The Nissan 350Z sports car, which was introduced in August 2002, has quickly become the best-selling sports car (Ward’s sport performance segment) in the United States, selling nearly 40,000 units (through August 2003) since launch and representing over 25% of the sports car segment (based on R.L. Polk registrations). The stylish, 287-horsepower 350Z continues the Z® heritage of design, performance and value that has remained unchallenged since the original Datsun 240Z was introduced 34 years ago as a 1970 model.
For 2004, the Z® lineup adds a new convertible version, the 350Z Roadster (details available separately). Other enhancements for the 2004 350Z include a new power operated face door for the navigation system, pre-wiring for satellite radio, the addition of a driver and passenger side knee pad and a new exterior color – Liquid Aluminum (late availability).
“Z® DNA” Guides Designers
In setting the concept for the new 350Z, the creative team of designers and engineers were guided by “Z® DNA” – the combination of passion, performance, practicality and value that has marked every generation of Z® since the original.
For the 350Z, this meant developing a perfect combination of performance and handling, value, design, and durability.
“The newest generation Z® inspires both appeal and appreciation,” said Shiro Nakamura, senior vice president, design, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (NML). “First, the design offers strong visual and driving appeal. But the Z® can also be appreciated for the more practical side that comes with everyday ownership – durability, utility, comfort, reliability and low maintenance.”
Other “must haves” for the 350Z were also taken from the first generation 240Z – a front engine/rear-wheel drive drivetrain configuration, two-seat interior, a powerful 6-cylinder engine and, of course, a simple and honest design. The 350Z, like the original, features a true hatchback body (350Z Roadster also available in 2004).
Design That Offers Strong Visual Appeal
The 350Z was designed to impress viewers at first sight with its newness as a sports car and to remain an object of unending adoration for ages to come. While inheriting the “Z®-ness” passed on through successive generations, this Z® embodies many new features for a sports car, all of which have been perfected to exceptionally high quality.
Design cues passed on from the first-generation Z® include the long nose and short deck styling, triangular cabin form and the lines extending from the arch-shaped roof to the hatchback opening. To that heritage, a newness has been added to contrast the soft, warm body shape with the geometrical forms of the headlamps and other parts.
Fitting of its sports performance essence, the Z®’s design is anchored by very aggressive wheel forms pushed all the way out to the corners. Like a race car, the body’s center of gravity is placed in the middle and the tires are positioned as far as possible at the four corners to emphasize the car’s nimble agility.
“A long wheelbase and wide stance provided a great starting place,” said Diane Allen, chief designer, Red Studio at Nissan Design America Inc. (NDA). “Our first thought was to recreate the sensation of an open-wheeled Formula 1 car – all wheels and an intimate center structure.”
The Z’s beltline provides a distinctive spine, which crosses over the form in the rear and is anchored in the Z’s strongly visual taillights. The body surfaces are rendered with a certain roundness to impart a soft impression. While the design strongly accentuates the bulge of the fenders, the volume at each corner has been pared to emphasize the shortness of the overhangs. The 17-inch wheels also serve as a design element that hints at superb driving performance.
The projector-type headlamps provide a wider illumination pattern and greater brightness. Careful attention was also paid to the fine design details, including the look of built-in quality and the perceived impression of the materials. The car’s stellar quality is also expressed by the distinctive vertical door handles and the twin exhaust tailpipes.
“We wanted the design to be an expression of agility – very three-dimensional and moving,” said Mamoru Aoki, product chief designer, Nissan Technical Center (NTC). “The Z® is very fluid and relaxed, from the curve of the door cut to the freeness and movement of the glass. It looks fast, but not just in a straight line. It’s a simple yet exacting design, which gives the Z® a polished feeling.”
Sporty Two-Seater with Functional Interior
“The inside of the 350Z is a realm of sensation,” said Allen. “We wanted to emphasize the sport appeal of the car without sacrificing the functionality. The essence of the Z® is performance and we wanted the design, inside and out, to reinforce that impression.”
The instrument panel features three gauge pods, similar in design to the 240Z, consisting of the drive computer, oil pressure gauge and voltmeter as well as modern touches such as a navigation system with video display. The door vents and center console have a solid, chiseled-from-a-block-of-aluminum look.
In 2004 the 350Z receives two minor interior enhancements. Pre-wiring for satellite radio is standard on all models, along with a new powered face door for the navigation system.
The hatchback design is accentuated by functional storage space. Though the 350Z has been executed as a sports car, thorough attention has also been paid to storage capacity, with sufficient luggage space for carrying two golf bags behind the seats, a lockable luggage floor box capable of storing a briefcase and other storage places. Another interior feature is an integrated aluminum rear suspension strut tower brace. The brace is finished to match the rest of the rear compartment and carries a Z® logo, which is visible from outside the vehicle. In addition, the use of aluminum for the instrument finishers, door handles and other places enhances the high-quality look of the interior.
Performance That Delivers
The 3.5-liter VQ35DE V6 engine produces 287 horsepower and 274 lb-ft of torque, power range that comes as a result of the intake port design and adopting Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) technology. This enables the engine to deliver not only outstanding start-off acceleration and high-speed passing performance, but also torque characteristics suitable for city driving. Drivability has been further improved by adopting an electronically controlled throttle, and the use of a highly rigid cylinder block combines with other measures to produce engine sounds worthy of a sports car.
Suspension for the rear-wheel drive vehicle is a 4-wheel independent design. Both 6-speed close-ratio manual and 5-speed automatic transmissions are available.
Models and Packages
The 2004 350Z is available in 6 models – 350Z, Enthusiast Model, Performance Model, Touring Model, Touring Model 6MT and the Track Model. Standard features on all models include the 3.5-liter, 287-horsepower V6 engine, independent multi-link suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, strut tower bar, power windows, 3-bay gauge cluster, dual front air bags and more.
The Enthusiast Model adds xenon headlamps, universal garage door opener (UGDO), cruise control, Traction Control System (TCS), viscous limited-slip differential, aluminum pedals and auto dimming rear view mirror; Performance Model adds Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS) and 18-inch tires with aluminum wheels; Touring Model adds Bose® audio system with 6CD, cassette with 7 speakers, leather seats with 4-way power passenger seat and heated seats and outside mirrors; Touring Model 6MT adds a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission; Track Model includes a close-ratio, 6-speed manual transmission, front and rear spoiler, forged aluminum wheels and Brembo® brakes.
Two options are available, a DVD-based navigation system (Touring, Performance and Track Models) and curtain and side-impact supplemental air bags.