KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
A bona fide legend in the sports car world, Nissan's 350Z had a 2007 revamp that brought mild cosmetic upgrades and major enhancements to its superb 3.5-liter V6 engine. For 2008, the 350Z Roadster line-up includes Enthusiast, Touring and Grand Touring variants to complement the existing 350Z Coupe lineup (reviewed separately). Based on Nissan's brilliant FM (Front Mid-ship) platform, the drop-top version of this automotive icon matches outstanding overall performance and features with an impressive price-to-value ratio. Aimed at competitors like the Mitsubishi Eclipse GT and Ford Mustang GT Premium convertibles, this rear-drive two-seater also matches well against even-costlier open-air alternatives, including vehicles like the Audi TT 3.2 Quattro, BMW Z4 3.0, Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 and Porsche Boxster.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a well-engineered, affordably-priced convertible with scintillating performance, head-turning style and loads of features, the 350Z Roadster belongs on your must-drive list.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Those whose tastes in convertibles run more towards touring than performance may find the 350Z's ride quality too firm to live with on a daily basis, especially over rougher road surfaces. Trunk space is minimal and the look and feel of some of the plastic interior trim still falls well short of best in class.
What's New for 2008
The only change for the 2008 Nissan 350Z Roadster is the addition of Nogaro Red paint to its exterior color choices.
Composed and controllable in all trims, the 2008 Nissan 350Z Roadster delivers an outstanding overall driving experience, especially with the top down. Big credit goes to its world-class V6, with remarkably wide power and torque bands that ensure quick response, whether you're dealing with a tedious commute or out challenging some twisty back road. We prefer the slick-shifting manual gearbox, but the electronically controlled automatic sacrifices little quickness in return for its added convenience in stop-and-go traffic conditions. Well-engineered structural reinforcing maintains the Z's sharp handling while minimizing body shake and flex, while driver-selectable traction and stability control systems let you take full advantage of the multilink suspension's phenomenal capabilities -- although the ride can get a bit choppy on broken road surfaces. There's an equally positive feel to the car's speed-sensitive power steering, and potent anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) add a reassuring measure of stopping security, especially the premium Brembo units on Grand Touring model.
One of the world's most highly-acclaimed production engines, the fourth-generation "High Output" version of Nissan's VQ35 V6 underwent a comprehensive makeover for 2007, gaining loads of design enhancements that resulted in significantly more power and torque plus improved fuel efficiency.
Modular Steering Column and Instrument Cluster
The 350Z's three-spoke sport steering wheel and main gauge pod adjust for rake angle as a single unit to ensure both a comfortable driving position and an unobstructed view of the legible yellow-on-black analog instruments.
Surprisingly spacious, even for a pair of six-footers, the 350Z Roadster's well-equipped interior features ergonomic control layouts, legible gauges and supportive, comfortable bucket seats. There are a number of neat styling cues, including aluminum sport pedals and an angled three-pod central gauge cluster reminiscent of the original Z-car. However, some of the plastic trim still lacks a premium look and feel. Open storage is limited and covered center console space modest, but a locking utility bin behind the passenger seat allows stowing and securing your smaller carry-alongs. But be prepared to travel light, as the Roadster's diminutive trunk holds only 4.1 cubic feet of gear, top up or down.
Like the Coupe, the 2008 Nissan 350Z Roadster has a classic long-nose and short-deck design that hearkens back to the original 240Z. However, the convertible Z-car is crowned with a fully-lined, power-operated cloth top that requires only 20 seconds to tuck neatly away beneath its body-colored tonneau cover. Transitioning to open-air mode creates a much sleeker look and provides the driver with far superior side and rear sightlines. The Roadster also shares the Coupe's aggressive stance, accentuated by short front and rear overhangs, prominent fender flares, vertical aluminum door handles, bi-xenon headlights and super-bright LED taillights. All Roadsters are fitted with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires -- 225/45 front and 245/45 rear -- on handsome 18-inch alloy wheels.
Notable Standard Equipment
In addition to a fully-lined, power-activated top, all 2008 Nissan 350Z Roadsters share a common 3.5-liter V6, standard six-speed manual transmission, anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), bi-xenon headlights, numerous power assists, automatic climate-control, an AM/FM/CD stereo and front and side-impact airbags. Enthusiast models also feature traction control, a limited-slip differential, a multifunction steering wheel and aluminum pedals. The 350Z Touring adds leather-covered and heated seats, a 240-watt premium Bose audio with MP3 capability and six-disc CD changer and Bluetooth, while Grand Touring enhancements include Brembo brakes and full Vehicle Dynamic Control.
Notable Optional Equipment
All three 350Z Roadster variants are comprehensively equipped and, save for the feature upgrades that constitute the ascending trim levels, offer few extras. The standard six-speed manual gearbox can be replaced on all models by a five-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, but the only other options are a voice-activated DVD-based navigation system (Touring and Grand Touring only), orange ventilated net seats and Nogaro Red paint.
Under the Hood
Regardless of trim level or transmission type, all versions of the 2008 Nissan 350Z Roadster share an identical 3.5-liter V6. Made from lightweight aluminum and fitted with efficiency-enhancing continuously variable valve timing, this fourth generation of Nissan's VQ35 engine produces a stout 306 horsepower and 286 pound-feet of torque. Even more impressive, over 90 percent of that peak torque is on hand between 2000 and 7000 rpm, so it's almost always operating in a high-enthusiasm mode. Back it with the manual gearbox and you can expect six well-matched gear ratios, a smooth-acting and short-throw shift linkage and acceleration from zero to 60 mph in about 6.0 seconds. Choose the optional electronically controlled five-speed automatic with manual mode, plus a rev-matching throttle-blip feature that ensures smoother downshifts, and that benchmark sprint will take closer to seven seconds.
306 horsepower @ 6800 rpm
268 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 (manual), 17/23 (automatic)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2008 Nissan 350Z Roadster lineup stacks up well against other vehicles that offer similar features and performance. It starts at just over $36,000 for a base Enthusiast model with manual transmission and tops out at just over $42,000 for the Grand Touring version with the automatic. Historically, this highly-regarded Nissan sportster has parlayed its near cult-car status into impressive residual values. That trend is expected to carry on for 2008, when it's projected to outshine virtually all other vehicles in its competitive segment. Also in keeping with precedent, the resale percentage figure for a Touring variant should be slightly above those for the other 350Z Roadster models.