2003 Nissan 350Z
2003 Nissan 350Z. Click image to enlarge

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First Drive: 2004 Nissan 350Z Roadster
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By Chris Chase

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Nissan 350Z, 2003-2008

The Nissan 350Z is the fifth generation of Nissan’s “Z-car”, a model that was first introduced as the 1970 240Z. The 350Z reached dealerships as 2002 and 2003 models, and was based on the same platform that underpinned the original Infiniti G35, which went on sale around the same time.

The 350Z was introduced as a coupe, but a convertible (the 350Z Roadster) joined it in 2004. This car followed Nissan’s protocol of naming its Z-cars based on their engine’s displacement; as such, this fifth-gen car was powered by Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-litre V6 engine. In 2003-2005 models, this engine made 287 horsepower, while a 300-hp version became available in 2005 and was made standard in 2006. 2007 models got an updated version of the engine which produced 306 horsepower.

2004 Nissan 350Z Roadster
2004 Nissan 350Z Roadster; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

Transmission choices were a six-speed manual, and a five-speed automatic.

In 2003, the 350Z’s official fuel consumption ratings were 11.9/8.2 L/100 km (city/highway) with the manual transmission, and 12.8/8.5 for automatic models. In later models with the upgraded engine, ratings were 12.0/8.2 for six-speed cars, and 12.2/8.4 in automatic versions.

Here’s a very lengthy thread at My350Z.com on the issue of the Z’s front-end alignment and its effect on front tire wear. This is a common issue with both the 350Z and its upscale platform-mate, the Infiniti G35. The problem is a result of a suspension tuned for performance, and is more prevalent in early cars; a re-tuning of the front suspension seems to have largely solved the issue in 2005 and newer cars. Of course, a good suspension shop could easily fix it too, with a good alignment.

2003 Nissan 350Z
2003 Nissan 350Z. Click image to enlarge

Another issue is that of power windows that act up and then get stuck and eventually won’t roll up or down at all. This post at My350Z.com is a very detailed how-to for the DIYer who wishes to repair/replace the motor(s).

Here’s a discussion at 350z-tech.com about excessive oil consumption in some 350Zs.

For a rear hatch that won’t open, check here for your fix.

Here’s a thread about noisy differentials/rear axles.

This post details what seems to be a noise from the rear suspension.

Here’s a procedure for both resetting (turning off) the check engine light, and another page detailing how to read diagnostic trouble codes without an external diagnostic computer.

2003 Nissan 350Z
2003 Nissan 350Z; photo by Laurance Yap. Click image to enlarge

Consumer Reports notes transmission issues in 2003 and 2007 models, but I didn’t see much in the way of specifics. There’s more than one mention of bad hydraulic clutch cylinders, so I suspect that’s the main culprit. Much as this is an inconvenient failure, it’s not an expensive repair, and simple enough to fix for the mechanically-inclined driver.

The transmission issue could also be related to the way the clutch operates: owners of 350Zs and the similar Infiniti G35 have complained of a clutch that’s hard to modulate and makes the car difficult to drive smoothly.

I’ve listed quite a few problem spots here, which may scare many shoppers away from the 350Z. Despite the long list, Consumer Reports recommends this car as a solid used car purchase, and I’d tend to agree, provided the seller has evidence (in the form of service records) that many of the common issues have been dealt with.

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