2008 Nissan 350Z Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2008

The 2008 Nissan 350Z returns to its roots, with amazing V-6 power and rear-drive handling.

TheCarConnection.com's editors researched a wide range of road tests of the 2008 Nissan 350Z to write this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com's resident experts also drove the Nissan 350Z to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, to add more impressions and details, and to provide you with the best information.

The 2008 Nissan 350Z is an elemental sportscar with rear-wheel drive, a choice of coupe and roadster body styles, seating for two, and a big V-6 engine producing more than 300 horsepower.

The style of the Nissan 350Z is modern. The Audi TT and Ford Mustang steer toward retro themes; with the 350Z, Nissan has drawn sharp lines and smoothly rounded curves that echo older Z-cars only a little. Inside the 350Z, Nissan lets the controls do the talking--there's little extra trim, though the interior has been warmed up a bit since the 350Z bowed in 2003. The plastics feel a tad ritzier, but all the basics remain as before.

All 2008 Nissan 350Zs blast out power through Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6, which produces 306 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. Different models offer a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmissions. Fuel economy is a decent 18/25 mpg with the manual gearbox and 17/23 mpg with the automatic. The 350Z's 0-60 time is about 5.6 seconds for the manual (6.0 seconds for the automatic), with a top speed hovering around the 150-mph mark for both. Top-class dynamics, blistering speed, and undiluted driving pleasure are standard equipment; the Nissan 350Z has scalpel-sharp steering, a meaty gear change, an amazing exhaust rasp, and big brakes.
Anti-lock brakes are standard across the line, with front-side and side-curtain airbags. Crash ratings from the NHTSA are mostly four stars, save for five stars for passenger side impact.

Review continues below

Eighteen-inch wheels and tires are standard, as is a speed-sensitive power steering system. A navigation system, a choice of satellite radio systems, and an Aerodynamics Package are optional.

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2008 Nissan 350Z

Styling

The 2008 Nissan 350Z has the look of a real sportscar—one in a modern vein.

The 2008 Nissan 350Z gets great reviews from around the Web for its edgy styling, according to road tests studied by TheCarConnection.com.

Available as a coupe or a roadster, the style of the Nissan 350Z is modern, drawn in sharp lines and smoothly rounded curves that echo older Datsun Z-cars only a little. Edmunds says, “the car's styling still looks fresh, even though the current-generation Z debuted for 2003,” while Automobile points out that inside the 350Z, Nissan’s “most obvious Z genes are the sweeping lines extending from the roof to the hatch opening and the shape of the little rear windows behind the doors.” Their favorite detail? The “unique vertical door handles, which feel great to the hand.”

Some light criticism surrounds the 2008 Nissan 350Z’s shape, coupe or roadster. Car and Driver thinks “the rear flanks are gorgeous,” but “the rectangular backup-light cluster and the front grille don't fit.”
Automedia says, “like every roadster, the 350Z looks un-interesting with the top up,” but it “turns into a beautiful open-top 2-seat sports car.” Cars.com complains “no one would know I was driving this new, vastly improved 350Z instead of one from last year or five years ago.”

The 2008 Nissan 350Z’s interior has been improved since 2003 with better finishes, but the design is much the same as in 2003. Car and Driver points out that “the three instruments that are angled toward the driver atop the dash recall the original 240Z's interior.” Automobile sees the same effect: “the three gauge pods clearly evoke the 240Z,” while “the very high beltline and short window height bring to mind the Audi TT, as do the aluminum accents.” Edmunds appreciates how “all of the controls a driver might need are close at hand.” Automedia notices details meant to evoke true race cars: the “brake and dead pedals are all aluminum faced to add racecar cue” and “smaller gauges for oil pressure, volts and an LED readout.”

MyRide.com observes that special NISMO editions of the 2008 Nissan 350Z have "conspicuous aero kit and low-profile tires."

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2008 Nissan 350Z

Performance

Overall, the 2008 Nissan 350Z is exactly what it was intended to be: a car that accomplishes the performance levels of high-end sportscars without the hefty price tag.

The 2008 Nissan 350Z is one of the top-performing cars reviewed by TheCarConnection.com.

Car and Driver sums up the 2008 Nissan 350Z neatly: "With its short shift throws, linear throttle response, excellent torque, excellent steering, and excellent ride and handling responses, this car totally books."

Piece by piece, the 2008 Nissan 350Z builds its sportscar credentials. It ¬¬comes with a sole engine and a choice of manual and automatic transmissions. It comes equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that puts out a whopping 306 hp and 268 pound-feet of torque. “Combined with a six-speed manual transmission for more fun and control when driving,” Car and Driver goes on, “the engine starts out strong with massive acceleration, completing the 0-60 mph test in a mere 5.4 seconds.” That kind of performance is “essentially the same performance as a Porsche Boxster S, which has a base price of more than 50 grand.”

“Although the automatic transmission matches revs on downshifts,” Edmunds says, “a manual transmission brings out the most in the 350Z. Nissan’s six-speed's shifter feels heavy through the gates, but it's fairly precise and clutch take-up is smooth (if not stiff).” TheCarConnection.com notes that fuel economy is a decent 18/25 mpg with the manual gearbox and 17/23 mpg with the automatic.

Enthusiasts laud the handling of the Nissan 350Z; 2008’s edition is tight around curves and maintains excellent road and steering feel, even at high speeds. As MyRide.com puts it, the car "hugs tighter than your grandma on Christmas morning and attacks challenging curves with zeal." Cars.com writes that “the 350Z's most impressive driving characteristic had to be the sure-footed paths it carved on winding roads and steep highway onramps.” And Car and Driver says, “not only is the Z swift in a straight line and around corners, but it is effortlessly so.”

Much of the appeal lies in a simple, uncomplicated feel from the 2008 Nissan 350Z. “The shifter is precise and accurate, with a direct mechanical feel,” Car and Driver says. “The brakes are firm, proportional, and easy to feather on and off. And the pedals are perfectly arrayed for heel-and-toe shifting. Most important, the steering is direct, linear, and beautifully weighted.” Edmunds points out that with the "track-tuned NISMO version of the 350Z,” Nissan has dialed in “the sharpest reflexes of the Z-car family, though its excessive road noise and predisposition toward freeway hop make it unsuitable as a daily driver.”

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2008 Nissan 350Z

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Nissan 350Z carries two comfortably—as long as they don’t have too much baggage.

Reviewers from around the Web found reasonable comfort for two people inside the 2008 Nissan 350Z, but less for their stuff.

As MyRide.com says, "In relation to other high-performance coupes, the 350Z…is actually quite inviting." It provides quite a bit of headroom and legroom even for tall passengers. Most of the interior is padded, including the armrests, which is helpful for those passengers riding with a driver looking to get the most out of the performance of this little sportscar. Even the center console is padded to protect the knees during sharp turns.

The gauges and controls are clearly marked and typically easily accessible, although ConsumerGuide believes that in the 350Z, Nissan’s “audio buttons are a bit undersized to operate easily while driving."

The 2008 Nissan 350Z’s driving position is excellent, according to a wide range of reviews. “Excellent seats” are “supportive and well shaped, with plenty of lateral support,” Car and Driver says. They’re complemented by an “instrument cluster that moves up and down with the steering wheel when you adjust its height.” Automedia adds that “all switches, dials and buttons are within easy reach and illuminated for safe nighttime driving.”

Storage is where the 2008 Nissan 350Z cuts corners. “Interior space is plentiful for humans but less so for their trinkets and belongings,” Car and Driver says. A rear suspension brace “compromises valuable luggage space,” Edmunds finds. Cars.com finds the opposite; the “cargo area is surprisingly large, though, fitting suitcases and a fair amount of grocery bags easily,” but “the large strut-tower brace that runs across the back makes it hard to fit things like golf clubs back there.” Although there isn't a glove box in the 350Z Nissan, there is a lockable floor box for storing valuables, as well as a lockable box on the dashboard and a partial overhead console with storage space.

“All of the controls a driver might need are close at hand,” Edmunds says. “But some of the materials used in the cockpit seem low-grade for this price range.” Automedia agrees that inside the 350Z, Nissan’s “sparse styling” comprises some less inviting plastics, while Car and Driver believes it’s “not fabricated from lavish materials.” Cars.com, on the other hand, thinks “all the tactile areas…were nicely finished for the price.”

With the 350Z's powerful engine, there is quite a bit of noise on the highway, which will please performance enthusiasts and annoy road-trippers. This noise increases in the convertible edition. As ConsumerGuide notes, "The engine and exhaust note are fitting of the 350Z's sporty intentions, but some of our testers find them tiresome after long drives."

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2008 Nissan 350Z

Safety

The 2008 Nissan 350Z gets good crash test ratings, but stability control is an option.

The 2008 Nissan 350Z earns good crash test scores and has a fairly solid array of standard safety equipment.

Crash ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are mostly four stars for front and side impacts in the 350Z; Nissan does get a five-star rating for passenger side impact.

Anti-lock brakes and tire pressure monitors are standard across the 2008 Nissan 350Z lineup, with front-side and side-curtain airbags also standard on the coupe. Side airbags are standard on the roadster.

Stability control is available on the 350Z; Nissan only makes it standard on the Grand Touring model with a standard transmission, Cars.com reports.

The 2008 Nissan 350Z’s shape does cause some problems with visibility. “Around town, rearward visibility is poor,” according to Edmunds.

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2008 Nissan 350Z

Features

In the 350Z, Nissan offers some features that would be right at home in a luxury vehicle.

With the 350Z, Nissan offers a lengthy list of standard features, as well as some unexpected options for a sportscar.

As MyRide.com points out, you can buy this little sportster in "Base, Enthusiast, Touring, and Grand Touring." And to add even more options, the Enthusiast, Touring, and Grand Touring models of the 350Z Nissan are available on the convertible as well.

Edmunds says that “base coupes come with 18-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, automatic climate control, full power accessories and a CD/MP3 player with steering-wheel controls. Going with an Enthusiast model adds cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a limited-slip rear differential. The roadster version includes a power-operated soft top and power seats.” The convertible top has a glass window and lowers or raises in 20 seconds, sources noted.

The souped-up NISMO removes some luxury features from the 350Z; Nissan instead installs firmer springs and shock absorbers, some aerodynamic body pieces, red and black cloth seats, and a plaque inside the car.

Among the many options available, in packages as well as a la carte, you will find a tuned exhaust system, an upgraded sound system with six speakers, illuminated driver and passenger vanity mirrors, lightweight wheels, a navigation system, a choice of satellite radio systems, and an Aerodynamics Package. Bluetooth is standard on some models.

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