Why you’d want a Nissan 350Z
One of the newest cars we’ve ever covered in a Buyer's guide is well deserving of the honour.
Thundering performance and an addictive soundtrack make this an appealing driver’s car – especially when combined with big front-mounted V6, rear-drive handling and macho Z-car looks.
‘Hairy-chested, vaguely uncouth yet hugely desirable,’ is how Evo described it and the good news is that the cars are fundamentally reliable and long-lived – but there are still plenty of important factors to look for when buying.
Initially intended only for Japan and the USA, European models arrived a year later. UK cars came in just two versions, with a good level of equipment including six-speed manual gearbox, Brembo brakes and limited-slip differential. This was enhanced with leather, electric seats, cruise control and a better stereo on the GT pack.
Quite a few have been imported to the UK: check badging – ‘Fairlady’ – and history. US and Japanese Domestic Market cars came in various specs: base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring, Track (Coupé) and Enthusiast/Touring/Grand Touring for the Roadster.
Myriad versions were offered by Nismo, Nissan’s performance arm, so check what’s on offer. The base model had no traction control, limited-slip diff, cruise control or powered heated seats.
JDM cars were limited to 180kph, but the device is often removed. Some have softer suspension, lesser trim and may be more expensive to insure; few come with service history. They’re not much cheaper, so it’s probably best to go for an original UK car, unless you fancy a Nismo import – the ultimate for track use with seam-welded shell and hard suspension.
Nissan Technical Centre Europe showed what could be done with the GT-S unveiled at the 2006 Goodwood Festival of Speed, boasting a blower activated by a switch that raised power to 383bhp with 313lb ft torque, on an otherwise unmodified V6. But it was never marketed.
An important consideration for UK buyers is the emissions penalty for cars registered after 23 March ’06: a year’s tax is £315 prior to that date, £555 after. Note it’s first-registered, not built, so check how imports have been recorded by the DVLA.
With only a small differential between cars with and without full history, low mileage and proof of caring ownership, it’s worth shopping around for the best car that you can find. Double normal prices are already being asked for mint ultra-low-mileage examples, though.
Nissan 350Z: what to look for
See above for trouble spots
Check the oil level, because the 296bhp version of the V6 can be very thirsty and damage could occur if the level drops too low. Oil pressure should be at least 14psi at tickover. Many engines have been chipped for more power. Adding a plenum spacer is also popular but a strut brace must be retained. A good used engine costs c£2000.
Standard brakes are more than adequate; an upgrade suggests that car may have been thrashed. Alloys corrode; optional six-spoke Rays are the most desirable.
Test for worn synchros, between any or all gears, and for baulking (particularly on pre-2005 cars). The shift requires a firm hand but shouldn’t be obstructive.
Bushes in curved lower links are prone to wear: bushes are inexpensive; fitting new arms is more costly. Listen for knocking over bumps and inspect tyre wear.
Rear driveshafts are prone to clicking; packing grease into splines will usually cure this. Worn droplinks from the anti-roll bar cause rattles, but are cheap to fix.
Most UK cars had ‘GT’ pack hide. Inspect for bolster wear, and try all functions on electric seats. Confirm that VIN stickers on the doors and lids are matching.
Check the electrics, from warning lights to aircon and ABS. Window motors often fail (£225 new); confirm that glass goes up/down a tad on closing/opening door.
Nissan 350Z: on the road
The 350Z evokes its ancestors, with fun handling and effortless performance from the torquey V6. They’re basically reliable, which means some will have skipped on servicing so a history file is a bonus. Engines will do 300,000 miles without trouble given regular oil changes, but beware high oil thirst – especially on 296bhp unit. On HRs, look for low oil pressure from an internal gasket failure – nine hours’ labour to replace.
Mods and upgrades are common, either official Nismo or aftermarket; avoid cars that have been thrashed on tracks. A ticking sound from the engine, increasing when revved, denotes a worn fuel dampener (there are two). Irritating rather than disabling, each costs about £200 new or £30 used. Spares are common on eBay due to drivers unused to rear drive crashing the cars.
The clutch lasts about 40,000 miles and is not too expensive in itself, but if it has been allowed to slip a new flywheel may be required, taking the bill over £1000 with labour. Slave cylinder failure is common, especially on late HR cars, requiring transmission removal to replace. A spongy pedal (brake or clutch) may just need a fluid change, or new master cylinders.
The cars are very sensitive to tyre choice, so if brands other than the OE Bridgestone S02s are fitted, it may cause a loss of poise on the limit and even confuse the ABS and traction control.
Check door hinges, plus tailgate struts on Coupés and hood operation of Roadsters. It won’t function in the cold (the handbook says below 8ºC), so warm the car thoroughly before trying. Also try the fuel filler and boot releases.
Nissan 350Z price guide
- Show/ultra-low-mileage: £12,000
- Average: £5000
- Restoration: £2000
- Show/ultra-low-mileage: £14,000
- Average: £6000
- Restoration: £3000
Nissan 350Z history
2002 Jul 350Z launched in Japan
2002 Aug USA launch
2003 350Z comes to UK, as base model and GT
2004 Roadster added: two trim options, 110kg heavier, electric hood; 0-62mph in 6.4 secs
2004 Nov 35th Anniversary edition unveiled
2005 Jan (Jun UK) GT4 special edition of 35th Anniversary with Gran Turismo console included: 176 built in yellow or black, six-spoke Rays alloys, Brembo brakes, 20bhp boost (also on manual 35th Anniversary models) from VVT on exhaust as well as inlet valves.
2005 Mar Roadster on sale in UK
2006 All (manuals) get GT4 296bhp V6, bigger brakes, plus better trim and new lights. End of year 306bhp HR engine, taller with bonnet bulge
2008 Jan Japan-only Type F special edition, red leather, 19in rears, Brembos and Bose hi-fi.
2008 end replaced by 370Z, Coupé before Roadster
The owner’s view
“I found a GT4 Anniversary Edition on the web and was fixated,” recalls Julie Kernaghan. “It looked fabulous. I learnt that this was a top spec and one of just 72 in Ultra Yellow. Then I test drove a 350Z locally. The silver was so boring, but I liked the car. A lot.
“I bought my GT4 when it was three years old. I’ve had it fitted with Up Rev, which tweaks the engine management, because it was limited in the lower gears but that’s it. I love that it’s a real driver’s car, so you need to understand how it handles. In a straight line, it is phenomenal! In some conditions, woe betide you if you do not pay attention.
“I have driven it extensively – including Le Mans four times, where it always attracts attention – and it has been reliable, the utmost fun to drive. I would like to keep it for my son, who’s coming up to 21.”
ALFA ROMEO BRERA/SPIDER
Boasting 3.2 V6 option, initially with 4WD, the Brera looked stunning; in Prodrive 3.2S form, it was. Others weren’t so hot. Not as durable as Nissan: can be costly to run.
Sold 2005-’11 • no built 34,274 (all) • mpg 20-30 • 0-60mph 6.6 secs • top speed 152mph • price new £29,250 (V6, 2006) • price now £7-15,000
AUDI TT V6
Great looks combined with fine performance in top four-wheel drive forms, especially 3.2 V6, made the TT an instant hit in both 2+2 Coupé and two-seat Roadster forms. Now great value.
Sold 2002-’06 • no built 275,339 (all Mk1s) • mpg 23-32 • 0-60mph 6.2 secs • top speed 155mph • price new £29,115 (V6, 2003) • price now £3-7000
Nissan 350Z: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
Now really is the time to buy a well-maintained, lowish-mileage 350Z, with clear accident record, that ideally has been garaged. The price differential with less well-kept, leggier examples with incomplete history is not great.
While late cars are the quickest and GT4s are highly collectable, early Zs have a lot going for them – especially under the UK tax regime.
- Big gutsy V6, with strong performance
- Thrilling rear-drive handling
- Can cope with big mileages
- Great looks and soundtrack
- Relatively heavy, so can be thirsty
- A few engine oil issues
- Interior finish not top quality
- Small boot, so not a brilliant tourer
Nissan 350Z specifications
Sold/number built 2002-’08/c300,000
Construction steel monocoque
Engine all-aluminium, dual-overhead-cam, 24-valve 3498cc V6, with sequential multi-point electronic fuel injection and variable valve timing; 276bhp @ 6200rpm-306bhp @ 6800rpm; 260lb ft @ 4800rpm-274lb ft @ 4800rpm
Transmission six-speed manual or five-speed auto, driving rear wheels through limited-slip diff with traction control (except US/Jap base models)
Suspension independent all round, by multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Steering variable power-assistance rack and pinion, 2.6 turns lock-to-lock
Brakes vented discs, servo & ABS, f/r 296/292mm to 2003, then 324/322mm, then HR 318/307
Length 14ft 11/2in-14ft 2in (4308-4313mm)
Width 5ft 111/2in (1816mm)
Height 4ft 4in-4ft 41/2in (1318-1334mm)
Wheelbase 8ft 8in (2650mm)
Weight 3181-3605lb (1446-1635kg)
Top speed (limited) 155mph (Japan 112mph)
Price new £26,495 (2006)
BUY A CLASSIC NISSAN 350Z