In the early 1970s, Nissan’s Z-cars turned the sports car world on its ear, and in the half century since, these two- (or sometimes four) seaters have offered driving junkies six-cylinder power and rear-drive fun at a reasonable price. For a brief period, however, as the 1990s turned into the new millennium, we didn’t have a Z-car here in America. The 300ZX, which had grown more complex and more expensive, left the U.S. market after 1996. It lingered on in Japan for a few years, but we had to wait until the 2003 model year for a fifth generation Z. Dark times, indeed.
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Looks like someone here read my comment about the 350Z on last week's post about cars of the 2000s. 😉 The 350Z was at least a full generation ahead of the Camaro and Mustang when it came out, but Carlos Ghosn pulling all the money out of premium platforms at Nissan meant the Z has languished on the market. Yes, I see the contrarians who delight in the Z being a throwback that you can buy new, but to me, it's today's late C3 Corvette. Go buy a V6 Camaro 1LE instead.
If you're interested in a 350Z, or its sister, the Infiniti G, you should buy one now before they all get ruined like the S13s and EK Civics. The most reckless and tasteless drivers on the road have also discovered the virtues of the heavily-depreciated 350Z. 350Zs, not subprime silver Rogues, are the worst-driven cars on the road in my area today. These are the sort of drivers that shoot for the tiniest gap in traffic like they're Ayrton Senna, think that constantly changing lanes will get you to your destination faster, and seriously speed on roads that see lots of pedestrians.
And the modifications make these cars rolling pimples. Every time I hear a straight-piped VQ, I yearn for the Folgers can muffler sound of a modded Civic. They're on big rims from the local wheel shop that accepts weekly payments, and because of that, the tires are so bad that even Senna himself would struggle to drive these Zs fast in the wet. Finally, there's the cheap LED headlights, which blind everyone else on the road because these cheap LEDs are not designed to be put into reflector housings.
For what it's worth, the 4-door Infiniti Gs have mostly escaped the gaze of the yobbos if you want a car on this platform, but don't want to be associated with the Z's image.
Just one correction: as the owner of a "pre-ordered" 2003 Performance model (454th Z produced,) I can say with certainty it did NOT come with a rear spoiler and front air dam. I'd have to look at the sales literature I have, but I'm pretty sure Brembo brakes were not optional, either. They were available only on the track model.
My 08 350Z base was a decent car. I bought it new in January of 08 to replace my stolen STI. I think I paid $28K out the door. At the time it was probably the best bang for buck and it came with a great shifting 6 speed manual. Decent performance and handling but the interior plastic was indeed crap and cheap looking. I traded it for my wife's Tribeca in 2012.
Two corrections- in 2003, everything except for base had a limited slip differential. Also, performance, touring and track models added Vehcile Dynamics Control which was inclusive of traction control. I pre-ordered my 350Z Performance in Jan 2002, and took delivery in September of that year. Still have it and love it!