2009 Nissan 350Z Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 3, 2009

Amazing V-6 power and rear-drive handling keep the 2009 Nissan 350Z convertible rooted in sportscar basics and fun.

TheCarConnection.com's sportscar editors drove the new 350Z in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's enthusiasts researched available road tests on the new 350Z to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other car reviews might differ.

The Nissan 350Z returns for 2009 largely unchanged from its 2008 form, though now only offered as a convertible. The coupe has been redesigned for '09 as the 370Z, which will spur a redesigned convertible for next year. The sporty roadster is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 306 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque.

Nissan has drawn sharp lines and smoothly rounded curves that echo older Z-cars only a little. Where the Audi TT and Ford Mustang steer toward retro themes, the style of the Nissan 350Z is totally modern.

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The interior of the 350Z has been upgraded since its introduction in 2003; the plastics are more lavish, but all the basics remain. Inside the 350Z, Nissan lets the controls do the talking.

The 2009 Nissan 350Z puts power to the ground through a 3.5-liter V-6 and a choice of either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is a respectable 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) and a top speed hovering around the 150-mph mark for both models. 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.

These attributes are especially enjoyable with the top down. The 350Z employs a power-operated soft top, and wind buffeting is quite good, but with the top up, the experience is more claustrophobic and visibility is hampered.

Crash ratings from the NHTSA are mostly four stars, save for five stars for passenger side impact. Anti-lock brakes are standard across the line, with front-side and side-curtain airbags.

A navigation system, a choice of satellite radio systems, and an Aerodynamics Package are optional, while 18-inch wheels and tires are standard, as is a speed-sensitive power steering system.

9

2009 Nissan 350Z

Styling

The styling of the 2009 Nissan 350Z is true sportscar inside and out.

According to road tests studied by TheCarConnection.com, the 2009 Nissan 350Z gets great reviews for its edgy styling,

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.”

The 2009 350Z roadster draws some criticism for its shape. Car and Driver says, “the rear flanks are gorgeous,” but “the rectangular backup-light cluster and the front grille don't fit.” Automedia notes that “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 that “no one would know I was driving this new, vastly improved 350Z instead of one from last year or five years ago.”

The interior design of the 2009 350Z is largely unchanged from 2003, but its interior finishes are greatly improved. Edmunds appreciates how “all of the controls a driver might need are close at hand.” 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.”

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2009 Nissan 350Z

Performance

The 2009 Nissan 350Z performs at the levels of high-end sportscars without the high-end price.

TheCarConnection.com found the 2009 Nissan 350Z to be one of the top-performing sportscars available.

"With its short shift throws, linear throttle response, excellent torque, excellent steering, and excellent ride and handling responses, this car totally books,” says Car and Driver.

The 2009 Nissan 350Z comes equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that delivers 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.”

Edmunds says, “Although the automatic transmission matches revs on downshifts, 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.

The 2009 Nissan 350Z’s handling 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 reports “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 that “not only is the Z swift in a straight line and around corners, but it is effortlessly so.”

According to Car and Driver, “The shifter is precise and accurate, with a direct mechanical feel. 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.”

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2009 Nissan 350Z

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Nissan 350Z is built for reasonably comfortable speed, though at the expense of luggage space and interior noise.

The 2009 Nissan 350Z doesn’t fit a lot of stuff, but it’s comfortable for two occupants.

Car and Driver says, “Interior space is plentiful for humans but less so for their trinkets and belongings.” A rear suspension brace “compromises valuable luggage space,” Edmunds notes. 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.

The 2009 Nissan 350Z 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. As MyRide.com says, "In relation to other high-performance coupes, the 350Z…is actually quite inviting."

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

According to a wide range of reviews, the driving position of the 2009 350Z is exceptional. “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.”

Reviewers didn't have many kind words for the interior materials. 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.” Edmunds says, “All of the controls a driver might need are close at hand. But some of the materials used in the cockpit seem low-grade for this price range.”

Consumer Guide 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." 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. TheCarConnection.com comments that the convertible's soft top doesn't provide much isolation from road and engine noise—proving a weak point for those who plan to do some freeway cruising.

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2009 Nissan 350Z

Safety

No standard stability control and difficult visibility hampers an otherwise positive safety impression for the 2009 Nissan 350Z.

The 2009 Nissan 350Z offers a variety of standard safety features while earning good crash-test scores.

The 2009 Nissan 350Z earned a five-star rating for passenger side impact, and mostly four stars for front and side impacts in crash ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Standard across the 2009 Nissan 350Z lineup are anti-lock brakes and tire pressure monitors, with front-side and side-curtain airbags also standard on the coupe. Side airbags are standard on the roadster.

Stability control is standard on only the Grand Touring model with a standard transmission, Cars.com reports. The 2009 Nissan 350Z’s shape does cause some problems with visibility. “Around town, rearward visibility is poor,” according to Edmunds—an observation that TheCarConnection.com confirms is a frustration with the convertible top up during parallel parking or gridlocked city driving.

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2009 Nissan 350Z

Features

The options list is limited, so it's up to shoppers to choose the trim level of the 2009 Nissan 350Z that best suits them.

The 2009 Nissan 350Z offers some unexpected options for a sportscar along with a lengthy list of standard features.

The Enthusiast model is now the base model and has bi-xenon headlamps, automatic climate control, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a limited-slip rear differential, and power seats. The convertible top has a glass window, and it lowers or rises in 20 seconds, sources note.

Nissan 350Z a la carte options and packages include 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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Styling 9
Performance 9
Comfort & Quality 6
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Features 9
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