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2003 Nissan 350Z Coupe

2dr Cpe Enthusiast Manual Trans

Starting at | Starting at 20 MPG City - 26 MPG Highway

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  • $28,350 original MSRP
Printable Version

2003 Nissan 350Z Coupe

Printable Version

2003 Nissan 350Z Coupe

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2003 Nissan 350Z

Source: New Car Test Drive

Introduction

The Nissan 350Z is the modern interpretation of the original Datsun 240Z. It's fast. It's fun to drive. It's pure sports car. And it's affordable, or at least attainable. The new Z is as responsive as a hungry cheetah, with racecar handling, rear-wheel drive, and thrilling acceleration performance.

The chassis is fantastic, as rigid as a prototype racer's. The suspension keeps the tires glued through fast chicanes. Bounce over the curbs like Michael Schumacher and the Z will hold its line. Its fastback styling and arching roofline hint at the Porsche 911. It looks like a mid-engine sports car and, in a sense, it is. Styling details like the controversial industrial-design door handles ensure this car will never be called bland.

The new Z is a great value for the driving enthusiast. While the previous-generation twin-turbocharged 300ZX (discontinued in 1996) delivered stellar performance, it was too expensive for most of us. The new 350Z is far more affordable, starting at just $26,269. And that's no wimpy base model with a commuter engine. All 350Zs get the same sports suspension and Nissan's superb V6 engine, which punches out 287 horsepower and strong torque. That much power, along with a six-speed gearbox, carbon-fiber driveshaft, drive-by-wire throttle, anti-lock disc brakes vented front and rear with EBD, plus convenience features like automatic temperature control and a premium stereo, do not normally come on cars below 30K.

Nissan says the 350Z was designed to be a sports car an enthusiast can live with every day. While its firm ride, abrupt throttle response, and awkward cup holders don't necessarily make it a great place to drink coffee, eat doughnuts, and make phone calls on the way to work, it is a comfortable car with usable cargo space, and getting in and out isn't impossibly awkward. Order it with the excellent five-speed automatic, and you'll have a better commuter for the daily stop-and-go.

Bottom line: This car more than delivers on the promise of its stellar looks. It's no poser. It's a real sports car.

Model Lineup

Five models are available, but all use the same 3.5-liter V6 engine and suspension. The differences lie primarily in trim. Different size wheels and tires, however, give the models distinct personalities, and the Track model sports big brakes. All models get the carbon-fiber driveshaft, drive-by-wire throttle, and dual outlet exhaust with dumps big enough to hold a Budweiser can.

The base Nissan 350Z ($26,269) comes standard with 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, vented front and rear disc brakes with ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, dual stage air bags, seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, automatic temperature control, 160-watt AM/FM/CD with six speakers, power windows (with auto-up/auto-down on both sides), power door locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, vehicle security system, a leather steering wheel and shifter boot, and comfortable cloth seats. It comes with a six-speed manual transmission.

Enthusiast ($28,249) is the most popular model. It adds xenon headlamps, HomeLink universal transceiver, cruise control, traction control, viscous limited-slip rear differential, aluminum pedals, day/night rearview mirror, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors. The Enthusiast model is also available with a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode ($29,219).

The Performance model ($30,429), available only with the manual gearbox, adds 18-inch wheels and tires, Vehicle Dynamic Control (an anti-skid system), and a tire-pressure monitor.

The Touring model is available with manual or automatic transmissions. When ordered with the automatic, Touring ($31,589) adds leather-appointed seats, with a four-way power driver's seat, a two-way power passenger's seat, and seat heaters, heated mirrors, and a 240-watt Bose CD6 with cassette and seven speakers. But it does not come with Vehicle Dynamic Control or the aluminum pedals, and it's fitted with the 17-inch wheels. Order the Touring model with the six-speed manual ($33,179) and you get all the luxury stuff plus VDC, 18-inch wheels, and the aluminum pedals; it's a Performance model with leather and other luxury goodies, in other words.

The Track model ($34,079) gets vented Brembo brakes, 18-inch rubber mounted on lightweight aluminum wheels, and front and rear spoilers. It comes with the cloth, but is equipped with VDC, the viscous differential, xenon headlights, tire-pressure monitor, HomeLink, aluminum pedals (of course), the electrochromic mirror, and illuminated visor vanity mirrors (to ensure your hair is safely tucked under your helmet).

A side air bag and curtain air bag package ($569) is optional and a very good idea, and a DVD-based navigation system ($1999) is available.

No sunroof, no T-top is available, but if you like high-performance, top-down motoring, then order the roadster, but you'll have to wait until summer to get it.

Nissan says high-performance parts will be available from Nismo, the company's racing division that competes at Le Mans and other sports car venues. Look for engine, suspension, and body bits.

Walkaround

With its bulging front fenders and fast back, the Z reminds me of a Porsche 911. Not everyone agrees with this assessment, of course. Regardless, driving the new Z draws a lot of "nice car" comments, including one from a Porsche Carrera 4 driver.

The shape of the Z suggests a mid-engine design. The engine is in fact in front of the driver, but it's behind the front axle. That's why Nissan calls it a front mid-ship placement. (In that respect, it's somewhat similar to the Mazda RX-7 design.) The Z shares its architecture with the Infiniti G35 coupe and sedan. Moving the engine rearward improves weight distribution, which improves handling balance. The new Z weighs about 3,200 pounds, split front/rear 53/47 percent. It's balanced well for accelerating out of corners.

An extremely short front overhang and a short rear overhang makes for agile handling. It also means you don't scrape driveways like you do in a Corvette. Bulging fender flares make the Z look like it's ready for the racetrack, which it is.

Its shape, besides looking really cool, allows the Z to slice through the air with a minimum of drag (0.29 on the Track model). Airflow is managed well underneath, with zero lift on the front (and zero lift on the rear of the Track model). All this math adds up to relatively low levels of wind noise and a stable sports car at high speeds.

Interior Features

The interior of the Nissan 350Z is a cockpit designed for driving, helping the driver quickly become one with the car. The carbon-fiber colored cloth seats are form-fitting, supportive and comfortable, made of a soft material that grips the body in the corners. The driver's seat features a mound in the center to prevent the driver from sliding forward. Aggressive side bolsters grip the waist to hold the driver in place. The leather seats in the Touring model seem a little firmer than the cloth, and are available in charcoal, burnt orange or frost. Either cloth or leather is a good choice in this case. The supportive seats and a driver's dead pedal mean you never feel like you have to hang on to the car. The seating position should be good for drivers with long legs; I felt a little close to the wheel when the seat was adjusted for my legs. It's worth noting, however, that this feeling went away the moment the key was turned in the ignition.

Tilt the steering column and the main pod of gauges moves with it, ensuring a good view of the big tachometer and flanking speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges. Nestled in three pods on top of the dash are a voltmeter, an oil pressure gauge and a digital trip computer. They look cool, but reading them requires more than a glance. Two toggles to the right of the steering wheel operate the trip computer, used to check outside air temperature, distance to empty, speed, average mileage, and average speed. It has a stopwatch function (to check out those 0-60 times), and a tire-pressure monitor for 18-inch wheels. With the Trip Computer, the driver can program a shift light to come on at a certain rpm. The small red indicator on the tachometer begins flashing abut 500 rpm before the preset engine speed is reached, when it comes on solid. You can program it for the ideal shift points for acceleration or fuel economy, then let your peripheral vision pick up the indicator. If you don't like this feature you can turn it off.

The interior of the Z seems to suggest a carbon-fiber racecar tub. The material surrounding the shifter and forming the center dash looks like carbon fiber. Likewise, the large expanse of gray material lining the door panels suggests carbon fiber in appearance. The quality of the materials is okay, though some of the pieces would never be allowed in an Audi. It looked austere at first, but quickly grew on us. Stylish interior touches, such as the inside door handles integrated into aerodynamic pods for the side vents, give the Z a racy, modern look. Passengers often grope for the door release the first time they try to get out, distracted by the big grab handles adorned with genuine aluminum and relieved by the Z's dot motif.

Stylish audio controls include a big volume knob, clearly marked buttons for channel seeking, and six station buttons that can be preset simply by holding them down. We confess we were too focused on entertaining ourselves with the car to turn it on, and we drove various models of the Z on both coasts. Below are three large knobs for the automatic climate control system, which comes standard. Nicely designed wiper and headlamp controls are mounted on short stalks. The leather-wrapped steering wheel looks and feels great, and comes with cruise controls on the right spoke. Overhead are well-designed map lights and a bin for sunglasses. Power window switches are auto-up/auto-down.

The Z is not the best place to drink things. There's a pair of cup holders in the center console, but they're mounted too far rearward for use by the driver and passengers will find them awkward. It might be best to ditch the cup holders and use the center console for storage. Another cup holder is mounted on the passenger-side dash. It pops out with the press of a button, feels flimsy, but works well and is an easy reach for the driver, just past the audio controls. The firm suspension makes drinking hot coffee from an open cup while underway a risky proposition on all but the smoothest highways.

At first it doesn't seem like the Z offers much in the way of storage. For starters, there's no glovebox. Cars without the navigation system get a nice lined storage pocket above the radio, but it's saddled with a lid that registers high on the bogusity scale: Pressing a button opens it, though the one on our pre-production car was reluctant. But closing it, rather than simply pressing it back down, requires grasping it between thumb and finger, pulling it out and carefully pressing it closed. An owner will adjust to it, but it's not our favorite feature. There's a small, lined ashtray-size compartment on the center tunnel and there's a spot on the outside of each seat for a pen or pencil. Turn around and the picture brightens considerably where a thoughtfully designed system of storage compartments provides handy places to stick stuff.

From the driver's seat, you can access a large lockable box that's bigger than a shoebox but smaller than a breadbox. When stopped, but without getting out of the car or opening a door, it's easy to flip the passenger seatback forward via a handle in the center of the seatback. Then, it's a simple matter to open a lid that reveals a storage bin. The lockable lid has a quality feel to it and the bin is lined to keep things from rattling about. A smaller bin is mounted higher and somewhat more awkwardly toward the center that could hold a map, checkbook, PDA or cellphone. Identical bins on the driver's side are accessed when standing outside the car by flipping the driver's seatback forward.

Cargo rides in an hourglass-shaped well, squeezed in the middle by the shock towers and the big strut-tower brace that ties them together. (That cross brace is functional: hatchbacks flex and the Z's chassis engineers wanted to ensure a rigid monocoque.) The Z offers more cargo capacity than a Mazda Miata, but less than a Porsche 911 or Boxster or a Mitsubishi Eclipse, more than an Audi TT, but less than a TT with quattro. We're comparing small boxes here. An avid golfer at Nissan swears two golf bags will fit in the cargo compartment, if you pull the big woods out of the bag. Nissan says fitted luggage will be available for the Z. And coming up with your own system to compartmentalize the cargo area might make it better for carrying stuff.

Driving Impressions

Turning the key and hearing the engine roar to life is the first indication the Nissan 350Z is no poser. Turning onto a winding road proves this beyond a shadow of doubt. Sharp steering, terrific handling, and excellent grip make this a real driver's car. This car is very fast with brilliant acceleration.

Mounted longitudinally and driving the rear wheels is Nissan's excellent VQ V6 engine. It's smooth and sounds like a big sports car engine. It generates lots of torque at low rpm, pulling smoothly from about 2000 rpm. Maximum torque of 274 pounds-feet comes at 4800 rpm, tapering off as maximum horsepower of 287 hp is reached at 6200 rpm. The engine is still pulling smoothly as the rev limiter steps in somewhere just north of 6500 rpm, but this engine is more about low-rpm torque than high-revving horsepower. Nissan's Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System helps the V6 produce a nice, linear band of torque. Drive-by-wire technology reduces mechanical weight and complexity.

The short-throw shifter feels good and it's effective. The six-speed gearbox shifts quickly and deliberately. It's so well synchronized you almost don't need the clutch (though Nissan recommends using it). Clutch pedal effort has enough heft to remind the driver this is no Honda Accord.

The automatic transmission works great, really smooth and responsive. Driving the automatic, didn't leave me feeling like I was missing out by not having the manual. The Touring model with the automatic and 17-inch wheels felt like the perfect combination for hurtling down New York's Taconic Parkway.

The Z feels taut and well controlled. It really stuck when accelerating through fast sweepers on California's Palos Verdes Peninsula. The steering is sharp and accurate and the Z changes directions brilliantly in transient maneuvers, without excessive understeer turning in or sloppy oversteer coming out. Cornering is flat, without much body lean. The 17-inch tires generate lots of grip, even when driving in a rebellious manner. It's hard to imagine using it up outside a competitive event or emergency maneuver. The 17-inch wheels offer a better ride than the 18-inch wheels on the Performance model. In either case, the ride does get jouncy on bumpy roads, most noticeably when cruising slowly, but it doesn't beat you up and we expect that with a sports car like this.

The brakes are easy to modulate, fun to use, and do a good job of stopping the car. Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist come standard on all 350Zs. Just like it sounds, Electronic Brake-force Distribution improves stopping performance by dynamically balancing front and rear braking forces. Brake Assist is a mechanical system that applies full braking if it senses an emergency-braking situation where the driver has not stepped hard enough on the brake pedal to engage the ABS. Push the car too hard into a corner or find yourself on a slippery surface and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and traction control come to the rescue by reducing power or applying brakes at individual wheels.

If you like to drive on racetracks, then you should select the Track model for its Brembo brakes. The weight of the Z challenges the stock brakes when they are used over and over, lap after lap. Also, the car understeers when driven to the limit, meaning you need to get it slowed down for the corners, then use the torque to power out. The big Brembos probably won't reduce stopping distances, but with dual-piston calipers and bigger discs, they should resist fade better than the standard brakes.

Summary

The Nissan 350Z stands alone as an affordable, high-performance hardtop sports car. Its rear-wheel-drive chassis is rigid, its suspension is taut for excellent handling, and the V6 engine delivers lots of torque for strong acceleration performance.

Starting at less than $27,000, the new Z delivers with no-frills hardware, including a carbon fiber driveshaft. All models deliver stellar performance. Whether you opt for the six-speed manual gearbox or the five-speed automatic, there are no dogs in the lineup. The interior is the weakest link here, but it grows on you with a little time spent living with it.

This is the car for drivers who want serious sports car performance in a GT body and don't want to shell out the big bucks.

 


Model Line Overview

Model lineup: Nissan 350Z 6-speed manual transmission ($26,269); Enthusiast 6MT ($28,249); Enthusiast 5AT ($29,219); Performance 6MT ($30,429), Touring 5AT ($31,589); Touring 6MT ($33,179); Track 6MT ($34,079)
Engines: 287-hp 3.5-liter dohc 24-valve V6
Transmissions: 6-speed manual; 5-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard): dual-stage airbags; seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters; ABS with EBD and brake assist; traction control
Safety equipment (optional): none
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in: Oppama, Japan

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): Nissan 350Z Enthusiast ($28,249)
Standard equipment: automatic temperature control; 6-way manual driver seat; 4-way manual passenger seat; power windows, locks and mirrors; AM/FM/CD audio with 6 speakers; tilt steering with integrated gage cluster; cruise control; HomeLink universal transceiver; auto-dimming rearview mirror; trip computer; oil pressure gauge; voltmeter; cross-drilled aluminum pedals; dual-illuminated visor vanity mirrors; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; real aluminum interior accents; lockable storage behind passenger seat; 3 cup holders; vehicle security system; vehicle immobilizer; remote keyless entry; 17-inch wheels; xenon headlamps; rear wiper; seal-tight windows
Options as tested (MSRP): floor mats ($69)
Destination charge: ($540)
Gas guzzler tax: N/A
Price as tested (MSRP): $28,858
Layout: rear-wheel drive
Engine: 3.5-liter dohc 24-valve V6 with CVTCS
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 287 @ 6200
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): 274 @ 4800
Transmission: 6-speed manual
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 20/26 mpg
Wheelbase: 104.3 in.
Length/width/height: 169.4/71.5/51.9 in.
Track, f/r: 60.4/60.6 in.
Turning circle: 35.4 ft.
Seating capacity: 2
Head/hip/leg room, f: 38.2/53.9/42.6 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m: N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r: N/A
Trunk volume: 6.8 cu. ft.
Payload: N/A
Towing capacity: N/A
Suspension, f: independent 3-link with stabilizer bar and strut bar
Suspension, r: independent 4-link with stabilizer bar and strut bar
Ground clearance: N/A
Curb weight: 3197 lbs.
Tires: P225/50WR17 front / P235/50WR17 rear
Brakes, f/r: vented disc/vented disc with ABS, EBD, and Brake Assist
Fuel capacity: 20.0 gal.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of November 25, 2002.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-nissan-1 - www.NissanUSA.com

 

Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive, Inc.


 

 

Printable Version

2003 Nissan 350Z Coupe

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Driver Crash Grade
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Passenger Crash Grade
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Rollover Resistance
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Side Impact Crash Test - Front
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Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std
Traction/Stability Control Std

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Side Head Air Bag Opt

Road Visibility

HID Headlights Std
Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std

Security

Alarm Std
Anti-theft System Std
Printable Version

2003 Nissan 350Z Coupe

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Corrosion 5 Years/Unlimited Miles

Nissan Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

7-year/100,000 mile limited warranty. Only Nissan models less than 6 years old and under 80,000 miles qualify for the Nissan Certified Pre-Owned program. The CARFAX® Vehicle History Report ensures your vehicle has a clean title history.
Age/Mileage Eligibility 6 model years or newer & less than 80,000 miles.
Lease Term Certified Yes
Point Inspection 167 point comprehensive Certified Pre-Owned Inspection and reconditioning. Inspection includes OEM service bulletins and recalls, diagnostic trouble codes, powertrain/chassis, body frame, road test, interior and body exterior.
Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance Yes for the duration of the 7 year/100,000 mile limited warranty from the original in-service date of the vehicle.
Special Financing Yes
Transferrable Warranty No/Yes with the purchase of the CPO Wrap Coverage at time of sale. Fee to transfer is estimated to be $50
Warranty Deductible $50 per claim

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

2003 Nissan 350Z Coupe

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