Nissan 350Z | Auto Express

27 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Nissan 350Z | Auto Express
Nissan 350Z

Verdict

Thanks to a new V6, Nissan’s engineers have made the 350Z even hotter. Suspension and powerplant upgrades have improved the crashy ride and the once-lazy motor without spoiling the crisp handling or glorious engine note. Although Nissan could have gone further with the changes to the design, the 350Z is set to remain one of the most desirable machines in its class when it goes on sale in summer – despite the hefty price rise.

The bulge is back at Nissan – courtesy of a new-look 350Z. Inspired by the original 240Z of the Sixties, the fresh-faced coupé’s swollen bonnet is among a host of improvements which also include a more powerful engine, revised suspension and an upmarket interior.

From a distance, you’ll need to look hard to spot the cosmetic alterations, though. Aside from new alloy wheels, revised headlamps and a slightly different front bumper, it’s virtually identical to the 2006 model.

What’s important, however, is that you know the dome that’s appeared on the nose isn’t purely for show. It’s been put there in order to accommodate the latest engine.

Offering 309bhp at 6,800rpm, the HR series V6 replaces the old VQ unit. Although it’s still 3.5 litres, it’s physically bigger and delivers 19bhp and 8Nm more than its predecessor. The result is that it shaves 0.2 seconds off the current Nissan’s 0-60mph sprint.

That might not sound much, but when we climbed behind the wheel, we soon realised these changes have made a big impact on the car’s character. Fire up the engine, and the powerplant spins eagerly into life. The exhaust note is deeper than before, and sounds more purposeful.

Once on the road, it’s immediately clear how freely the V6 spins to its 7,500rpm red line. It’s an improve-ment over the outgoing motor, which was strong in the lower to mid-ranges, but felt breathless as speed increased. And there’s more good news for keen drivers.

The suspension set-up keeps the Z’s steering as precise and turn-in as sharp as it’s always been, but the previously firm ride is considerably better, without the handling having been compromised.

As a result, the cabin feels more insulated against the effects of potholes and other imperfections in the road surface. And, even with new 18-inch alloy wheels, we found that travelling long distances was considerably more comfortable.

Push the Nissan hard, and the crisp, responsive steering is as reassuring as ever. And if you head into a corner too quickly, the car will understeer before the traction control helps to pull everything smoothly back into line. Switch the system off, and it’s possible to use the extra torque to cause the car to tighten its line as it begins to oversteer.

On winding roads, you’ll want to use every last ounce of the engine’s potential, simply so that you can feast on the power and sound rush.

Nissan 350Z

The improvements don’t stop there. To help keep the Z legend alive, Nissan has also smartened up the interior, fitting a new centre console and more comfortable sports seats. And there are slightly revised Brembo brakes which, with four-piston calipers, offer not only tremendous stopping power, but also plenty of feel and adjustability.

The only downside is that none of this is going to come cheap. The Japanese firm has already hinted that the latest model will be at least £1,000 more than the outgoing car, taking this 350Z to £26,500, with GT versions costing nearly £30,000.

However, that is unlikely to stop the Nissan’s charge to the top of the class. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Z has proved a major global success for the manufacturer, with more than 200,000 customers happy to park one on their driveways.

The newcomer seems sure to add to that number. And with the legendary Z badge celebrating its 37th anniversary this year, the future for one of Japan’s best-loved sports car dynasties has never looked brighter.

Key specs

Old VQ motor has been replaced with stronger, more free-revving HR series V6. A strut brace straddles the engine, adding rigidity to body.

* Price: From £26,500 (est)

Nissan 350Z
Nissan 350Z
Nissan 350Z
Nissan 350Z
Nissan 350Z
Nissan 350Z
Nissan 350Z
Nissan 350Z
Nissan 350Z
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