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First drive: Nissan winds up the 350Z wick

Revised: Changes beneath the subtlely updated 350Z look are substantial.

Nissan delivers a faster 350Z coupe and convertible for 2007, as a final swansong

7 May 2007

MORE power and torque, but with no increase in weight, fuel consumption and price, sum up Nissan’s re-engineered 350Z for 2007.

However, no stability control is available on the 350Z Touring base model or on any automatic versions, meaning that buyers must fork out $5000 extra for the $67,990 Track Coupe or $73,990 Track Roadster if they want this potentially life-saving technology.

The latest 350Z revamp marks the two-seater rear-wheel drive sportscar’s final flourish before the next-generation model arrives, probably in 2009.

Fans of the current Z33 series 350Z, launched here in February 2003, will spot the incorporation of a bonnet bulge, shrouding a new engine that boasts a handy boost in power and torque output.

Larger headrests that now feature an active anti-whiplash restraint action, three new colours and revised Bridgestone tyres that are claimed to be suppler and quieter round out the latest 350Z changes.

They build on the subtle exterior styling tweaks (bumpers and tail-lights), improved interior trim and upgraded brake and suspension components introduced to the 350Z in December 2005 as part of the MY06 facelift.

Dubbed VQ35HR, the latest 350Z powerplant again is a 3498cc 3.5-litre double overhead cam 24-valve aluminium alloy V6 with continuous variable timing control.

However, Nissan says this engine is nearly 80 per cent different compared to the old VQ35DE unit.

Changes include the fitment of a dual air intake system, a more flexible variable valve-timing device, and a common length exhaust manifold for reduced backpressure.

They are designed to fatten torque in the low to mid-rev ranges, while an increase in compression ratio – from 10.3:1 to 10.6:1 – frees up more power in the upper rev threshold.

The introduction of a second knock sensor, an asymmetric piston pattern, improved cylinder cooling and iridium spark plugs aid the efficiency of the ignition cycle, resulting in no rise in fuel consumption to accompany the extra performance.

The result is a 9kW spike in power – now rated at 230kW at 6800rpm – and a 5Nm rise in torque, channelling 358Nm at 4800rpm.

Importantly, the five-speed automatic 350Z – available only in base Touring guise since the MY06 upgrade – now equals its six-speed manual 350Z Touring and sportier Track counterparts.

Compared to the MY06 automatic – with its 206kW at 6200rpm and 363Nm at 4800rpm – power jumps 24kW, although torque now slides down by 5Nm.

The 350Z’s engine speed has increased from 7000rpm to 7500rpm, thanks to a larger crank journal and crank pin.

12 center imageMeanwhile, at the bottom of the engine, the implementation of a ladder frame has stiffened the crank for increased durability and reduced vibrational tendencies.

By lowering the engine by 15mm, Nissan has improved the 350Z’s centre of gravity, aiding its dynamic responses and weight distribution, which is rated at 53 per cent front and 47 per cent at the rear.

All these changes means that today’s 350Z can sprint to 100km/h for standstill in 5.7 seconds, Official ADR81/01 combined-average fuel consumption readings are 11.7 litres per 100km for the manual Touring and Track Coupe, 11.8L/100km for the automatic Touring Coupe, 12L/100km for the manual-only Track Roadster convertible and 12.1L/100km for the auto-only Touring Roadster. As before, the MY07 350Z utilises four-wheel multi-link independent suspension with anti roll bars, bolstered by strut tower braces in the engine and luggage bays.

Six-spoke alloy wheels shod by Bridgestone Potenza 225/45R18 91W front and 245/45R 96W tyres are standard on all variants, as is a 17-inch temporary spare.

Questioned on the subject of the non-fitment of stability control – dubbed VDC Vehicle Dynamic Control – on the 350Z Touring and automatic models, Nissan Australia claims it is out of their hands, since Nissan will not fit VDC on any Touring specification models globally.

“We have been negotiating with the parent company for a change in the basic specification,” reveals Adrian Givoye, product manager – passenger vehicles for Nissan Australia.

A spokesman confirmed that the Australian arm has been asking for stability control for years.

Besides VDC, the Track – which accounts for 40 per cent of all sales – also adds Brembo brakes and a subtle aerodynamic aid.

All models include anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, traction control, Xenon headlights, dual front and side airbags (with curtain airbags on the Coupe), heated leather ‘sports’ seats, climate control air-conditioning, a Bose 240W audio system, wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, power windows and heated exterior mirrors.

Nissan is saying that it is working on introducing an integrated satellite navigation system for the 350Z, but stops short of committing to a date, citing Australian mapping and technology matching issues with the device that overseas 350Z models employ.

According to Nissan’s figures, the VQ35HR (HR for higher revolution and higher response) V6 makes the 350Z significantly more powerful than its core rivals, the Mazda RX-8 (30 per cent), Chrysler Crossfire (44 per cent), Audi TT 3.2 V6 quattro (25 per cent), BMW Z4 3.0si (18 per cent), and even the Porsche Boxster and Cayman 2.7 models (28 per cent).

For 2007, Nissan Australia hopes to better the 533 sales achieved by the 350Z last year. Pent-up demand in 2003 drove Coupe sales to a record 1662 units in 2003, with numbers dropping to 951 in 2004 (despite the introduction of the Roadster), and 643 vehicles in 2005.

2007 Nissan 350Z range pricing:
Touring Coupe $62,990
Touring Coupe (a) $64,990
Track Coupe $67,990
Track Roadster $73,990
Touring Roadster (a) $73,990

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