2007 Nissan 350Z Grand Touring Coupe Review


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2007 Nissan 350Z

SEE ALSO: 2007 Nissan 350Z Specs - Nissan New Car Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2007 Nissan 350Z Grand Touring Coupe

The 2007 350Z, the newest iteration of Nissan's iconic "Z-Car", got its first revisions last year, with the usual minor interior and exterior changes and readjustments to the model lineup for both coupe and convertible body styles. Horsepower was also increased for manual-transmission cars, to an even 300, while automatics remained at 287.

Little unusual there, and enough was done so than many other manufacturers would leave well enough alone for the next model year. Nissan may have once been one of those, but no longer - the 350Z gets yet more, and more significant, improvements for 2007.

Most apparent is a new hood, upon which the twin cutlines that are hallmarks of recent Nissan styling have been replaced by a serious power bulge. Less apparent from the outside, but readily noticeable and notable once the car is fired up, is a new engine under that hood. All trim levels of both the coupe and convertible get the newest development of Nissan's VQ-series V6, with 306 horsepower from its 3.5 liters, matched to a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. There are also new color choices, more interior detail improvements including Bluetooth¨ hands-free phone connection in top models, and, for the coupe, a revised model lineup. The base, Enthusiast, Touring, and Grand Touring models continue as before, but the Track model is missing.

Perhaps that's not all that surprising. The Track was offered only in coupe form; the Grand Touring model debuted last year in both coupe and convertible body styles. It added the Track model's larger wheels and tires, Brembo brake package, and underbody aerodynamic performance upgrades to the Touring version's heated leather seats and Bose¨ audio system to give it the classic Grand Touring essence - performance plus near-luxury comfort. The traction control system and a viscous limited-slip differential as well as some comfort and convenience upgrades that define the Enthusiast model are carried over to the Touring and Grand Touring models.

The arrival of a new 2007 350Z Grand Touring Coupe in my driveway coincided with the arrival of warm, sunny Spring weather, so the past week has been absolutely wonderful. The new engine has made the Z quicker and better than ever, and also a little more efficient if care is taken with the throttle. Even in Grand Touring trim the 350Z is fit and muscular, with no fat. It's comfortable enough for daily use, year-round outside of the snow belt, and, considering its performance potential, is a fine value. With the 2007 350Z models, Nissan has made a great car even better, yet again.

APPEARANCE: Sometimes a small change makes more than a small difference. The Z's new aluminum hood replaces the previous cutlines with a flat-topped bulge that looks like a smaller version of something found on a drag racing Funny Car. It's not luridly oversized; on the other hand, it's not particularly subtle, either, and gets the message across very clearly. Do not doubt that there is power underneath. The twin-slat grille and high-intensity headlights that debuted last year carry over, as to the LED taillights. Four years after it introduction, the 350Z coupe's shape, with a flat front, short overhangs, and a small triangular fastback passenger cabin perched atop a simply-shaped body with prominent wheel arches is wearing very well.

COMFORT: A Grand Touring sports car provides comfortable accommodation for two, plus reasonable, if not excessive, luggage capacity. The Z coupe obliges nicely. Yes, there is a higher interior noise level than in a sports sedan, but the sounds are less "noise" (unwanted and bothersome) than music to an enthusiast's ears - engine, driveline, and road sounds that let the savvy driver stay in touch with the car and the road. After getting revisions to interior styling and instruments and controls, changes for 2007 are limited to Bluetooth cell phone connectivity in the Touring and Grand Touring models. No complaints there, as the Z makes good if slightly idiosyncratic use of available space. There is no standard glovebox - but several compartments in the half-height rear bulkhead take its place, including small ones for registration documents and other small items and a large locking space behind the passenger seat. An optional backpack-like seatback organizer also provides storage. The cockpit is designed with performance driving in mind, with excellent instrument and control positions. As always, the instrument cluster is mounted on the steering column and tilts with steering wheel adjustment, for improved visibility. The steering wheel rim is thick and leather-covered, for a good grip. The shift knob is perfectly placed, and the positive, short-throw shift linkage makes shifting a joy. Each seat is slightly different, with the driver getting a little more support and, in the Touring and Grand Touring models, power adjustment. The coupe's hatchback body makes maximum use of luggage space, and the hatch design hides items in the trunk from prying eyes.

SAFETY: The 2007 350Z's ``Zone Body'' construction incorporates front and rear crush zones and a central safety structure. Dual stage front airbags are standard, with side-impact and side-curtain bags available. Touring and Grand Touring models also have traction control as well as the Vehicle Dynamic Control system .

RIDE AND HANDLING: Nissan's FM chassis, the basis of the 350Z's chassis, is strong and rigid, for safety and to provide a precise base for its aluminum-intensive fully-independent strut-type suspension. Integral strut tower braces front and rear, and the rear cockpit bulkhead further improve chassis rigidity. Spring and shock rates are very firm, but balanced and not harsh. Steering and brake efforts are appropriately high. Speed-sensitive variable assistance power steering means that it's not an upper body workout to park with the Grand Touring's monster 245/40 WR18 front, 265/40WR19 rear tires, and that the car is stable at speed. There is no lack of traction for excellent acceleration, cornering, and braking ability. All Zs have four-wheel vented antilock disc brakes, but Grand Touring model gets Brembos, which grip larger discs with four-piston front and twin-piston rear calipers. The Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires grip very well on dry pavement, and are relatively stable (for high-performance dry tires) in the wet.

PERFORMANCE: The VQ35DE is gone, replaced by the VQ35HR. More than two letters have changed. Approximately 80 percent of the parts are new, highlighted by a new, stronger block design (still in aluminum alloy), larger bearing areas, variable exhaust cam phasing, a higher compression ratio, and a new symmetric twin-intake ram-air system. Results? A higher redline, 7500 rpm to the DE's 7000, and a little more peak power, 306 horsepower at 6800 rpm versus 300 at 6400. Torque improves from 260 lb-ft to 268 at 4800 rpm, but most importantly, 90 percent of that is available from 2000 through 7000 rpm. That means smooth, linear, strong, predictable power delivery, with a healthy midrange and no fade at the top. The electronic rev-limiter is a good thing.... The 3.5-liter twin-cam, 24-valve V6 is connected to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, and from there to the rear wheels through a carbon-fiber reinforced driveshaft. My test car had the six-speed. With its close lower ratios and slick linkage, it was the perfect choice. The new engine's broad torque spread should significantly improve performance with the optional five-speed automatic, which features paddleshift manual mode and rev-matching downshifting. EPA fuel economy at 20/27, is slightly improved from last year's 19/25, but enjoyment of the upper rev range and the engine's lovely music on secondary roads left me emptying the tank at the rate of 17 miles for each of its 20 gallons. If you're gonna play, you're gonna pay, but it was great fun while it lasted!

CONCLUSIONS: Nissan keeps on improving its 350Z sports car.

SPECIFICATIONS

2007 Nissan 350Z Grand Touring Coupe
Base Price			$ 36,100
Price As Tested			$ 39,985
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dual overhead cam
				 24-valve V6 with variable cam phasing
Engine Size			3.5 liters / 213 cu. in.
Horsepower			306 @ 6800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			268 @ 4800 rpm
Transmission			6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		104.3 in. / 169.8 in.
Curb Weight			3404 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		11.1
Fuel Capacity			20 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
Tires				Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
				F: 245/40 WR18  R 265/40 WR19
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc with 4-piston calipers /
				 vented disc with 2-piston calipers,
				 ABS, BA, EBD standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent multi-link strut
				 front and rear
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 27 / 17
0 to 60 mph				5.2  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Solar Orange paint				$ 500
Carpeted floor mats				$  90
Cargo convenience package - includes:
  cargo net and seatback organizer		$   80
Aluminum kick plate				$  110
Side and curtain air bags - includes:
  seat-mounted side-impact air bags, 
  roof-mounted side-curtain air bags		$   620
Carpeted trunk mat				$    70
Nissan navigation system			$ 1,800
Destination charge				$   615

Complete specifications on the 2007 Nissan 350Z Coupe Grand Touring and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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