and interior changes brought differences to the center console, among other small things. Touring and Grand Touring models have radio-steering controls standard, MP3 CD compatibility, and Satellite Radio became an available option. The 15AT transmission also received an update, which made it rev-match for every downshift.
For the 2007 model year, the 350Z was again moderately revised. The VQ35DE V6 was replaced with a new 3.5 L VQ35HR V6. It produced 306 hp (228 kW) at 6800 rpm with 268 ft·lbf at 4800 rpm. The hood was revised featuring a bulge reminiscent of the original 240Z. In the US, trims levels were narrowed down to 350Z (base), Enthusiast, Touring, and Grand Touring, while in Europe the same trim levels remained.
Type E (2004)
A limited run (only 5 units) called the Type E was produced in Japan in order to meet homologation requirements to compete in the Super GT series. The Type-E featured a longer nose and rear overhang as well as a few extra aerodynamic aids.
Engine is rated at 206 kW (280 PS) @ 6200 rpm, 363 N·m (37.0 kgf·m) @ 4800 rpm
35th Anniversary Edition (2005)
To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the debut of Datsun 240Z, Nissan released a tuned version of the 350Z coupe. The 35th Anniversary Z was debuted at the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas on November 2nd, followed by its first public appearance at the Miami Auto Show in early November. It went on sale in January 2005.
35th Anniversary Edition includes an uprated 300 hp (220 kW) V6 engine for the 6-speed manual transmission model. Other key 35th Anniversary Z equipment (standard on both 6-speed manual and 5-speed automatic equipped versions) includes unique 18-inch (460 mm) cast aluminium-alloy wheels, front and rear spoilers, Brembo brakes and special Z badging. The car comes in a variety of unique colours including "Ultra Yellow", "Super Black" body colours.
ST Type G (2006)
In 1/12/2006, Nissan announced the sale of ST Type G for Japanese market. This version features 19 inches (480 mm) rear tires (245/40R18 93W front, 265/35R19 94W rear), front & rear fender mouldings (+25mm), RAYS alloy wheels, and exclusive interior leather color.
The ST Type G cost 4,273,500 yen for 6 speed manual, and 4,326,000 yen for 5 speed automatic.
During the 2006 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) unveiled the 350Z GT-S concept. The GT-S featured a unique radial flow supercharger (that could be turned on or off via a switch on the dashboard), raising engine output to 382.6 bhp (285.3 kW) and 424.8 Nm without modifications to the engine components. The car also featured new body kit for more cooling and downforce and wider 245 and 265/40/18 tires. No plans for production have been revealed, although there have been some hints that the package may be offered as an upgrade kit. The car has been tested favourably against its possible production rivals, the Porsche Cayman S and BMW Z4 M.
Auto Express magazine reported the GT-S would be on sale in UK for £36,000, but it has yet to be produced.
Nissan's performance tuning division, NISMO, began producing modified versions of the 350Z shortly after its introduction, although in the UK these were only available one year after the car was launched.
NISMO R-Tune (2004)
The R-Tune was introduced into the NISMO line-up with modifications including headers, cams, pulleys. The R-Tune voids the Nissan factory warranty, but gains significant horsepower, intended for track racers.
Engine is rated 305 hp (227 kW).
NISMO S-Tune GT (2005)
The S-Tune GT was released by NISMO to celebrate its success in motorsport, particularly in the Super GT series. The S-Tune GT featured revised long nose bodywork as in the Type-E, a modified version of the VQ35DE engine called the S1 with more power (300 PS / 221 kW / 296 hp) and higher redline (7200 rpm), as well as a sportier NISMO suspension.
20 were produced each month in Japan. Although Nissan did not officially sell S-Tune in UK, Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd. imported 1 S-Tune GT to UK
NISMO 380RS (Nismo 350Z - 2007-Present)
This edition of the 350Z Coupe debuted in New York International Auto Show on April 4, 2007. This version featured the same engine as the regular 350Z (VQ35HR), but produces 313 HP (Redline at 7500 rpm of full 9000rpm) for both 5-speed automatic and 6-speed manual transmission. The car featured NISMO aerodynamics package based on the Super GT championship car, which included an aggressive front fascia with chin spoiler, side skirts, an extended rear fascia with under body diffuser and a rear wing. The car also had NISMO-tuned independent multi-link suspension, Brembo brakes with four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers (with 12.8-inch (330 mm) front and 12.7-inch (320 mm) rear rotors) and NISMO-branded gunmetal grey RAYS alloy wheels (18x9-inch front and 19x10-inch rear with 245/40WR18 front, 265/35WR19 rear Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires), and NISMO-branded tuned exhaust. All Nismo versions are "Ready For Track" with the safety equipment in it.
NISMO 350Z went on sale in the US in July 2007 at Nissan dealers. 1500 were produced for the '07 and '08 model year, and it is assumed that if the demand is there that more will be produced, limited to 10% of all 350Z sales. The vehicle had MSRP of $38,070 for the '07 model year.
NISMO Type 380RS (2007)
Released as the road version for Japanese market of the Type 380RS-Competition race car , it includes the VQ35HR engine stroked and bored to 3.8-litre, rated 257 kW (350 PS/350 hp) @ 7200 rpm and 397 N·m (40.5 kgf·m/293 lbf·ft) @ 4800 rpm torque. Brembo disc brakes are fitted, as are Bridgestone Potenza RE-01R tires (245/40R18 in front, 275/35R19 in the rear) with RAYS wheels. Front and rear dampers come from Yamaha.
NISMO Type 380RS is priced 5.397 million (5.14 million+tax) yen ($38695 USD). Only 300 cars are produced.
NISMO Type 380RS-Competition
It is the race car for which NISMO Type 380RS is based. The 3798 cc engine rated 294 kW (400 PS) at 7500 rpm and 421 Nm (43 kgm) at 5200 rpm torque. This in turn is based on the GT 500 race car that Nissan enters into the Super GT championship.
According to Nissan, the race car cost 26.25 million yen.
Since its introduction in 2002, it did not take long for drivers and teams to enter a Z33 for competition when B.J. Zacharias and Michiel Schuitemaker of Schuitemaker Motorsports helped the car to make its debut in the Grand-Am Cup Series at the start of the 2003 season. They have taken a few podium finishes with Unitech Racing who is also the other team to field a Z33, but effort was proved to be successful under the name of Geddings Racing scoring wins along with the other current Grand-Am entrant East Competition Promotorsport. The Grand-Am Cup car has also been used in the new FIA GT4 European Cup. Schuitemaker Motorsports with drivers Michiel Schuitemaker and BJ Zacharias won 3rd place in the '03 Grand-Am Cup season. The following year, they improved and finished in 2nd place. Schuitemaker Motorsports was sponsored by 350EVO, a manufacturer of performance 350Z parts. After winning 3rd overall in the '03 season, NISSAN had Wright Tuning build a new 350Z race car for the '04 season. This car differed from the '03 car in that it was completely stripped and seam welded. The cage was lighter and stiffer by using different diameter tubing where possible. The car used a Menard's built engine with a Pectel engine management system. Overall racing weight was 2,450 lb (1,110 kg) which was the minimum allowable weight for its class. The '04 chassis proved to be the most successful chassis to run in Grand-Am to date. The '03 chassis was sold to a French team with Edouardo Atkatlan as the driver. It still competes in the European "Fun Races" today, winning 2nd place in the inaugural '07 race in Madrid.
The 350Z replaced the Skyline GT-R as the car for Nissan's factory and customer teams in the Super GT's GT 500 class. The cars used are heavily modified and feature a longer nose and tail (requiring the production of the Type-E homologation special), carbon fiber bodywork, and a tube chassis. In 2004, NISMO won the GT500 championship. Until the 2007 season, the car was powered by a VQ30DETT V6. In order to increase competitiveness, however, a new 4.5L V8 powerplant has been developed. The car, with slightly more pedestrian modifications also competes in the GT300 class (having started there even before the Skyline GT-Rs were replaced) by teams such as Endless Sports and Mola. In 2003 Hasemi Sports won the GT300 championship with the 350Z. In 2008 season, through the 350Zs will be all replaced by Nissan GT-Rs in the GT500 class, but probably they will be continued to used in GT300 class as GT-Rs horsepower overexceeds the horsepower limit which make it impossible to participate.
The Z33 also appears in the Japan's Super Taikyu series, entered by C-West Labs.
British GT Championship
The British GT Championship also fields a privateer 350Z which competed in the series until 2006.
The car is considered popular choice for amateurs and professionals in SCCA events, T.C Kline took third place in the 2003 Touring 2 category in 2003, having being one of three Z33 that made it into the SCCA T-2 runoffs. In the SCCA GT2 class, Jim Goughary took the title in the car's debut season.
The car is used in import events and drifting, where in the latter, some drivers have started to use them in the D1 Grand Prix and Formula D series. At the 2006 D1GP exhibition event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Tanner Foust became the first driver to score a perfect 100 points in a 350Z. In the non-Japanese domestic D1GP spinoff series, D1 Great Britain (D1GB), there are two Z33s that compete in the series. Of the 2007 season, both SVA Imports and Sumo Power 350Z currently competes in the EDC (European Drift Championship), which is run by a different organization to D1, and in Formula D, Foust took runner up spot at round 1 and at round 2, Chris Forsberg would score its maiden victory in his Roadster equipped with a VK56DE from a Nissan Titan. His win for the 350Z was followed up by Youichi Imamura's win during the Las Vegas round of the US D1GP series in his RB26DETT engined car. Foust would eventually take the Formula D title.
The SVA Imports Z33 is significant for being the other drifting car other than the Team Orange Impreza to feature a rear radiators with air ventilation on both sides rather than just on one on the Impreza.
Open Road racing
Option magazine founder Daijiro Inada used an extensively modified 350Z, dubbed Option Stream Z to compete in the Silver State Classic Challenge. The car is equipped with a GReddy/Trust T88 turbo-charger and is stroked to 3.8 L to produce over 900 bhp (670 kW).
There are few 350Z drift cars actively participating in DDGT drift competition in Korea. The most famous 350Z in the scene is the 2007 Black 350Z piloted by Ko-Ryung Hae with TEAM CHRONOS
As the Z33 is popular in import drag racing, one Z33 fielded by Performance Motorsport in the NHRA Sports Compact series, with twin turbo claims to put out over 1,700 bhp (1270 kW) and achieved 8.33 quarter mile time with its best speed of 176.72 mph (284.40 km/h).
Land speed record
In 2004, the tuner Dandy and magazine Option entered a Z33 known as the Option Dandy 380Z with a donor engine from a wrecked Stream Z minus turbocharger producing 370 bhp (276 kW), to compete in the F/GT class for unblown grand touring sport cars at the Bonneville Speed Week. The car could at best reach 151 mph (243 km/h). However, stock 2006-08 350Z can reach 159 MPH, which is the speed that the speed limiter is set at.
Advertising and promotions
To promote the 350Z, Nissan released a short film, "The Run", with a 2003 model being driven in a high-speed run through city streets of up to 200 km/h. This took place through the narrow cobblestone streets of Prague in the Czech Republic, and lasted six and a half minutes.
It is worth noting that the film seems to be a respectful recreation of "Ctait un rendez-vous", a short film made in 1976 by Claude Lelouch, showing an eight-minute drive through Paris. However, unlike "The Run", the filming of "Ctait un rendez-vous" that took place was illegal, as the director/driver didn't receive official permission from the Parisian government, and the streets in question were not closed to traffic.
Reviews and awards
The 350Z has been given extensive coverage in the automotive press, and has obtained generally positive reviews. Eddie Alterman, senior editor of Automobile Magazine, said of the 350Z "An outstanding performance value. They got all the important stuff right." While David Swigg of Motor Trend said "With a competent driver at the wheel and the traction control switched off, many Boxster drivers would be hard-pressed to post better lap times than with this Z." However, Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear had mostly negative things to say about the car, giving it a C- or three points out of ten and referring to it as that Datsun with a Renault engine, despite the engine being a Nissan design begun in the early 1990s. Despite Clarkson's harsh criticism, Top Gear magazine later awarded the Nissan Designers with 2004 Top Gear Magazine Car of the year award.
Automotive journalists tend to praise such features as the 350Z's value, performance, handling, and braking. Criticisms tend to be directed towards the grade of interior plastics, greater curb weight than its competitors, cabin ergonomics and engine refinement. Other reviews have criticised reflections of the back strut in the rear windows.
At present, the 350Z has won over 40 international awards from various media and industry sources.
Japanese Performance Car of the Year 2007 TopSpeed Magazine
10 Best Cars 2003 Car and Driver Magazine
Most Significant Vehicle of the Year. Two years running Edmunds.com
Editors' Most Wanted 2003 Edmunds.com
International Car of the Year: Most Sex Appeal Award 2003 Road and Travel Magazine
Canadian Car of the Year 2003 Automobile Journalists Association of Canada
Best New Design 2003 Automobile Journalists Association of Canada
Driver's Choice Best Performance Car 2003 MotorWeek Television
Winner 12 Best Cars Under 30K Road & Track Magazine
Car of the Year 2004 Top Gear Magazine