- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

The ever-popular (but pricey in its final days) Nissan Z-Series sports car went away from the United States in 1996 and from Japan in 2000, supposedly for good (or bad, depending on one's perspective).
With the pent-up demand for performance-oriented vehicles and today's escalated pricing structure posted by most manufacturers for such machines, it seems more than appropriate for the driving enthusiasts at Nissan to have recreated the spirit and tradition credited to earlier examples of the Z car.
This spirit and tradition is reborn in the form of the 350Z, "soon-to-be-legendary" in its own right. This is not an exercise in retro or nostalgia , but rather the development and production of a totally new two-seat, sports coupe that successfully blends design heritage with superlative performance and value.
The new for 2003 Nissan 350Z features a long wheelbase and wide stance with elements of the 240Z and 300ZX in a contemporary design execution with a strong, spinelike belt line culminated by large, distinctive taillamps that flank the sloping raised rear deck. Power for all five model choices comes from a very healthy, midmounted, 3.5-liter, dual-overhead camshaft, 24-valve V-6 that generates 287 horses and 274 pounds-feet of torque over an impressively broad range, driving the rear wheels via a carbon fiber driveshaft, and redlining at 6,600 rpm. Gear changes are accomplished by either a five-speed automatic with a manual mode, or by a newly developed 6-speed manual transmission, depending upon the model selected.
The model lineup consists of: the Base, with a six-speed manual transmission with a price of $26,269; two Enthusiast models, with either a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual priced at $28,249 and $29,219 respectively; the Performance model with 6MT priced at $30,429; two Touring models $31,589 / 5AT or $33,179 / 6MT; and finally, the Track model with the 6MT, base priced at $34,999. Add $540 for destination and handling for all models.
The standard equipment inventory for the Base model is really quite impressive, while additional features and equipment are added progressively through the lineup, with the flagship Track model receiving goodies over and above the standard fare, such as: a front and rear spoiler; 18-inch tires and lightweight aluminum wheels; vented Brembo braking system; VDC; TCS; viscous limited-slip differential; xenon headlamps; and aluminum pedals. Only two options are available across the lineup a DVD-based navigation system for $1,999; and side-curtain air bags for $569.
As you can see, it really is possible to acquire a Base or Enthusiast 350Z for under $30,000, or one may splurge and pop for a Track version complete with both options for $37,187 (less tax and license in both cases). There's literally a model that should meet nearly everyone's desires and budget.
The Nissan 350Z provides a phenomenal and exhilarating ride in any of its five available forms, which are all based on a platform shared with the Inifiniti G35.
The Z's ride quality is satisfyingly firm without any objectionable harshness in the Base model, and even better in the Track version. Seats are highly supportive and comfortable, with the driver's seat offering a center contour and added side bolstering with an angled, sculpted cutaway on the right to avoid shifting interference.
There is no glove box, but a locking storage bin is behind the passenger seat. For those not in Virginia who rely on the protection of a radar detector, the only power outlet is positioned aft on the rear bulkhead, making it quite a stretch for the cord from the windshield, not to mention getting in the way of the shift lever an issue that is being looked at.
If you want one in your garage or driveway, better act fast, there have already been more than 6,500 advance orders placed.
Will there be a roadster model?
You betcha.


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