When the Nissan 350Z went into production in Japan in 2002, as a 2003 model, it had big tires to fill. After all, this fifth generation Z car was carrying on the tradition the original 240Z established in 1969. Initially the two-seat 350Z was offered only as a hatchback coupe, but a convertible was added in model year 2004. Power came from a 3.5-litre V6 that produced 287 hp and 274 lb.-ft. of torque. The same basic engine was used throughout the car’s run, with output eventually growing to 306 hp while torque actually fell a little to 268 lb.-ft. The 350Z was penned by Nissan stylist Ajay Panchal in California and grew out of a design concept first shown at the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. With the Z-car’s traditional long hood and short deck, the 2003 350Z was available in several packages - Performance, Touring and Track - starting at $44,900. A six-speed stick was standard with a five-speed automatic available on some trim levels.
THE GOOD STUFF
The roadster models came with power windows and power fabric tops with heated rear glass. ABS was standard and so was traction control on all but base coupes. Steering and throttle response are excellent and 0-100 km/h takes about 6.0 seconds. Several 2009 roadsters were crashed by the U.S.’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and scored five stars in side impact tests, plus five stars for driver and four stars for passenger in frontal impacts. A special 35th anniversary edition was available in 2005 with revised tuning for a bit more horsepower, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, front and rear spoilers and Brembo brakes.
The first year model had many trouble spots, especially, transmission, suspension, power equipment, brake noise, cold starting and body integrity. It was given a “worse than average” reliability rating by Consumer Reports. By 2006 most of these problem areas had been attended to and that year the 350Z was a Consumer Reports “recommended” buy. Wind rush was noticeable in convertibles, road noise on coupes. Low seating position can restrict rearward vision and make it difficult to get in and out. Either version was stable at high speeds, but rode a little rough on broken pavement. Expensive premium grade fuel is recommended.
The 350Z was named 2003 Canadian Car of the Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), which also gave it an award for Best New Design. It was Top Gear’s Car of the Year in 2004 and winner of many other global accolades. These coupes and convertibles have a strong base of enthusiast owners and have held their value. Early models sold well and are easiest to find, but their top prices are very close to those of late model vehicles. Nissan’s 350Z has been a popular racer in Sports Car Club of America events and was succeeded by the 370Z in 2009.
PRICES AT A GLANCE
Note: These are asking prices, not selling prices, in a cross-Canada survey using Autonet.ca and other sources. Convertibles bring top dollar.
Year Approximate price range
2003 $12,495 - $21,000
2004 $12,990 - $22,000
2005 $13,889 - $22,000
2006 $16,477 - $27,495
2007 $25,888 - $28,900
2008 $25,999 - $29,995
2009 $29,998 - $35,990
Engines: 3.5L V6 (287-306 hp)
Transmissions: 6-speed manual; 5-speed automatic
Bodies: 2-door coupe; 2-door convertible