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September 5, 2006 > Nissan 350 Z Track

Nissan 350 Z Track

by Dick Ryan, Freelance Automotive Journalist

I recently spent some time with a 2006 Nissan 350Z Track Model.  Nissan brought out the 350Z models in 2002.  The line is made up of 5 models that share the same body and mechanical components.  As you move up in price, you get larger wheels, higher trim levels, and more electronic components.  Both a 6-speed manual and 5-speed automatic transmission are available in most models.  A 350Z convertible was introduced as a 2004 model.

To be honest with you, my wife and I own a 2004 350Z so we have a lot of experience with this car.  The 2006 version is only slightly different than our car.

Nissan's goal for the 350Z was to produce a cost effective, 2-seat sports car.  It's the same goal they had for their original Z car, the 240Z that came out in 1970.  The base 350Z offers a 300 horsepower, 3.5 liter V-6 for only $27,650.  In today's automotive marketplace, this is a tremendous value.

Our Track Model test car was the next to the top of the 350Z line.  It is less focused on amenities and more focused on GO.  It carries bigger rubber on its special, lightweight (18-inch front, 19-inch rear) forged alloy wheels made by RAYS Engineering.  The other major upgrade for the Track are bigger brakes made by the world famous Brembo Company.  The tire, wheel, and brake upgrades really improve the Track's performance over the base model. 

The Track will corner hard and withstand heavy braking with no problems.  When driven really hard, it will tend to understeer.  In order to have fun, you need to turn off the electronic Vehicle Dynamic Control System.  Otherwise, the moment it senses that the car is doing something out of the ordinary (like really hard cornering) it reduces fuel flow to the motor, puts on the brakes and ruins your fun.

All the 350Z models share the same suspension components and have the same ride characteristics.  The ride is firm and solid.  Certain sections of freeway cause the suspension to resonate and the ride gets very choppy.

The 350Z's interior is ergonomically correct.  All the controls are easy to reach and use.  The main cluster of gages moves up and down as you raise or lower the adjustable steering wheel. 

There is a computer readout that monitors the tire pressure and warns you of any problems.  The same readout gives you fuel mileage as you drive.  Its fun to measure the effects of a heavy right foot as they happen.

The hatchback rear door opens to access the "trunk."  There is a reasonable amount of storage, but it's best to pack your things in flexible bags, not hard-sided suitcases.

The V-6 is very flexible, and has enough torque (260 foot pounds) to accelerate from 2000 RPM, but the motor loves to be revved higher, and over 4000 RPM it pulls hard.  At 7200 RPM the rev limiter starts to shut off spark plugs so no damage is done to the motor.  The sixth gear in the transmission is really just a freeway cruiser.

The MSRP for the Track is $34,550 and its EPA numbers are 19-MPG city and 25 highway.  You can also get the 350Z as a convertible starting at $35,050.

If racing heritage is important to you, Nissan has that in spades.  Many of their cars and trucks have been raced all over the world to numerous championships.  The 350Z continues that tradition with many being raced to victories worldwide.  It's fun to commute in and even more fun to throw around a local racetrack.

-Dick Ryan
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists
RRYAN@FRK.COM

 
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