Car Buying

Buying a Used Nissan 350Z: Everything You Need to Know

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Used 2003 Nissan 350Z Touring
Used 2003 Nissan 350Z
$9,987
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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Colin Ryan August 2015

Yes, absolutely buy a used Nissan 350Z. It's a superb sports car with all the right ingredients: raucous soundtrack, rear-wheel drive, sharp steering, excellent grip and two seats. It also has stunning looks, with a nod to Datsun Z cars (now cult and collectible; Datsun was Nissan's earlier name), but still intensely modern.

The 350Z is built on Nissan's FM platform, which stands for "front midship." It means the engine is not over the front axle, but further back for better overall balance. The 3.5-liter V6 is a great engine, initially making 287 horsepower and 274 lb-ft of torque, with all that juice going to the rear wheels. The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual. Its shift action is firm, but still a joy to operate. If an automatic is a necessity, then the 5-speeder option will be okay, just not as involving.

The steering wheel adjusts for height only, and the instrument cluster moves with it. The coupe's trunk houses a huge strut bar, hindering the chance of putting in anything but a few soft bags. The Roadster's trunk (thanks to it being a convertible) is even smaller. There's no glove box. But if you wanted practical, you'd buy an Accord, right?

Launch

There's only one generation, but improvements were made almost every year of its existence. The coupe hit first, in late 2002 as a 2003 model, in base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring and Track trims. Base still has 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control and powered accessories. Enthusiast adds xenon headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror and cruise control, plus (crucially) traction control and a limited-slip rear differential.

Performance brought a more sophisticated driver aid in the form of Vehicle Dynamic Control, as well as 18-in alloys. Touring is the comfort choice; power adjustable and heated leather seats join a more upscale audio system. The Track version has front and rear spoilers, lighter alloy wheels and upgraded brakes. There is no auto option for this trim level.

The Roadster landed in spring 2003, as a 2004 model, in Enthusiast and Touring trims.

2005

This marked 35 years from the original 240Z's debut, so Nissan made a limited run of 35th anniversary 350Z cars with 300 hp, Brembo brakes (supplier to companies like Ferrari), special 18-in alloys, aerodynamic package and two-tone leather seating.

In the regular models, 2005 brought heated side mirrors, height adjustable driver's seat and tire-pressure monitoring. The automatic transmission was also programmed to rev-match the engine on downshifts.

2006

For all manual versions, 300 hp became standard, along with 18-in alloys and HID headlights. It also saw a slight facelift with a remodeled front bumper, plus new front and rear lights. Changes on the inside brought a new navigation system, new cloth seating and updated controls for the air conditioning.

Performance trim was phased out, but Grand Touring phased in for both body styles. It made the Touring trim more performance-oriented with an aero kit, Brembo brakes and upgraded (lighter) RAYS alloy wheels in a staggered formation. The front wheels are 18-in for crisp steering, while the rear wheels are 19-in for better traction. The Track version also has this wheel setup.

2007

Bluetooth joined side airbags as standard equipment, but the big story is a heavily revised 3.5-liter V6 that's slightly taller than before, so now there's a modest hood bulge. Going by the specs, power is 306 hp for both manual and automatic versions. But this was when the Society of Automotive Engineers changed its power measurement methods. The new engine really makes about 20 hp more than its predecessor.

Meanwhile, torque dropped to 268 lb-ft, but the power band became wider, with 90 percent available from 2000 revolutions per minute. It used to be around 4000 rpm, when things got interesting.

The Nismo (short for Nissan Motorsport) coupe replaced Track trim, with an even more pronounced aero kit, a re-welded body for greater rigidity and a track-tuned suspension. It's super stiff and super noisy. Great on the track, hard going for the commute.

2008

This was the last year of the coupe before being replaced by the 370Z. The Roadster stayed until 2009.

Recalls

The most recalls for any one model year was four, for 2003. These were for clutch parts, fuel filler parts, an improperly soldered circuit board for the crankshaft position and camshaft position sensors and some aftermarket lighting. Recalls for 2008 were for airbag software issues.

What to Look For

Let's start with the essentials: get an expert inspection, and make sure there's a full service history.

The cabin doesn't have a great reputation for durability, so check for worn materials, especially the bolsters of the driver's seat. Do the electric windows work? If it's a coupe, inspect the gas struts holding up the rear hatch. Roadster? The fabric roof should be in decent condition.

Moving outside, the nose is prone to stone chipping. Early models might have uneven tire wear due to bad alignment. The 350Z came from the factory with Bridgestone tires and are as good a choice as any. While you're in the area, look for scuffed alloy wheels. And lower compression arm bushings are a common failure.

The engine's oil pressure sensors are sometimes problematic, so keep a regular eye on levels. The clutch usually lasts 40,000 miles. If you have to change it, a smart move would be to upgrade the flywheel at the same time. Brake discs last for roughly 35,000 miles, and brake pads last for around 12,000 miles. Moving up to high-performance brake fluid and braided lines is a good idea.

Values

A 2007 Touring coupe would be a sweet spot. On Autotrader, we found one with 88,000 miles priced at $13,750. Kelley Blue Book might value that a little lower, unless it's in excellent condition. Our site has around 40 pages of 350Zs for sale, starting at $5,750.

Autotrader Says

Yes, absolutely buy a used Nissan 350Z, but be prepared to walk away if something doesn't seem right. There'll be another one down the road.

Find a Nissan 350Z for sale

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2003 Nissan 350Z Touring
Used 2003 Nissan 350Z
$9,987
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Used Nissan 350Z: Everything You Need to Know - Autotrader