Nissan 350Z Coupe Touring

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Keywords: Nissan 350Z Coupe Touring, long-term tests long term tests nissan 350z touring wrapup
Description: First-year teething problems marred an otherwise terrific sports car.

There were those of us on staff who thought the Z-reincarnate — the — could very well come to be known as one of the best sports cars of all time. After all, look at what the 350Z Touring offers: a 287-bhp 3.5-liter V-6 with a healthy 274 lb.-ft. of torque, a 6-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive, a limited-slip differential, 18-in. alloy wheels with staggered 225/45WR-18 front Bridgestone Potenza RE040 tires and 245/45WR-18s at the rear, vented disc brakes front and rear, and a not-that-hefty curb weight of 3247 lb. All this performance for just $34,288. Sounds like a pretty good recipe, doesn't it?

It is. The Z is quite the twisty-road companion. A few of us on staff took the Z on memorable back-road blitzes to Monterey and back (some of the best sports-car roads anywhere in the country), and always came away impressed with the car's predictable handling and plentiful power. While the VDC yaw control system is overly intrusive on the track (you can't fully turn it off), it's far less noticeable on the street, unless you are being absolutely silly. The Z also has one of the best exhaust notes around, that wonderfully smooth VQ V-6 and a precise (if a bit slow) gearbox.

The interior is properly sporting, our car featuring comfortable leather seats (the driver's seat formed slightly different from the passenger's, to better hold you during aggressive driving), drilled aluminum pedals placed ideally for heel and toeing, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, large gauges and a very handy programmable shift light.

Unfortunately, the quality of those materials left us wanting. The fit and finish are nowhere near that of the Honda S2000 or. for example, nor the Z's own brother, the Infiniti G35 Coupe. Many staffers also complained of excessive road noise from the low-profile 18-in. tires, gear whine and a general boominess to the interior. And the Bose audio system sounded muddy from the first day we got the car, though the clarity was improved quite a bit with a new amplifier, replaced under a recall campaign. The lack of usable luggage space — caused by the huge rear cross brace for stiffness — meant the Z was relegated to mostly short, one-person trips.

Senior Editor Andy Bornhop made two predictions after the Z had been with us a short time: First, he said the annoying-to-close center-console cubby cover "will break before our test ends," and "I wonder how long this gearbox will hold together? The synchros are already whiny. on upshifts!" He ended up going 1 for 2. The cubby cover never broke, but the transmission had to be replaced at 25,590 miles, when 5th gear started "crunching" with every shift. Nissan already knew the transmission was the weak link on first-year 350Zs, so it was replaced under warranty. But the dealer also noticed hot spots on the clutch (we verified this ourselves), necessitating a new clutch, pressure plate, throw-out bearing and flywheel ($1183). We weren't thrilled about having to replace these, but we're guessing we drive the car a bit harder day-in and day-out than the typical owner. But there's no excuse for the gearbox to go that early.

Other problems: the stoppers for both door windows left grease streaks on the glass. Later, both windows would roll up to the top, and then back down several inches on their own. A couple of plastic pieces on the driver's seat fell apart. And while the rear tires would last about 20,000 miles, we had a problem with premature inside wear on the fronts, which we corrected somewhat by fiddling with wheel alignment. We performed brake jobs at 26,000 and 46,000 miles, which is reasonable.

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