2009 Nissan 350Z Roadster GTPosted on March 12th, 2009
Nissan’s iconic two-seater approaches four decades of excellence.
By Nina Russin
Forty years is a long time for a model to maintain viability in the car market. Those that do usually have a loyal group of enthusiasts to thank for their tenacity: the Z is no exception.
Next year, Nissan’s Z roadster reaches the four-decade mark with a new model, the 370. Although the 350Z is an older platform, it continues to attract enthusiasts who like adding adventure to the daily commute.
This year, the 350Z roadster comes in three grades including the upscale grand touring (tested). A $41,570 base sticker price on the test car puts it square in the mid-luxury segment.
One reason for the roadster’s high sticker price is that it comes fully loaded. There are only two options: a DVD-based navigation system, and a grey top available on the touring grade.
While I’m not a big fan of navigation systems, the Nissan system is worth considering. A split screen displays a wide-angle view to the right with a detail map to the left. The detail map makes it easier to see upcoming turns with a minimum of distraction. An indicator lets the driver know his exact distance from the intersection.
Enough power for road or track
All models share a 306-horsepower V-6 engine and choice of a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Close ratio gears on the manual make it the gearbox of choice for buyers who plan to go club racing on the weekends. A large overdrive gear enhances fuel economy on long road trips.
Average fuel economy is twenty miles-per-gallon. The manufacturer recommends premium fuel for the high compression engine.
A short-throw lever lets the driver make quick gear changes, to get the most out of the Z’s powerplant. Peak torque kicks in at 2000 rpm.
Although the manual transmission is optimized for the track, there’s enough range in the gears to work for stop-and-go driving. I got stuck in an unexpected traffic jam on a Saturday afternoon, and put it to the test. The clutch springs are on the stiff side. I wouldn’t want to have to stand on the pedal in daily commuter traffic.
A front strut tower, combined with front and rear stabilizer bars make for a rigid chassis with excellent steering feedback. Variable effort steering produces more assist at low speeds while maintaining a positive on-center feel on the highway.
Nissan borrowed from Infiniti’s racing technology, positioning the engine front midship for a 53/47 front-to-rear weight balance. Standard eighteen-inch aluminum wheels pushed to the corners keep the chassis flat in the turns. The grand touring grade comes standard with dual-piston Brembo brakes in front and single-piston Brembos in the rear.
Engineers minimized vehicle weight by making extensive use of aluminum suspension components, an aluminum hood and composite trunk. They also paid special attention to under-car aerodynamics: another idea borrowed from the automaker’s race cars.
The Z isn’t an especially quiet car, but the noise is moderate as two-seat roadsters go. The cloth top provides enough soundproofing to allow the driver and passenger to converse. Noise around the windshield and side mirrors is as moderate as it can be.
The power top lowers in twenty seconds and stows in a tonneau in back. The power mechanism adds some weight to the car, but most luxury buyers are willing to make that sacrifice for the convenience it provides.
With the top down, a wind deflector behind the passenger compartment directs air around the driver and passenger for a quieter, more pleasant experience. The Z comes with a heated glass rear window: a boon for anyone who plans to keep the car for a long time. Plastic windows are lighter, but they yellow and fog with age.
Standard dual exhausts produce a nice roar on the highway. W-rated Bridgestone Potenza tires are noisier than the radials on the average passenger sedan, but they hold up better to the demands of high-speed driving.
Exceptional touch points
As the architect Mies Van Der Rohe once said: “God is in the details.” The touch points on the 350Z are exceptionally well-designed. Both interior and exterior door handles are stylish and functional. Steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls are uncluttered and intuitive. Stalks are short enough so that they don’t stick out beyond the wheel, and they are clearly marked.
Two three-part gauge clusters, located at the top of the center stack and in front of the steering wheel incorporate oil pressure, tachometer, battery charge, speedometer, trip meter and engine computer.
Knobs and buttons on the center stack are simple and easy to use. A mouse-type device controls the optional navigation system.
Leather upholstery is simple and elegant. I was happy to see a center bolster in the driver’s seat rather than oversized side bolsters that are hard to climb over. Lower back support in both seats is more than adequate.
The glovebox is located behind the passenger seat rather than in front. The center console bin contains a tray with small compartments for stashing electronic devices. There are two twelve-volt powerpoints: in the center console and in front of the passenger seat. Bottle holders in the doors are big enough for water bottles. Cupholders in the center console are big enough for cans.
The trunk, though small, will hold a suitcase or golf bag. Four tie-down loops on the floor hold luggage in place.
Safety features on the grand touring model include front and side airbags, antilock brakes, traction and vehicle stability control, and active head restraints. Bi-xenon headlamps throw a longer beam of light than halogen that’s closer to daylight.
The 350Z roadster is on display at Nissan dealerships nationwide.
Likes: The 350Z has the power and performance to go club racing on the weekends, with the comfort and safety features necessary to work as a daily commuter. Nissan’s optional navigation system has excellent graphics that minimize driver distraction.
Dislike: Floor mats are a $95 option.
Model: 350Z Roadster GT
Base price: $ 41,570
As tested: $ 44,160
Horsepower: 306 Hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 268 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: N/A
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 17/24 mpg city/highway
Comments: The manufacturer recommends premium fuel.
Leave a reply