Full 2008 Nissan 350Z Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Nissan 350Z is unchanged.
This year, there's been a considerable amount of attention focused on Nissan's new GT-R sports car; 473 horsepower has a habit of doing that. However, unless you've got $70,000 (assuming -- ahem -- no dealer markup) and have your name on a waiting list, this Skyline successor will likely remain out of reach. Thankfully, Nissan has another legendary sports car for the rest of us: the Z.
Available as a coupe or convertible, the 2008 Nissan 350Z is a proper sports car priced for the everyman. Its fairly compact dimensions, sharp handling, potent V6 and rear-wheel drive make it fun to drive in almost any situation. Plus, the car's styling still looks fresh, even though the current-generation Z debuted for 2003.
For 2008 the 350Z stands pat, though it does mark the first full year of availability for the limited-production Nismo 350Z. The Nismo has effectively taken the place of the now-discontinued Track trim. This racetrack-oriented model comes with a specially tuned suspension, additional body reinforcements, a full aerodynamic package, Brembo brakes, and unique wheels and exhaust.
In testing, we've found the Nismo to be the best-handling 350Z to date, though this enhanced performance does come at the expense of fairly punishing ride comfort and noise. The remaining trim levels are more suited for everyday use, although the clutch can be too stiff in traffic. No matter which trim you choose, you'll still get one of the best values out there for a rear-drive performance car. Of course, the Z isn't perfect. Compared to models like the BMW Z4 and Mazda RX-8, the Z lacks handling finesse and cockpit refinement, and against the various permutations of the Ford Mustang GT, it lacks personality. But for an affordable sports car that delivers all-around performance and style, the 2008 Nissan 350Z is an ideal choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Nissan 350Z sports car is available as a coupe or roadster. Trim levels include base, Enthusiast, Touring, Grand Touring and Nismo. Note that the base and Nismo trims are exclusive to the coupe.
Base coupes come with 18-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, automatic climate control, full power accessories and a CD/MP3 player with steering-wheel controls. Going with an Enthusiast model adds cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a limited-slip rear differential. The roadster version includes a power-operated soft top and power seats.
The Touring model adds an upgraded Bose audio system with satellite radio, Bluetooth, power seats for the coupe, seat heaters for the roadster and leather upholstery. The Nissan 350Z Grand Touring has front and rear spoilers and more powerful Brembo brakes. Grand Touring coupes also have special lightweight wheels.
The limited-edition Nismo 350Z forgoes many of the Grand Touring's luxuries in favor of performance-enhancing upgrades, such as a stiffened, seam-welded chassis, firmer springs and shock absorbers, and various aerodynamic upgrades. Brake and wheel specs are identical to the Grand Touring, though the Nismo's wheels have a darker finish. Inside, each Nismo has red/black cloth seats, a gray-faced tachometer and a number plaque indicating its build order in the production run. A navigation system is optional on Touring and Grand Touring models.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-drive Nissan 350Z is armed with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 306 hp and 268 pound-feet of torque. Putting the power to the ground is either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. Base and Nismo models take only the manual gearbox. This is among the quickest sub-$50,000 cars you can buy, as we timed a Nismo 350Z at 5.1 seconds for the 0-60-mph sprint.
Antilock disc brakes are standard on all models, while all but the base car have traction control. Stability control comes on the Grand Touring trim, and on Touring models equipped with the manual transmission. GT and Nismo models have upgraded Brembo calipers and rotors. Side and head-protecting side curtain airbags are optional on all coupes except the Nismo, on which they're standard. Regular side airbags are standard on roadsters. In government crash tests, the 2008 Nissan 350Z coupe received a top five-star side-impact rating. In frontal-impact testing, it received four stars.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Z's instrument panel features three gauge pods that move with the tilt steering wheel. Unfortunately, the wheel doesn't have a telescoping adjustment. All of the controls a driver might need are close at hand, but some of the materials used in the cockpit seem low-grade for this price range. In the coupe's cargo area, there's a distinctive rear suspension brace that certainly improves body rigidity, but it also compromises valuable luggage space. The roadster's trunk is even more diminutive (just 4.1 cubic feet), but the top is easy to operate and can be dropped in about 20 seconds.
The 2008 Nissan 350Z offers performance equal to some of the best sports cars available. The V6 is quite docile, though, and opening it up a bit produces an enjoyable and throaty growl. Power delivery is linear and athletic and particularly entertaining at higher revs. Although the automatic transmission matches revs on downshifts, a manual transmission brings out the most in the car. The six-speed's shifter feels heavy through the gates, but it's fairly precise and clutch take-up is smooth (if not stiff).
Around town, rearward visibility is poor. On a curvy road, however, the 350Z rewards its driver with a high level of outright grip and balance. The steering is a bit coarse in feel, but otherwise it's quick and well weighted. The track-tuned 2008 Nismo 350Z has the sharpest reflexes of the Z-car family, though its excessive road noise and predisposition toward freeway hop make it unsuitable as a daily driver.