Nissan 350Z Roadster Convertible Review

Terry Parkhurst
by Terry Parkhurst
nissan 350z roadster convertible review

Hunkered down inside the Nissan 350Z Roadster convertible with the top up, you know the way a clam must feel when it looks outside its shell. The top is screwed down like one of those heavy-duty chop jobs on a lead sled of yore. While claustrophobics need not apply, the Z’s powerplant’s guttural moan vibrates through the floorboards and around the metal carcoon in a most sensually satisfying manner. Open the lid and this is what a proper sports car is all about: pure, unadulterated exhilaration.

Of course, there’s nothing “pure” about the 350Z’ looks; the coupe could have been penned by a Cadillac designer on acid. Fortunately, the Z convertible is a different (if equally fantastic) beast. If you have a thing for 1957 and 1958 Porsche Speedsters but want something altogether more modern, this is your scene. Once the top drops, the Z’s basic shape is clean enough that most of us will forgive Nissan for the lid’s afterthought deportment.

Excuse my obsessive-compulsive digression, but I’d like to point out that the lamentable door handles that debuted with the new 350Z remain in situ. The handles– which wouldn’t look out of place on a cheap chest of drawers– ruin the clean concave sweep of the upper portion of the car’s body. What’s more, they’ve been known to open when massaged by automatic car wash rollers. On the other hand, the rear taillights are minor works of art; the red and white plastics fit together like a Piet Mondrian painting.

Let’s face it: the Z’s target audience is getting on a bit. Perhaps that explains why Nissan’s logo design department seems to think 350Z buyers have Alzheimer’s. There’s a big Z emblem on the lower inside doorsills, a Z emblem on the (rear) wind blocker, a Z emblem on the steering wheel and even Z emblems on the floor mats.

It might also account for the fact that the Z’s cockpit is perfect for aging baby boomers. All the controls and switchgear have an oversized funky, chunky feel that’s as practical as it is stylish. The drop top roadster also has two speedometers, an analog gauge in the main instrument panel (for the nearsighted) and a digital unit in a cluster of three instruments in the center of the dashboard (for the far-sighted).

Staying with the theme, baby boomers can adjust the Z’s instrument pod up or down for comfort and visibility; a feature pioneered by Porsche’s long defunct, long nosed 928. And while the driver’s seat lacks lumbar support and a lift function, it comes with plenty of lateral bolstering and enough power adjustment for the most delicate spine. The power top could use some Viagra; it goes up or down in about 25 chronologically challenged seconds.

Thankfully, the 350Z’s heart is young, fit and free– well, free revving. Pistonheads might pine for a bit more than the 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6’ 300 horses, but it’s all about torque people. And we’re torquing 260 ft.-lbs. of twist at 4800 rpm. That’s enough power to motorvate the relatively heavy roadster (3400 pounds) to sixty from rest in 5.8 seconds. Engine thrust in second and third gears is enough to dislocate a bobblehead’s, er, head. AND you get great big earfuls of the Z’s characteristic moan-into-wail aria for no extra charge.

The 350Z sits upon Nissan’s (and Infiniti’s) ubiquitous FM platform. This high fidelity set-up offers an aluminum multi-link suspension (front and rear) and an engine position set so far back in the chassis that the M stands for “mid-engine.” In fact, the weight balance is more like 60/40, despite low weight, high tech solutions like a carbon fiber drive shaft. Although it shares a platform with Nissan's company sedans, the 350Z a wonderfully balanced, perfectly poised pavement partner.

The “Enthusiast” edition’s big ass rubber helps the convertible grip like a hooker’s thighs. Optional 18-inch aluminum wheels, not only help the “bling” factor, but also do wonders for the unsprung weight equation. The bottom line: the Z roadster’s combination of grip, go and near neutral handling allows for a lot of, um, driver error. When rain slicked highways induced a bit of looseness in the rear end department, simple counter-steering got the Z car back on-line.

Yup: the 350Z roadster convertible is ready for its close-up. After driving this $35k rice rocket ship (plus $90 for carpeted floor mats emblazoned with the aforementioned Z emblem), it’s hard to believe that anyone other than an almost-died-in-the-woods Porsche aficionado would want to pony up the extra money for a less powerful Boxster S or Audi TT. Still, at this level, in this category, it’s all about emotion. The 350Z roadster may ultimately lack the Germans’ stoicism, but for some of us, that’s a very good thing indeed.

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  • Nemphre Nemphre on Jun 20, 2007

    Yes, there's nothing particularly wrong with the Z handling. It isn't what I would consider excessively fun handling, or highly agile handling but it does the job very well and with barely any fuss. Amazing grip, and great accuracy and stability. In C&Ds Lightning Lap comparo, the Z-track actually bested the Evo. There isn't anything wrong with the engine, and you should know that there are many settings and changes that can be done to an engine to make it put out different amounts of power for different applications. Some of those other cars that share the VQ make a bit more torque and get better fuel mileage. It's a great engine anyway that feels like it has endless power, and it's all naturally aspirated. I don't think the Z and the Evo/Sti are in the same class anyway. The souped up econo sedan styling definitely caters to a different crowd.

  • Phatfarman Phatfarman on Nov 13, 2009

    I just purchased my 1st Nissan 350Z about 4 weeks ago! And I don' really care what you people say about it...I LOVE this car! I'm going from a '92 Lexus sc400 to this! What a transition! Just can't get enough of this car! It's winter time here and I put a jacket on and STILL ride with my top down! The BEST CAR I'VE EVER HAD!!!!

  • Alan The Prado shouldn't have the Landcruiser name attached. It isn't a Landcruiser as much as a Tacoma or 4 Runner or a FJ Cruiser. Toyota have used the Landcruiser name as a marketing exercise for years. In Australia the RAV4 even had Landcruiser attached years ago! The Toyota Landcruiser is the Landcruiser, not a tarted up Tacoma wagon.Here a GX Prado cost about $61k before on roads, this is about $41k USD. This is a 2.8 diesel 4x4 with all the off road tricky stuff, plus AC, power windows, etc. I'm wondering if Toyota will perform the Nissan Armada treatment on it and debase the Prado. The Patrol here is actually as capable and possibly more capable than the Landcruiser off road (according to some reviews). The Armada was 'muricanised and the off road ability was reduced a lot. Who ever heard of a 2 wheel drive Patrol.Does the US need the Prado? Why not. Another option to choose from built by Toyota that is overpriced and uses old tech.My sister had a Prado Grande, I didn't think much of it. It was narrow inside and not that comfortable. Her Grand Cherokee was more comfortable and now her Toureg is even more comfortable, but you can still feel the road in the seat of your pants and ears.
  • Jeffrey No tis vehicle doen't need to come to America. The market if flooded in this segment what we need are fun affordable vehicles.
  • Nrd515 I don't really see the point of annual inspections, especially when the car is under 3 years (warranty) old. Inspections should be safety related, ONLY, none of the nonsensical CA ARB rules that end up being something like, "Your air intake doesn't have an ARB sticker on it, so you have to remove it and buy one just like it that does have the ARB sticker on it!". If the car or whatever isn't puking smoke out of it, and it doesn't make your eyes water, like an old Chevy Bel-Air I was behind on Wed did, it's fine. I was stuck in traffic behind that old car, and wow, the gasoline smell was super potent. It was in nice shape, but man, it was choking me. I was amused by the 80 something old guy driving it, he even had a hat with a feather in it, THE sign of someone you don't want to be driving anywhere near you.
  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
  • ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂