Review: 2004 Nissan 350z

I purchased this car new in August of 2004. I was in search of a car that was quick, stylish, and fairly priced. The Z fit all of those criteria easily, and the fact that a local dealer had the exact car I was looking for (in other words: no waiting) made the decision very easy for me. I bought the car, and it immediately went into service as my daily driver.

Once the new car luster wore off, I began to take note of a couple things that I hadn’t noticed during the test drive. The first and most obvious issue is the lack of usable storage space. Now, this wasn’t a major issue for me since I was a single guy at the time who rarely had the need to haul anything larger than a 19 inch TV perhaps once every two years. But for anyone who occasionally hauls bulky objects (or bulky friends for that matter), this is definitely not the car for you. This car doesn’t even have a glove box. There are two small cubby “bins” behind the seats however, but they aren’t good for storing much else other than cd’s or maps.

close up of pearl white 350z

The 350z looks great in Pearl White

nissan 350z front view

Front 3/4 view of my 2004 Nissan 350z out in the southern California desert

350z interior

The interior of the 350z is tight but very comfortable

2004 nissan 350z gauges

Closeup of the Nissan 350z gauge cluster

The other issue is “the” blind spot (looking over the shoulder to the left). Make sure you really look before merging over, because the thick rear pillars block a lot of the view. Drive this car long enough, and you will eventually cut someone off.

Beyond those two “issues”, this car did everything I asked of it without complaint. In the six years that I had the car, I always looked forward my daily commute in this thing. Traffic sometimes makes me think otherwise, but it was a joy to drive.

Gas mileage is decent if you stay out of the throttle. But that’s not such an easy thing to do with a car like this.

Engine

Prior to driving the 350z, I admit that I had some rather high expectations. I knew it would handle well, and I was very curious to feel the “torque” everyone was talking about. All of my previous personal cars have been 4 or 6 cylinders, so it’s not like I’m basing the following comments on my vast experience of low-grunt V8’s.

3.5l v6 engine

3.5L V6 engine in the 2004 Nissan 350z

The thrust of the 3.6L V6 in this car is adequate, at best. Yes, mashing the gas pedal in any of the first 3 gears will result in a bigger torque hit than an average car of 4 cylinders, but it falls far short feeling the same as any V8 (for obvious reasons). Perhaps all those people who said that “this car has torque” are basing that opinion against anything else that has come out of Japan recently. That makes sense, especially with its low(ish) price that the Z can be had for. Based on my small circle of friends, it’s considered to a small step up from many of the more popular high performance 4 cylinder cars available now. Regardless, the bottom line is this: there is enough torque on hand to cruise comfortably in 6th gear down to about 40mph, but it doesn’t have enough to generate that stump-pulling feel that comes with a healthy V8.

Power comes on slowly, and gradually builds as the RPM’s climb. The best way to describe it is to say that actually feels like a super-charged four cylinder. Slow and torque-less down low, but as the RPM’s build, it pulls harder. It’s not a sudden hit of power – It’s very linear, and is the strength is there all the way to redline.

In everyday driving, the power is more than adequate. It has enough oomph to zip into and out of holes in traffic easily, and it’s very reassuring to know the power is available should you need to get out of the way of something or someone else.

The 6-speed manual transmission shifts smoothly, and it requires very little effort to get into any forward gear. Reverse is the exception, as you must first push down on the knob and then to the right and back. Grabbing reverse on the first try took some practice. Overall, the shifter has a great feel to it, and it’s very short throw makes spirited driving easy.

Handling

Make no mistake about it – the Z is a heavy car. It tops the scales at 3400lbs, which puts it about 200lbs heavier than a larger car such as the Chevrolet Corvette. That weight is deceiving, because the car goes, stops, and corners very well. The high weight helps to make the car feel very solid, and it’s somewhat confidence-inspiring since it helps to make the car feel very planted on the road. It’s wide stance helps keep it glued to the road, but stickier tires would help it even more.

base 17" wheel

Closeup of the base 17″ wheel on my Nissan 350z

My base Z had the standard Bridgestone Potenza RE-40’s, and I never felt the need to replace them with something a little more grippy.

The brakes are phenomenal for daily driving, even in my base model (with non-Brembo brakes). However, these standard brakes do not hold up well in high performance (track) driving so consider that if you are going to take a non-Brembo’d Z to the track.

While on the subject of brakes, I do have to make one comment about something that is a pain in the ass about this car: brake dust! I typically drove this car 170 miles a week, and the front wheels were covered in brake dust at the end of each week. I like to drive a clean car, so a weekly wash is a must for the Z. I was considering switching to ceramic pads to cut down on the amount of brake dust I had to deal with on a weekly basis.

Conclusion

In over 50,000 miles of driving my Z before selling it in September 2010, I think it’s fair to say that I know enough about this car to write an accurate review. Whether I have the writing skills for it or not is another story…

The 350z is a no-nonsense car with a touch of sophistication. It’s quick enough to scare your friends, but it also civil enough to be used as a daily driver – provided that you do not need to haul bulky objects or other people.

Pros:

* Very stylish exterior design
* Exotic exhaust note
* Decent gas mileage if you stay out of the throttle
* Handles like a go-cart
* Excellent brakes
* Comfortable seats

Cons:

* Lack of usable storage space
* Blind spot behind driver’s left shoulder
* Needs slightly more power to be considered “fast”. It’s definitely quick, but it’s not fast.
* Brake dust!