2008 Nissan 350Z Enthusiast Review

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
2008 nissan 350z enthusiast review

This website has long argued that automakers should spend the majority of their resources nurturing existing autos. Introducing new models on a regular basis, constantly reinventing the wheel to follow fads and fashion, is an inherently expensive and dangerous game. Nissan's 350Z proves the point. It's a four-wheeled personification of not fixing what isn't broken. Better yet, it's a proper Nissan sports car at a price that shames the Ebay-adjusted, oversexed GT-R. Thankfully, the Z is still crazy after all these years.

Imagine an alternate universe without the 350Z. There'd be one less swoopy, sexy, sporty machine with rear wheel-drive proportions, flared fenders and that delicious dash-to-axle spread in the front fenders. Without it, the world would have to grudgingly accept the artificially sporty stylings of the Altima coupe, or the bloated bulk of Ford's latest Pony Car, as the sole-survivors of the moderately priced, steroid-injected, pure sport coupe.

Granted, the Z's doesn't offer what you'd call a harmonious design. Its bathtub'd butt, droopy nose and bubbly greenhouse are an unholy homage to the last-gen Audi TT. The Z's high beltline and afterthought door handles are sleek-aversive. Ungainly sure, a pastiche perhaps, but Nissan's two door mid-life model still looks tough sitting on its muscular wheel haunches and 18" hoops. Sealing the deal: the side profile's taut midriff.

The 350Z's interior is still heavy on the cheap bits. Thanks to a low seating position and sky-high DLO (day light opening), occupants get a face full of hard plastics with uber-texturing masquerading as quality polymers. Re-upping Z fans will continue to take refuge in the word "minimalist," and find some comfort in the fact that the ‘08 offers bottle-friendly door panel recesses. A revised latching mechanism ensures their sunglasses make it out of the dashboard.

The Z's cloth buckets (there are five trim levels) provide ample lateral support and reasonable long distance padding. The gauges signal the car's single-minded intent; a center mounted tach pushes peripheral readings aside. Even the modest electronic adjustments (including adjustable shift light) stay out of sight. Add ergonomic ancillary controls, a meaty tiller with intuitive grips at the proper 10-2 positions and Nissan's quintessential sports car's cabin is the business.

Appearances don't deceive. The 350Z makes short work of the time-space continuum. The sprint from zero to sixty takes a scant 5.3 seconds. But with 306 horses motivating a 3300 lb. frame with a host of perfectly suspended underpinnings, should we expect no less?

Cornering is flatter than a four-year-old singing the Star Spangled Banner, with an effervescent mix of accurate steering and a rigid chassis. Grocery getters hate that rear strut brace, but it's a pistonhead's best friend.

To say the Z handles well is like saying Stanley Clarke can play bass guitar. The 350Z is a hit of Return To Forever on the Hi-Fi, proving its prowess to all after the first power-on oversteer experience at full throttle. Thanks to the Enthusiast package's viscous trips on LSD (no, not that LSD), the 350Z is an absolute hoot for hoons and a credible threat on any closed course. In the right hands, of course; disabling the moderately intrusive traction control is not for fainthearted lead foots.

No question: the ride quality is punishing and tire noise prominent. But if you like to move it move it, it's a small price to pay for the balanced handling and immense grip of the 8/8.5" wide staggered rims. Now, all we need is a powertrain that's class-leading on paper and gutsy in practice. Let's put it this way: a .500 batting average isn't so bad.

Revs and gears rule the roost. Aside from the grabby clutch, the 350Z's close ratio six-speed keeps the power flowing effortlessly from standstill to license losing velocities. But full time effort on the slick shifter is mandatory, which ensures that the Z burns copious amounts of premium in its quest for fire.

No doubt, the 3.5-liter VQ-series six-pot is an engineering hallmark, making V8 levels of (peak) power with a smooth, satisfying growl above 3000 rpms. But the Infiniti G37 Coupe has a bigger, better and badder 3.7-liter variant. And the stuff of wet dreams is next door: the sister ship FX50's 5.0-liter V8 shows the true potential of Nissan's FM platform. Is a Corvette-killing Z in our future? If only.

The 350Z's singular "shortcoming" points to the new class leaders. The BMW 3's corporate six-pot now uses two turbochargers to kick performance to the next level. Even Ford is jumping on the blown bandwagon, promising to EcoBoost the (ironically sized) 3.5-liter and 3.7-liter V6 with the same hardware. So is a direct injected, turbo-charged Z car on its way? The GT-R waiting list, and the old adage about not tugging on superman's cape, says no. Everyone else says, bring it on.

Test vehicle provided by CarMax

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2 of 89 comments
  • Rtz Rtz on Aug 13, 2008

    A V8 350Z would be the ultimate. They will need it when Hyundai releases their version of this car.

  • Konaforever Konaforever on Aug 15, 2008

    I've had this car for a week and I love it so far. It doesn't quite have the same preciseness of my M3 that I had, but its quite capable, and more fun than I thought it would be.

  • Robert Levins I love the Stutz lavish luxury designs but this one has a tough time blending “Squared” off 1980’s roof line with previous decades of beautiful sweeping fenders, hoods, and deck lids. I do like this one for what it is, I admire it. I can see this model doing well with the big oil Saudis and such. If I had a lot money and wanted a”Stutz” car I would most likely not be buying this one.
  • Jkross22 Current Mazda interiors match or beat Audi. Chunky buttons, clicky knobs, big displays - pity that Mazda hasn't figured out how to boot the crappy Bose system and offer up something better. No shortage of audio companies that could help with that.
  • Skippity “Things To Watch Out For When Buying a 1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7.” A 1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7.
  • Mike Beranek Would you cross this man? No way!
  • Skippity I kinda like styling. There’s plenty of lookalike boxes on the road. Nice to see something unique.