It’s almost time to share with you how the new 2023 Nissan Z drives, so we thought it would be wise to take a step back in Z’s recent history with this week’s used vehicle spotlight. The Nissan 350Z was built from the 2003-2008 model year, and paved the way for the Z to become a modern sports coupe.
A few years after the 300ZX lay down, the 350Z takes on a bodystyle that we can still see in today’s brand-new Z. Its shape resembles that of the original 240Z, and the layout is just as enthusiastic-friendly. The rear-drive, front-engine two-door coupe has a short deck shape with a long hood, a long wheelbase and a small cabin. It’s a two-seater, and although it has a hatchback, the cargo area isn’t particularly spacious.
When it was new, Nissan tried to make the 350Z an affordable and fun sports car experience. It features a 3.5-liter V6 that produces a stiff 287 horsepower and 274 pound-feet of torque. From some perspectives, the 2003 Ford Mustang GT produced 260 horsepower with its 4.6-liter V8 – yes, Z was packing some serious power for 2003.
Today, the 350Z is a deserving sports coupe for those looking for energy and performance on a budget. You can get it with a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. The in-cabin experience is basic, but it’s likely to be the best, since car technology hasn’t been particularly good since the mid-2000s. The 53/47 weight distribution gives Z a nice balance. Also, its VQ (Nissan Engine Code) engine is a well-known and widely used motor, so there are plenty of sources that you can go if you run into problems.
A 350Z Roadstar Model Z was made available from the second model of the year (2004), so you can get one without a roof if you want. When the Z came out it got a lot of favorable reviews. It provides plenty of performance with a stylish look and it was affordable to boot.
Fans of the Nissan Super will also enjoy the availability of a Nismo model that was launched after the 350Z’s run. There is a wealth of aftermarket support for frequent track days, but Nismo will be your best starting point for having fun on track days.
Which Nissan 350Z should I choose?
The most coveted 350Zs are the post-refresh models, which add strength and much more improvement. The 2006 model year is the first for the refreshed 350Z, which means the 2006-2008 models are going to cost more than your 2003-2005 350Zs. If you pony up for the updated Z, you’ll enjoy a modified 3.5-liter V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque (yes, reduced torque). However, the automatic 350Z still had the previous engine, rated at 287 horsepower and 274 pound-feet of torque.
Other updates include a modified front end, new taillights, a modified interior, new power steering system (Speed Sensitive), new drive-by-wire throttle, larger brakes, three new colors, and available ray wheel wheels.
Several different trim levels of the 350Z were available, including Base, Enthusiast, Turing, Track and Grand Turing. Grand tours and tracks are the most desirable to us, because they have every possible performance you want. These include the Brambo brakes, Nissan’s Sport-tuned Stability Control, Ray fake wheels and front / rear spoilers. The track comes exclusively with the manual transmission, but you can get the auto with the Grand Turing.
The Nismo (straight above) is the hardcore of the bunch, and it started in the 2007 model year. Nissan has enhanced it with extra body welds, added support, unique body dampers, nismo-tuned suspension, ray fake wheels and a special nismo exhaust. We will further note that Nissan has significantly modified its 3.5-liter V6 for the 2007 model year, so it is producing 306 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque in these Z cars.
Our list of used cars can be helpful to find a good deal near you. Shrink offers by a radius around your zip code and pay attention to the deal ratings on each listing to see how one car compares to others in the same area.
What else to consider?
Read more: A complete list of our used car spotlight articles
If it’s a rear-drive coupe so you stay after the sporty purpose, the 350Z’s exterior options abound. Both the Mustang and the Camaro are affordable options. Those interested in the 350Z Roadstar may find happiness in a Miata instead, but again, the American muscle cars of the time could also be without a roof. The Mazda RX-8 was a contemporary alternative, but you should do your research before choosing a rotary driven machine.
Luxury cars are also priced lower than the 350Z these days, so if you can afford the potential repairs, you can jump into the world of BMW coupe – or even an Audi TT. By the end of the day, the Dodge Challenger 350Z was coming to an end, so if you’re more into speed than handling it, this is another option to watch.