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View Full Version : 2003 Nissan 350Z: Wrap-up



NewsReporter
05-27-2004, 08:53 AM
http://www.autoweek.com/weekart/2004/0517/350zmain.jpg

MILES DRIVEN:: b3,326
FUEL MILEAGE:: 21.61 mpg
FUEL COST:: $1,942.52
DAYS OUT OF SERVICE:: None
MAINTENANCE:: HID headlight bulb replaced (warranty), 6000-mile oil change and filter (warranty)
ORIGINAL STICKER PRICE::[/b] $
TRADE-IN VALUE: $25,075 (per kbb.com)


With heavy hearts and deep regret we bid our fair Nissan 350Z adieu: heavy hearts that our time together has come so quickly to a close, and regret that we did not-could not-effectively maximize our time with its Daytona Blue aspect.

And yet we should not be sad, as adventures await our dear 350Z. It leaves our nest to search for new companions and a new home.

Our journey together took us 23,326 miles down this road we call life. We basked in the glory of the summer sun and drudged our way through a discontented winter, never once sorry for the 350Z's company. And it pleased everyone who turned an eye its way, it seems. Everywhere, jaws dropped and people flocked, and many, many rides-to friends, family and strangers alike-were proffered in return.

Sure, we flirted with prettier faces along the way, and danced with some more fleet of foot. That Ferrari 360 Modena-in which the most rabid 350Z proponent in the office disappeared for hours-comes immediately to mind, or that Porsche GT3, for which the same staffer said he would sell his soul. But those dalliances were brief (though glorious) interludes in our yearlong romance with the Nissan.

For one thing, our 350Z Track model cost but a fraction of those others, its $35,633 price tag making it one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck cars to be had. The cash it takes to buy one GT3, for example, will get you three and one-third Zs-and we'd argue the GT3 isn't three and one-third times the fun (well, perhaps three). Even as we welcome the Mazda RX-8, with its closely matched sticker and similar sporting intentions, to our long-term fleet, it can't replace the Nissan, just distract us from our loss.

The Z also bore well the unfortunate reality of having to share us with others. Other long-term vehicles occupied much of our attention, from the Mini Cooper S (21,140 miles) to the Honda Element (18,377), and though we turned to each of them to fulfill various needs, the Nissan still managed to eke more of our attention-though not nearly as much as past long-termers. In fact, the Nissan falls in the bottom half of our long-term list based on miles tallied in one year. Such is the extent of our regret, that we failed to ply it with yet more of our love.

It says something, however, that our 350Z managed to claim more time than others in the fleet given the fact that the car, even shod with a fine set of Blizzaks, never really warmed up to the snow. Any significant accumulation, and we quickly grabbed for other keys. And that rear strut brace-which we appreciated for its contribution to the car's nimbleness-made the Z most impractical at carrying even moderately sized loads.

And yet the 350Z proved as apt a chariot for the menial tasks that seem to populate so much of our time, making trips to the airport or the grocery store more pleasant. Unlike other beasts of its ilk, it never fussed while performing them. Its hearty 3.5-liter V6 performed as well around town as when we pushed it, full gallop, down empty stretches of freeway. It enjoyed those ramps and turns and bends in the road with as much fervor as the straights, its engine and chassis as flexible as any we've tried.

At the track we found out just how much the Z liked to perform, where it sprinted, stopped and slalomed with equal aplomb. From a standstill, 60 mph came in just 5.66 seconds; from there it took only 114 feet back to a standstill. The quarter-mile flew by in 14.32 seconds at a tick under 100 mph. The Z also wiggled its way 'round the cones at 46.9 mph, besting the Porsche Boxster S (46.0 mph), and displayed 0.86 g of lateral acceleration on the skidpad.

http://www.autoweek.com/weekart/2004/0517/350ztire.jpg

But life rarely gives of itself fruitfully without also taking away. We would have enjoyed our time all the more had our 350Z not been plagued with such a nagging tire problem. As soon as a few thousand miles rolled onto the odometer, the Z's Bridge-stones feathered and produced a noise that quickly grew to roaring, unbearable levels. Neither the dealership-or Nissan, for that matter-had a satisfying solution, insisting that swapping the front tires side-to-side and adjusting the toe-in would help. That proved but a bandage; the noise would recur and our patience would wear thin.

Owners found the same with their 350Zs. Of the 72 who wrote us, 54 (mostly owners of 2003 models, but some 2004s as well) suffered the same tire travails, many of them having gone through multiple sets of rubber at unusually low miles. The problem apparently has been addressed, claims Nissan (News, April 26), and fixed outright for '04 models, but it comes too late for our own Z.

But many of those same folks had far worse problems than we, namely, faulty transmissions. Eight owners we heard from had to have their manual trannies replaced, and most of them more than once. Nissan has apparently revised the design of the 350Z's transmission three times now in an effort to correct the problem.

Other reported problems include: poor Bose audio systems, various interior rattles, harsh and/or bouncy suspensions, a tendency to pull right, grease streaks on the windows, and seats that wore out too quickly-for all of which Nissan has issued service advisories (there are more than 30 in all for '03 models). The worst indictments came from the 20 owners who claimed Nissan either feigned ignorance of the problem or simply chose to ignore their complaints, the 10 who swore they'd never purchase another Nissan product again, and the five Z owners who invoked the lemon law.

The most surprising part of all those owners' letters, however, is the fact that the 350Z engendered so much love despite the numerous problems-as it did with us. Outside of the tire-feathering problem, we encountered little that required our attention beyond routine servicing. Even our dealership experience proved satisfying, with quick turnarounds and reasonable rates-except on one unsavory occasion. Where most routine services cost around $33, this one, which we were told by the service tech was required, set us back an exorbitant $283.68. All told, service costs amounted to $773.99, including the installation of winter tires.

Before the 350Z left our fold, it did give us one gift we weren't even asking for. With 15 different pilots all winging it around in their individual ways, it returned an average of 21.61 mpg over the course of the year. We won't complain about that figure.

So as we send our dear 350Z on to new and exciting adventures with other caring companions, we have only this to say to it: May the road rise to meet you, and may the wind always be at your back.

Source: Auto Week