2003 Nissan 350Z Photo
Quick Take
WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. – When does a horsepower begin to whop? Somewhere on the loopy... Read more »
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WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. – When does a horsepower begin to whop? Somewhere on the loopy, traffic-infested back roads of near upstate New York -- where Bill Clinton’s a local at the Dunk and Dine -- the eternal Zen question of sportscars arose and fell with a few turns of a steering wheel.

Somewhere in the ex-presidential existential maw, it occurred to me that, in Nissan’s view, every car should have the potential to whop. It’s certainly the case with the new 350Z, which sports a whopping 287 horsepower, hence the cliché. Sure, it’s yet another iteration of the V-6 engine that’s decorated many a new Nissan from the Altima to the Maxima. Don’t quote us on it, but we’re pretty sure this powerplant was also used to power President Bush’s win in Florida.

 The 350Z is starkly different from the old Nissan vehicles still plodding around behind that gem of an engine. Wrapped in a loving two-door, two-seat body and set upon the sophisticated FM platform shared with Infiniti’s G35 sedan, the 350Z gives enthusiasts reason to believe that not every vehicle need be a truck, sport-ute, or watered-down crossover. It is the laser target that enthusiasts want to see aimed at their foreheads.

Long time brewing

The last Z – the 300ZX, an all-time favorite among enthusiasts and brake shops – drifted off into euthanasia in 1996, as much a victim of its own excess (price mostly, but weight too) as the struggle to right the listing Nissan ship. It wasn’t until the past three years that Renault’s Carlos Ghosn helped right the company’s finances with a major injection of capital and cost-cutting bravado.

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