Full 2009 Nissan 350Z Review
What's New for 2009
The Nissan 350Z coupe has been dropped -- it's being replaced by the new 2009 370Z. However, the 350Z roadster rolls into 2009 unchanged.
With all the gee-whiz technology available in today's cars, it's easy to forget the joy that an elemental sports car like a 2009 Nissan 350Z provides. Nope, this car won't give you the weather in Cincinnati or make you a cup of coffee as you drive into work. But the Z has everything you'll need to get a rush no caffeinated beverage could hope to match.
With its compact dimensions, spirited V6 engine, sharp handling, rear-wheel drive and well-balanced chassis, the 350Z roadster continues to be a sports car in the truest sense. And even though this generation of Z is in its last year, the styling still turns heads. Nissan will be selling the all-new 370Z coupe for 2009 and is keeping the 350Z roadster only until it has the roadster version of the 370Z readied.
Compared to pricier rivals, such as the Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster, the 2009 Nissan 350Z lacks polish, both in terms of handling finesse and interior design and materials. It's also not as nimble handling as Honda's S2000. But this is still an affordable and reasonably comfortable sports car that delivers plenty of grins per mile. For its final year, the 2009 Nissan 350Z rides into the sunset with its head held high.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Nissan 350Z roadster is available in three trim levels: Enthusiast, Touring and Grand Touring. The Enthusiast comes with 18-inch wheels, a power soft top, a wind blocker, a limited-slip rear differential, bi-xenon headlights, automatic climate control, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, full power accessories, power seats and a CD/MP3 audio system with steering-wheel-mounted controls. The Touring model adds leather upholstery, heated seats, an upgraded Bose audio system, satellite radio and Bluetooth. The Grand Touring comes with more powerful Brembo brakes and stability control. There are but two options available for the 350Z roadster: a navigation system and a gray (versus black) soft top.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-drive Nissan 350Z roadster is armed with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 306 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. Putting the power to the ground is either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. EPA fuel economy estimates are about average for a six-cylinder sports car; with the automatic transmission, the 350Z checks in at 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control and side-impact airbags are standard across the board. Stability control comes standard on the Grand Touring trim but is unavailable on the others.
In government frontal-impact crash tests, the 2009 Nissan 350Z roadster received five stars (the highest possible score) for the driver side and four stars for the passenger side. In that agency's side-impact testing, the Nissan received a full five 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. The roadster's trunk offers just 4.1 cubic feet of capacity. On the upside, the soft top is easy to operate and can be dropped in about 20 seconds. Around town, rearward visibility is poor, as you might expect. Of course, that's a non-issue when the top is dropped.
The 2009 Nissan 350Z offers performance equal to that of some of the best sports cars available. On a curvy road, 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. Around town, the V6 is quite docile. Find some open road where you can let it out, and the engine produces an enjoyable and throaty growl. Power delivery is robust 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, though a bit stiff.