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Review 2003 Nissan 350Z Touring

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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide


    Of all of the new Nissan products, none symbolizes Nissan's 
renaissance better than the 2003 350Z. The demise of the 300ZX 
after 1996 was nearly followed by the demise of Nissan itself. But 
aggressive restructuring of its business and a number of impressive 
new vehicles have made Nissan into the comeback kid of the auto 
industry. When Nissan first showed the Z Concept car on the auto 
show circuit in 1999, hopes were high that it would end up in 
    It did, and it's here. The 2003 350Z is the closest of all of the Z 
cars to the original 1970 240Z in intent and value, eschewing the 
luxury opulence of later 300ZXes for an emphasis on performance 
in style, and at a seriously competitive price.
    The 350Z, like its cousins the Infiniti G35 and Nissan Skyline, is 
built on Nissan's FM platform. ``FM'' stands for ``front-midship,'' 
denoting an engine position mostly rearwards of the front axle line 
for optimum weight distribution. A relatively long wheelbase and 
wide track help ensure stable handling and give interior room. If the 
350's namesake 287-horsepower V6 is less powerful than the last of 
the 300 turbos, it's still the most potent naturally-aspirated Z engine 
so far. 
    There are several different variations on the 350Z theme. The 
lineup starts with a very attractively-priced base model. Slightly 
more money gives useful equipment like traction control and a 
limited-slip differential in the Enthusiast model. The Performance 
version adds stability control and more, while the Touring model is 
set up for the luxury life in the fast lane. Then there is the Track 
version, with near competition-spec Brembo brakes and other 
enhancements to make autocrossers and showroom stock racers 
smile. A convertible will soon be available.
    Typically of press fleet vehicles, the Z I spent a recent week with 
was a fully-equipped Touring model. While it was far more 
comfortable than the 280Z a college roommate had, it was still all 
muscle, with no flab. I've spent time in examples of all Z 
generations, and this one is the best. It has the soul of the first 
generation Z, with all of the appointments and safety equipment 
expected in a modern sports car. 

APPEARANCE: There is no doubt that the Nissan 350Z is a sports 
car, and a serious one at that. Like the old 240Z, today's 350Z has 
styling that could be called derivative in details, but it comes 
together as a cohesive, unique, and very identifiable shape. There is 
a well-defined front face, made from the distinctive large headlights, 
wide rectangular grille, and prominent Nissan logo. Body lines are a 
great combination of rounded forms and sharp edges, with simple 
sides and a high shoulder line. Squint a little, and the proportions 
suggest the original 240. Character lines incised into the rocker 
panels suggest aero-kit sills. Look at the passenger cabin from just 
the right angle (above and slightly to the rear), and you can see 
hints of the last-generation 300ZX. At the rear, a small ducktail 
spoiler and large triangular taillights are the highlights.

COMFORT: Nissan has achieved the perfect balance between 
sports and luxury inside of the new Z, making it a true Grand 
Touring car. ``Sport'' dominates, but comfort is not at all forgotten. 
The design is ultra-contemporary, with modern shapes, colors, and 
materials. The main instrument cluster has an aircraft-like design 
and tilts with the steering wheel, for improved visibility. The 
driver's seat is slightly different from the passenger seat, reflecting 
its different purpose. Both are extremely comfortable, with good 
support. First-rate climate control and heated leather seats (in the 
Touring model) add comfort; minimal cupholders and the lack of a 
glove box hint that this is a car for driving, not a mobile restaurant. 
There is lockable storage behind the passenger seat, and the 
hatchback body allows reasonable luggage capacity and ease of 

SAFETY: The 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 

ROADABILITY: The new Z's long wheelbase and wide track may 
increase interior space, but the real purpose of those design 
parameters is handling. And, while the styling catches the eye, the 
body shape was developed with careful attention to aerodynamics, 
especially oft-neglected underbody airflow. The result is high-speed 
stability without need for garish spoilers. The rigid FM platform 
provides solid anchorage for an innovative front and multilink rear 
suspension, which make extensive use of lightweight aluminum 
parts for lower unsprung weight and consequent improved 
handling. The ride is sports car firm, but not harsh because of good 
damping. The Z is a ``Grand Touring'' car in the original sense of 
the term, appropriate for fast roadwork and long distances. Thanks 
to El Nino, my week with the 350Z saw an incredible amount of 
rain. Even in torrential downpours, the Z tracked true. When it 
dried out, the real fun began.

PERFORMANCE: In power as in handling, ``balance'' is the 
operative word. Its high-tech 3.5-liter V6, with 287 horsepower at 
6200 rpm and 274 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm, is perfectly matched 
with its chassis design and tuning for great real-world performance. 
If it doesn't have the thrusting torque and bellow of a large V8, the 
Z's high-tech V6 has smooth power and a classic six-cylinder 
sound, more than slightly reminiscent of the 240Z but far more 
modern in smoothness and responsiveness. The standard six-speed 
manual gearbox has well-chosen ratios and excellent linkage, all the 
better to make driving enjoyable.

CONCLUSIONS: Nissan's back, and nothing shows this better than 
the new 350Z.

2003 Nissan 350Z Touring

Base Price			$ 33,179
Price As Tested		        $ 33,719
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 24-valve V6 with 
                                 continuously-variable valve timing
Engine Size			3.5 liters / 213 cu. in.
Horsepower			287 @ 6200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			274 @ 4800 rpm
Transmission			6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		104.3 in. / 169.6 in.
Curb Weight			3,247 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	        11.3
Fuel Capacity			n/a gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane premium unleaded
Tires				Front: 225/45 WR18, rear: 245/45 
WR18 Bridgestone Potenza RE 040
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc, antilock,
                                 brake assist, electronic brake force
                                 distribution and vehicle dynamic
                                 control standard on Touring model
Suspension, front/rear		independent multilink with aluminum 
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 26 / 22
0 to 60 mph				5.4  sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)		0.30

Destination charge			$ 540