There are some 350Z’s in the odd showroom around Thailand,
but there’s not too many on the roads. At 4.35 million baht for the fully
imported two-door coupe, one can see why. However, this is a vehicle that has
attracted the public all over the world, and when our Down-under correspondent,
John Weinthal and I saw it at the Bangkok International Motor Show a couple of
years back in its concept phase, we were both mightily impressed. John has now
had the opportunity to drive the production version. Here are the words from
“The most memorable Nissan ever sold in Australia was a
Datsun - the wonderful 240Z, launched here in 1969. It had a six cylinder
engine. It was rear-wheel-drive. It was a style-setter with a long bonnet and
short tail. This was a time when Japan was known for almost anything but style.
Above all, the 240Z was a terrific value, genuine sports car for enthusiast
“Later iterations of the Nissan Z cars tended to be
overweight, overly complex and over-priced. I am overlooking the sensational GT-R
series Nissan Coupes because they were barely sold here other than as specialty
“The latest Nissan sport is the 350Z. This car gets closer
to the true Z spirit than any since the original 240Z - or 24 ounce as many
called it. The 350Z looks stunning. It goes frantically. It has the dynamics of
a car designed for the track. It is more than adequately equipped with practical
and user-friendly goodies. Above all, at AUD 60,000, it represents real value.
“There are two versions of this 202 kW stunner. The Touring
model costs AUD 60,000 plus the inevitable taxes and dealer thefts. A
harder-hitting Track model is six grand heavier at AUD 66,000. They share a
sweet revving and zestful 202 kW 3.5 litre V6 engine which is mounted well back
for optimum weight distribution and handling balance. Both have an excellent,
light to use, six-speed manual gearbox. Optional auto costs AUD 2800, thankfully
for the Touring model only.
“The Nissan challenges the audacious Audi TT as an instant
styling classic. Like the Audi, the Z works from every angle, inside and out -
but it also has the stance and stats of a true performance machine. The Nissan
is in a totally different power league while costing around AUD 15,000 less than
the 132 kW, front-wheel-drive version of the lesser of the two Audis.
“The 350Z is an absolute two-seater. There is no pretence
of space for even the smallest child and our test car was the Track model. This
has some additional aerodynamic plastic pieces and, for those who want to really
thrash their cars at a race circuit, there are more expensive wheels and much
larger 4-piston calliper Brembo brakes. The Touring runs on 17 inch seven-spoke
alloys with 50 profile tyres, but the Track has even wider 45 tyres on six-spoke
18 inch rims.
“This car was as good to drive - as secure feeling and
thrill-delivering - as it looks. What more could one ask? In the case of the
Track, at least, one could do with rather less information - both aural and
physical - of every road surface variation.
“The ride is distinctly firm until you are travelling at or
above legal limits. On a long run there is constant tyre roar which would become
tiring for all but the most ardent enthusiast after more than a few hours. The
engine might sound great, but one never actually hears it over the road rumble!
“The 350Z Touring should be less harsh and may even
transmit less noise to the cabin simply because of its slightly higher profile,
“The Z Track is less harsh than a Subaru WRX STi, but I
would still recommend you drive both Zeds before forking out an extra $6000 for
the Track which is probably less rewarding for 99% of your driving.
Nissan 350 z
“Nissan has a sure winner here. The 350Z has classic style.
It represents excellent value and it is genuinely everyday friendly. Best of all
it is also capable way beyond the capacities of most of us.
“However, as ever, there is a however! For even less money
Mazda has just launched its new RX8 with four seats, quirky yet still sporty
looks and unique four door arrangement. The rotary engined Mazda is marginally
less powerful and probably requires more work to attain top performance and the
Nissan scoops it in the styling stakes for sure. I hope to drive it later in the
“Another four-seater power performer will be Alfa Romeo’s
190kW 147GTA, again for around AUD 60,000. I still enthuse at the mere memory of
the Alfa 156GTA with the same mechanical and power package - this lighter
smaller brother should be a sensation.
“If The Mazda and Alfa can match the Nissan’s
performance, build quality and sheer driving satisfaction then we are indeed in
a new Great Age of Motoring for Joy.”
(Thank you, John, and as ever I remain envious of your
snaffling a drive in some of the world’s more memorable motor cars. Dr. Iain.)