Nissan 350Z | Alternative Classics

Nissan 350Z | Alternative Classics

If you’re hunting for a sportscar that serves up plenty of thrills on a budget that won’t hammer your wallet, Porsche’s sublime 987 Cayman is the go-to choice. But what if we told you you could have a quicker, more robust alternative for less?

It’s called the Nissan 350Z, and it was launched in the UK in 2003 as the first Z car since the demise of the 300ZX in 1996. It parachuted into battle with cars like the Audi TT, BMW Z4 Coupe and Mazda RX-8 before the Cayman appeared on the scene two years later.

The 350Z was as unique as any of its rivals. Its styling featured a mixture of angles and curves, which we’d never seen before, while the car’s powerful 291PS (214kW) 3.5-litre V6 made it a performance bargain. The considerable firepower under the bonnet made up for the fact that it couldn’t rival the nimble handling of cars like the RX-8 and Cayman.

Sure, woolly steering and a notchy gearbox meant the Nissan lacked finesse, but the torquey motor, combined with a standard limited-slip differential, meant you could still have fun.

The 350Z Roadster offered joy of a different kind when it dropped into the range in 2005, and Nissan also offered a five-speed automatic gearbox instead of the manual six-speeder.

Constant evolution meant the 350Z stayed popular throughout its life. In 2005, the 300PS (221kW) 350Z GT4 was revealed and available to drive on Gran Turismo 4 – only 176 cars came to the UK, and each came complete with a console and a copy of the game.

By 2006, the GT4’s engine was rolled out across the range, while the following year, power increased to 317PS (223kW) – these high-revving engines are considered the pick of the bunch. Nissan sold more than 23,000 350Zs in Europe before it bowed out to the 370Z in 2008.

Nissan 350Z: Why buy one?

Ford took half a century to bring a right-hand drive Mustang to the UK, but, in its absence, the Nissan 350Z played a similar role – providing considerable power in a relatively simple and affordable package.

The numbers spoke for themselves. The Nissan blew rivals like the Mazda RX-8 (231PS (170kW)) and Audi TT V6 (250PS (184kW)) out of the water; even the far pricier 280PS (206kW) 3.2-litre Porsche Cayman S couldn’t match the Nissan’s shove. And, while the 343PS (252kW) BMW Z4 M had more firepower, it cost almost twice as much.

The Nissan 350Z’s straight-line performance was as impressive as you’d expect. Getting from 0-60mph took 5.6 seconds, and it had a 155mph top speed. A brawny 352Nm (260lb ft) of torque gave the car a muscular mid-range that set it apart from small-lunged rivals. What it lacked, however, was the sort of frenetic power delivery that made you want to squeeze every last horsepower from its 6,200rpm rev limit. The synthetic exhaust note didn’t help.

The handling also confirmed the 350Z as a car best enjoyed at its own pace. At brisk speeds, the Nissan’s weighty steering felt positive; its heavy gear shift had an old-school mechanical feel. Plus, with plenty of torque and a limited-slip differential fitted as standard, it was capable of easily controlled slides. Up the ante, though, and it felt woolly and imprecise, with suspension that struggled to command the car’s substantial 1,545kg kerb weight. 

On the other hand, the Nissan was an ideal daily driver. Overtakes could be completed quickly without strangling the car to within an inch of its life, and it was a quiet cruiser. GT Pack cars (a £2,500 option when new) are worth hunting out because they add cruise control, a leather interior, electrically adjustable seats and a Bose stereo. A subwoofer in the rear bulkhead between the front seats is a dead giveaway.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

Nissan 350Z: What problems to look out for?

While the internet is awash with Porsche IMS bearing horror stories, the Nissan 350Z is pleasingly robust.

Engines are known to use oil – up to two litres every 1,000 miles, according to Nissan – so it pays to check for smoke and pull the dipstick, but that’s about the extent of the worries. A timing chain means there are no cam belt changes to worry about.

Gearboxes are more of an issue. An unwillingness to slot between cogs – usually first and second – and an accompanying crunch could be a sign of trouble ahead.

A relatively weighty machine like the 350Z can be heavy on suspension; knocks and clunks suggest attention is needed. It’s also worth checking the underside for corrosion; the rear cross member is prone to rust. Corrosion on the bodywork is a sure sign of accident damage and a car you should avoid.

Nissan 350Z: How much to pay?

Roadsters are your cheapest route to 350Z ownership. Sure, they don’t handle quite as well as the coupe, but they’re not the floppy mess you might expect, either – £4,500 buys you a 2007 example that’s just ticked past 100,000 miles. Pay £6,000 for a coupe in similar condition.

Having said that, £10,000 is a more sensible budget. The extra cash buys you a well-maintained car with an odometer showing closer to 50,000 miles. It should have years of service left to give.

Mint examples of the 350Z are becoming rare, so you’ll pay a premium to get your hands on one. A budget of around £20,000 means you can pick between late ’08 cars that have covered around 20,000 miles or hunt out a rare ’05 GT4 in similar condition.

One thing that should be aware of is the 350Z’s high-running costs. It’ll struggle to return 25mpg, and post-march ’06 cars cost a not-inconsiderable £505 a year to tax.

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