KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
A bona fide legend in the sportscar world, Nissan's 350Z comes off of a recent revamp that brought mild cosmetic upgrades and major enhancements to its superb 3.5-liter V6 engine with virtually no changes. For 2009, the 350Z Roadster set 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, 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 2009
A pure mechanical carryover for 2009, the only change to the Nissan 350Z Roadster is the addition of Moonlight White paint to its exterior color palette.
Composed and controllable in all trims, the 2009 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 backroad. Ideally backed by the slick-shifting manual gearbox, the 350Z's 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/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 Gen IV "High Output" version of Nissan's VQ35 V6 underwent a comprehensive makeover two years ago, 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 2009 Nissan 350Z Roadster's feature-rich cabin features ergonomic control layouts, legible gauges and supportive, comfortable bucket seats. There are a number of neat styling cues, including an angled three-pod central gauge cluster reminiscent of the original Z-car and aluminum sport pedals. 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 can stow and secure your smaller carry-alongs. But be prepared to travel light, as the Roadster's diminutive trunk holds only 4.1 cubic feet, top up or down.
Like the Coupe, the 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 requires only 20 seconds to tuck neatly away beneath its body-colored tonneau cover. Transitioning to al fresco mode creates a much sleeker look and provides the driver with far superior side/rear sightlines. The Roadster also shares the Coupe's aggressive stance, accentuated by short front/rear overhangs, prominent fender flares, vertical aluminum door handles, bi-xenon headlamps and super-bright LED taillamps. 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 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 dual front airbags. Enthusiast models also feature traction control, a limited-slip differential, a multifunction steering wheel and aluminum pedal set. The 350Z Touring adds leather heated seats, 240-watt premium Bose audio with XM Satellite Radio/MP3 capability and a six-disc CD changer, while Grand Touring enhancements include Vehicle Dynamic Control and Brembo brakes.
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 by a five-speed automatic transmission with Sportshift manual mode on all models, but the only other factory-installed options are a voice-activated DVD-based navigation system (Touring and Grand Touring only and a grey cloth top.
Under the Hood
Regardless of trim level or transmission type, all versions of the 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 268 pound-feet of torque. Even more impressive, over 90 percent of that peak twist is on hand between 2,000-7,000 rpm, so it's almost always operating in high-enthusiasm mode. Back it with the manual gearbox and you can expect six well-matched gear ratios and smooth-acting/short-throw linkage. Opt for the optional electronically controlled five-speed automatic with Sportshift mode, and you'll get a rev-matching throttle-blip feature that ensures smoother transitions.
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) on the 2009 Nissan 350Z Roadster lineup stacks up well against other vehicles that offer similar features and performance. It starts at just over $36,500 for a base Enthusiast model with manual transmission and tops out at just over $43,000 for the primo Grand Touring version with an 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 2009, when it's projected to outshine virtually all other vehicles in its competitive set.