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Car reviews - Nissan - 350Z - 35th Anniversary coupe

Our Opinion

We like
The full complement of neat gauges - including oil pressure and voltage, the digital speed check is useful (although on the test car it consistently read 3km/h higher than the speedo), alloy pedals look and feel great, the steering wheel is one of the best, Brembo brakes are first-class
Room for improvement
The lack of a glovebox lock looks like penny pinching, improved manual shift still notchy, VDC switch is out of sight, and why not advertise a great history with a stylish 35th Anniversary badge?

28 Feb 2005

It pays to advertise. Just after nine on a beautiful Tuesday morning, our small convoy of Nissan sports cars, most of them metallic yellow in colour, shimmered through the hamlet of Smoko on route to the Great Alpine Highway.

If you had missed the tobacco paddocks, then that five letter sign ‘Smoko’ made the point. The Nissans, too, have their own heritage, but only the cognoscenti will know because not even a simple 35th Anniversary decal advertises it.

Nissan’s marketing execs are hoping that the new hero colour will do this job it won’t. If ever a car cried out for a neat medallion, this is it.

Proud buyers will have to tell the whole story to their friends without a badge to start the conversation. And yellow or no, in the traffic it will present as just another 350Z, stylish but not truly special.

The 350Z 35th Anniversary coupe is a perfect car for the sinuous drive up and over the Australian alps. Strong brakes, communicative and accurate steering, plenty of torque, good seats and firm suspension were all welcome.

Nissan Australia is promoting this sub-$70K coupe as the best you can buy under six figures and it is difficult to argue. On-paper argument is backed up by the on-road experience.

Based on the Track version of the 350Z, the 35th Anniversary special boasts an additional 15kW of power to give it a formidable 221kW. But the standard car is so strong that a direct comparison would be necessary to showcase the extra urge.

Maximum permissible engine rpm is now out to 7000, although a red warning light which begins flickering well before this point will deter many drivers from exploring these heights (an old-fashioned yellow zone on the tachometer would be preferable to a light located centimetres from the needle).

The Nissan’s classic straight six is massively tractable, smooth from just 1250 or so rpm in the fairly low sixth gear. At 100 km/h the tacho registers about 2350, so the car is geared for speed.

The ‘improved’ gearshift seems less notchy, but remains far from perfect, lacking that precise, light feel of the best shifts – Porsche’s Boxster comes to mind.

Second gear is rather low, only just permitting 100km/h before using up the whole seven grand’s worth of revs and the gap to third is long. Besides, the strong torque allows you to carry higher gears effortlessly.

The drop of 10Nm in peak torque from 363 to 353 was not discernible.

Performance figures are not quoted but the 35th Anniversary should require little more than six seconds in which to dispatch the zero to 100km/h sprint.

At low speeds, especially around town, the Track suspension is abrupt but on the open road it improves to give an acceptable ride, though firm. There is minimal bodyroll and pitch.

Handling is well balanced with a slight tendency to understeer. Switch off the VDC (although by switching it ‘off’ you merely broaden the envelope before it intervenes) and power oversteer is available in second or even third gear for the serious driver.

The steering itself is mostly delightful, very sharp and focused with excellent weight. There is no lost motion but sometimes during very hard cornering there is kickback. The Brembo brakes are beyond criticism and pedal feel is perfect.

You sit very low in the 350Z, facing an interior that looks a lot more upmarket than when the car made its 2003 debut. Not every control falls immediately to hand. The switchable VDC is out of sight somewhere away down to the right.

Even after 600km of travel, the richly leathered seats were still comfortable, although a little more side bolstering would be appreciated during spirited cornering.

The badgeless 35th Anniversary 350Z is close to brilliant. This represents a careful evolution of an impressive original. But there is room for further work during the current Zed’s life cycle, to bring it even closer to perfection.

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