Nissan 350Z Coupe

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Description: Nissan 350Z Coupe GT Pack car review from the AA. Overall car review rating: 8 out 10. Value for money: 9 out 10.

    Brutally beautiful styling Switchable traction control for ultimate track day fun Fantastic exhaust note Light controls make it easily manoeuvrable
    Grabby clutch can be annoying around town Noisy interior Low ride height can catch speed bumps Glovebox is awkwardly located behind the passenger seat

Originally introduced in limited numbers and in less powerful form, the 350Z quickly won over fans of the two-seater sports coupe layout with its unashamed enthusiasm and intuitive handling. Having had a tune-up under the bonnet that has also necessitated some exterior changes the model continues to impress anyone who enjoys driving for driving's sake.

Nissan, and Datsun before it, have a fantastic heritage of building to-the-point coupes that are big on power and rear wheel drive fun. The original Datsun 240Z and 260Z were good-looking, quick and filled with character. The later 280ZX Nissan 300ZX were good, but failed to set the world alight. So when Nissan announced it was going back to the 240Z's roots for its new, more powerful model, there was quite a buzz - especially when it was first launched in the UK in 2003 in limited numbers.

The buzz certainly didn't die down once customers had a chance to drive the 350Z. Stunning looks were combined with potent performance and race tuned handling to produce a mesmerising package. Nissan increased the numbers for the UK market and introduced a roadster soft-top version with the same 3.5-litre V6 in 2005. The engine, exterior and interior was revised in 2006, with the quality inside and power under the bonnet enhanced, and new lights on the outside.

This version of the 350Z has seen further revisions under the bonnet and new colour and trim options added inside and out. 80 per cent of the 3498cc V6 has been overhauled to raise the power output to 308bhp and the rev limit to 7,500rpm. Changes to the block, pistons, air and coolant flow and improved vibration damping have increased both power and refinement.

Meanwhile, the taller engine has also impacted on the bonnet, necessitating a power bulge reminiscent of the original 240Z. Three new colours have been added to the paint options and a pale grey leather option is available with the GT Pack upgrade. Although very similar in appearance, this version of the 350Z is much improved over the launch model.

Nissan deserves a pat on the back for having the nerve to sacrifice excessively isolating refinement in favour of a raw and engaging driving experience. The 350Z is ""always on"", but its revvy engine, boorish exhaust note and tendency to strain at the leash never become tiresome as the car is so responsive and easy to control. Like the Z-cars before it, the 350Z is an instant classic.

The 350Z is a real bang for bucks bargain with zero to 60mph in five seconds and a top speed of 155mph. As a performance car running cost are relatively high. Combined fuel consumption is a wallet-bothering 24.1mpg and emissions of 280g/km place it in a tax band. Insurance is also likely to be high, but shouldn't cross the line into astronomical.

The load bay in the rear of the 350Z is hardly spacious, but can accommodate a decent haul of groceries or a couple of small suitcases. More importantly it has been designed with a set of golf clubs in mind, and even comes with instructions on how best to squeeze them in. Driver and passenger will find the cabin comfortably spacious but, centre console and cup-holders aside, storage is behind the seats and can be hard to access. Clearly, only Tarmac and tightly packed gravel are options with this car and larger speed bumps need to be negotiated with care.

ABS with Nissan Brake Assist and electronic brake force distribution are ever present, but the car's ESP and occasionally intrusive traction control can be over-ridden at the flick of a switch. Front, side and curtain airbags protect the driver and passenger and Nissan also points out that the car's one-piece carbon fibre prop-shaft does not require a centre bearing and so is less likely to penetrate the cabin in the event of a crash.

For anyone who enjoys driving in the purest sense of the word, the 350Z is an absolute delight. Nissan's engineers have tweaked and tuned the chassis, suspension, steering, transmission and engine performance to give an uncompromising driving experience. The weight distribution is quoted at 53 per cent to the front but even getting the 350Z to understeer is difficult thanks to masses of grip and Nissan's ""flat ride"" roadholding. The back end can be provoked with a blip of throttle but at all times remains effortlessly controllable. Meanwhile, the engine and exhaust note are superb and a constant bad influence on enticing A and B roads.

As a head turner, only rare and raucous super-cars can steel the 350Z's thunder. It's one of those much admired vehicles that you can park almost anywhere without it attracting the wrong sort of attention. When first launched, Nissan came under fire for the rather lacklustre interior - something that has since been addressed for the good. The refresh means the current interior is as carefully crafted as the rest of the vehicle.

The 350Z is a low car with a low seating position; so dodgy hips might prove a hindrance when entering and exiting the car. As you'd expect from a two-seater coupe the doors are long so offer plenty of access unless in a particularly tight space, in which case they might be a little restrictive. The rear hatch has a particularly high load bay, but as it's unlikely to have a washing machine lifted into that's unlikely to cause a problem.

Opting for the GT Pack ensures you get a premium 240w Bose sound system complete with seven speakers including a 10-inch sub-woofer, a six-disc changer and Audiopilot noise compensation. It's easily operated and offers excellent sound quality. Although a cost option, Nissan's Birdview satellite navigation is also extremely user-friendly and very competent.

The 350Z is hardly a discreet car, but Nissan has been sure to include some understated colours in the available palette. Twilight Grey and Silver are among the more run of the mill with the vivid Temper orange, Chilli Pepper and Night Blue at the other end of the scale. The GT Pack includes heated Charcoal leather seats as standard with the option of Frost pale grey leather at no cost. For the extrovert, Electric Alezan Orange leather upholstery is also available at cost with the GT Pack.

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