Nissan 350Z Roadster Touring

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Keywords: automotive reviews, automotive news, 2003 audi tt vs.bmw z4, honda s2000, nissan 350z, porsche boxster car review, new 2003 audi tt vs.bmw z4, honda s2000, nissan 350z, porsche boxster
Description: Car and Driver offers exclusive car comparison tests. Here's one now: 2003 Audi TT vs.BMW Z4, Honda S2000, Nissan 350Z, Porsche Boxster - Comparison. (Page 5)

This new Z never stops trying to win you over. It's a little off-putting at first, the way you sit down in the dark cellar, the beltline up around your ear lobes. With the top up, you learn to drive it like an 18-wheeler, always checking the mirrors because those over-the-shoulder glances get you only close-ups of blind spots.

But then you release the latch, and the roof quickly power-folds itself under a hinged lid, and the sun brings out details in the relentlessly black interior--hey, that's not stair-tread covering on the door panels after all!--and you say, "Hmm, this is a bunch of sports car for $38 grand. Who needs the Germans?"

Frosty aluminum is the contrasting trim inside, formed into beefy, billet-style stalks behind the wheel and sheetmetal coverings for the pedals and footrest. You sit low, but you have space. This car fits drivers of all sizes better than the others. Legroom is fine. The seat seems a little hollow in the lumbar area, but it does a very nice job in the turns; shoulder support is just right.

This car has a low pulse rate and a sense of gravitas about it. Nothing flexes. The clutch takes up with indisputable authority. The steering is deliberate and trusty. The shifter glides through the well-oiled maze. The engine is hushed until you call upon it, and then it delivers seamless acceleration accompanied by the sweetest baritone song from the pipes.

Ride smoothness tops all the others. Interior noises are muted. Cockpit drafts are least bothersome of the group. The cluster adjusts up and down with wheel height, always centering itself in your view.

We found a few annoyances. Your detector's power cord has to stretch all the way to the bulkhead behind the seats. All the cockpit storage is back there, too, save for one small compartment on the tunnel at your elbow, which also doubles as a two-holer cup receptacle. As for the digital speedo in the trip computer atop the dash, they've got to be kidding with those dinky numbers. At freeways speeds, the digits don't agree with the needle reading in the cluster, either.

At 3453 pounds, this Z is on the heavy side, outweighed in this group only by an extra 32 Audi pounds; it's a whopping 618 up on the Honda. A good part of the Z's heft (and the Audi's) is surely the result of its platform sharing, in this case with various sedans, coupes, and SUVs in the Infiniti family. But the Z wears its weight well. The feeling is deliberate rather than ponderous, self-assured rather than tentative. And the weight doesn't ruin the sports-car feeling. The grip ramps up confidently in turns, and the suspension keeps its poise. No hip fakes, no stutter steps. The Z's lap time at the BeaveRun Motorsports Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania, was in the hunt with the big guys--a tick behind the BMW, a half-stride up on the Porsche. They're so close you wouldn't choose between them just for numbers.



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