Image credits: © Nissan.

2004 Nissan 350Z

2004 Nissan 350Z Exudes Passion, Performance and Practicality

The Nissan 350Z sports car, which was introduced in August 2002, has quickly become the best-selling sports car (Ward's sport performance segment) in the Únited States, selling nearly 40,000 units (through August 2003) since launch and representing over 25% of the sports car segment (based on R.L. Polk registrations). The stylish, 287-horsepower 350Z continues the Z® heritage of design, performance and value that has remained unchallenged since the original Datsun 240Z was introduced 34 years ago as a 1970 model.

For 2004, the Z® lineup adds a new convertible version, the 350Z Roadster (details available separately). Other enhancements for the 2004 350Z include a new power operated face door for the navigation system, pre-wiring for satellite radio, the addition of a driver and passenger side knee pad and a new exterior color – Liquid Aluminum (late availability).

'Z® DNA' Guides Designers
In setting the concept for the new 350Z, the creative team of designers and engineers were guided by 'Z® DNA' – the combination of passion, performance, practicality and value that has marked every generation of Z® since the original.

2004 Nissan 350ZFor the 350Z, this meant developing a perfect combination of performance and handling, value, design, and durability.

'The newest generation Z® inspires both appeal and appreciation,' said Shiro Nakamura, senior vice president, design, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (NML). 'First, the design offers strong visual and driving appeal. But the Z® can also be appreciated for the more practical side that comes with everyday ownership – durability, utility, comfort, reliability and low maintenance.'

Other 'must haves' for the 350Z were also taken from the first generation 240Z – a front engine/rear-wheel drive drivetrain configuration, two-seat interior, a powerful 6-cylinder engine and, of course, a simple and honest design. The 350Z, like the original, features a true hatchback body (350Z Roadster also available in 2004).

Design That Offers Strong Visual Appeal
The 350Z was designed to impress viewers at first sight with its newness as a sports car and to remain an object of unending adoration for ages to come. While inheriting the 'Z®-ness' passed on through successive generations, this Z® embodies many new features for a sports car, all of which have been perfected to exceptionally high quality.

Design cues passed on from the first-generation Z® include the long nose and short deck styling, triangular cabin form and the lines extending from the arch-shaped roof to the hatchback opening. To that heritage, a newness has been added to contrast the soft, warm body shape with the geometrical forms of the headlamps and other parts.

Fitting of its sports performance essence, the Z®'s design is anchored by very aggressive wheel forms pushed all the way out to the corners. Like a race car, the body's center of gravity is placed in the middle and the tires are positioned as far as possible at the four corners to emphasize the car's nimble agility.

'A long wheelbase and wide stance provided a great starting place,' said Diane Allen, chief designer, Red Studio at Nissan Design America Inc. (NDA). 'Our first thought was to recreate the sensation of an open-wheeled Formula 1 car – all wheels and an intimate center structure.'

2004 Nissan 350ZThe Z's beltline provides a distinctive spine, which crosses over the form in the rear and is anchored in the Z's strongly visual taillights. The body surfaces are rendered with a certain roundness to impart a soft impression. While the design strongly accentuates the bulge of the fenders, the volume at each corner has been pared to emphasize the shortness of the overhangs. The 17-inch wheels also serve as a design element that hints at superb driving performance.

The projector-type headlamps provide a wider illumination pattern and greater brightness. Careful attention was also paid to the fine design details, including the look of built-in quality and the perceived impression of the materials. The car's stellar quality is also expressed by the distinctive vertical door handles and the twin exhaust tailpipes.

'We wanted the design to be an expression of agility – very three-dimensional and moving,' said Mamoru Aoki, product chief designer, Nissan Technical Center (NTC). 'The Z® is very fluid and relaxed, from the curve of the door cut to the freeness and movement of the glass. It looks fast, but not just in a straight line. It's a simple yet exacting design, which gives the Z® a polished feeling.'

Sporty Two-Seater with Functional Interior
'The inside of the 350Z is a realm of sensation,' said Allen. 'We wanted to emphasize the sport appeal of the car without sacrificing the functionality. The essence of the Z® is performance and we wanted the design, inside and out, to reinforce that impression.'

The instrument panel features three gauge pods, similar in design to the 240Z, consisting of the drive computer, oil pressure gauge and voltmeter as well as modern touches such as a navigation system with video display. The door vents and center console have a solid, chiseled-from-a-block-of-aluminum look.

2004 Nissan 350ZIn 2004 the 350Z receives two minor interior enhancements. Pre-wiring for satellite radio is standard on all models, along with a new powered face door for the navigation system.

The hatchback design is accentuated by functional storage space. Though the 350Z has been executed as a sports car, thorough attention has also been paid to storage capacity, with sufficient luggage space for carrying two golf bags behind the seats, a lockable luggage floor box capable of storing a briefcase and other storage places. Another interior feature is an integrated aluminum rear suspension strut tower brace. The brace is finished to match the rest of the rear compartment and carries a Z® logo, which is visible from outside the vehicle. In addition, the use of aluminum for the instrument finishers, door handles and other places enhances the high-quality look of the interior.

Performance That Delivers
The 3.5-liter VQ35DE V6 engine produces 287 horsepower and 274 lb-ft of torque, power range that comes as a result of the intake port design and adopting Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) technology. This enables the engine to deliver not only outstanding start-off acceleration and high-speed passing performance, but also torque characteristics suitable for city driving. Drivability has been further improved by adopting an electronically controlled throttle, and the use of a highly rigid cylinder block combines with other measures to produce engine sounds worthy of a sports car.

Suspension for the rear-wheel drive vehicle is a 4-wheel independent design. Both 6-speed close-ratio manual and 5-speed automatic transmissions are available.

Models and Packages
The 2004 350Z is available in 6 models – 350Z, Enthusiast Model, Performance Model, Touring Model, Touring Model 6MT and the Track Model. Standard features on all models include the 3.5-liter, 287-horsepower V6 engine, independent multi-link suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, strut tower bar, power windows, 3-bay gauge cluster, dual front air bags and more.

The Enthusiast Model adds xenon headlamps, universal garage door opener (ÚGDO), cruise control, Traction Control System (TCS), viscous limited-slip differential, aluminum pedals and auto dimming rear view mirror; Performance Model adds Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS) and 18-inch tires with aluminum wheels; Touring Model adds Bose® audio system with 6CD, cassette with 7 speakers, leather seats with 4-way power passenger seat and heated seats and outside mirrors; Touring Model 6MT adds a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission; Track Model includes a close-ratio, 6-speed manual transmission, front and rear spoiler, forged aluminum wheels and Brembo® brakes.

Two options are available, a DVD-based navigation system (Touring, Performance and Track Models) and curtain and side-impact supplemental air bags.

Source - Nissan
The 240Z was not a new idea. Sturdy engineering, excellent performance, low price, attractive styling, and average interior had been achieved by many manufacturers prior to the Z-car. The reason the 240Z car was so great was because it capitalized on all these criteria and perfected the concept of a low-cost, reliable, sports car. Mr. Yutaka Katayama is considered the 'Father of the Z Car' and is responsible for the design and creation of this legendary vehicle. As recognition of his contributions to the automotive world, in 1998 he was inducted into the Automobile Hall of Fame.

The Datsun 240Z was introduced in 1969 as a 1970 model. The engine was a derivation of the Datsun 1600. The Datsun 1600 engine was a copy of the 1960's six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz 220 engine, but with two less cylinders. By adding two extra cylinders in the 240Z the cylinder count was back to six. With 151 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque the vehicle could propel from zero-to-sixty in eight seconds. The independent suspension and the rack-and-pinion steering added to its quick response, performance, and handling. The front disc brakes brought the car to a stop from high speeds in just seconds. With a price tag of just over $3,500, it cost much less than anything else on the market. Due to demand, a year later Kelly Blue Book rated the value of a used 240Z at $4,000.

The 240Z dominated the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) C-class production category for 10 years ranging from 1970 through 1979. In 1970 and 1971 John Morton, driving for Brock Racing Enterprises, was the first to claim victory in SCCA C-Class production racing using a 240Z. Bob Sharp claimed his first win in that category in 1972 and again in 1973 and 1975. Walt Maas continued the streak in 1974. The Z-car competed in the IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) where it captured many victories, including the IMSA GTU title. In 1982, Devendorf and his Electromotive racing team win Datsun's first ever IMSA GTO championship.

In 1985, Paul Newman set 10 track records in a 280ZX Turbo.

In 1994, a race-modified Z car won the 24 Hors of Daytona and the 12 Hours at Sebring. It also captured the GTS Class at the 24 Hours of LeMans, making it the only car ever to accomplish such a record within the same year.

In 1974, the engine displacement was increased to 2.6 liters and the vehicle was dubbed the 260Z. This brought an end to the 240Z series which had sold 116,712 examples during its life-span. The United States emissions regulations were increasing every year. Thus, the 260Z had less horsepower than its predecessor and was rated at 139.

The 260Z was available in 2+2 configuration. With the fold-down rear seats, the 260Z offered a higher level of practicality over the 240Z. During its first and only model year, 63,963 examples were produced giving it the all-time Z-car sales record to date.

In 1975 the displacement was increased to 2.8 liters and the vehicle dubbed the 280Z. A Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system was included which helped bring increase the horsepower to 149.

In 1977, the horsepower rating was 170. A five-speed overdrive transmission was now offered, giving the vehicle better performance and fuel economy. The sales of the Z car once again hit a record high, with 67,331 units sold.

In 1979, the second generation of the Z-car was introduced as the 280ZX. It was more refined and luxurious than the previous Z's. The formula was correct and it was named Motor Trends 'Import Car of the Year'. A new all-time sales record was achieved with 86,007 units being sold.

In 1980, over 500,000 cumulative American Z-cars had been sold. It had reached the half-million sales mark faster than any other sport car. A new T-bar roof option was now being offered.

To add to the appeal and performance of the 280ZX, a turbocharged engine became available in 1981. Sales continued to remain strong through 1983.

In 1984 the third generation of the Z-car was introduced and was dubbed the 300ZX. It featured distinct styling and a new 3.0 liter V6 engine. The normal-aspirated engine produced 160 horsepower, while the turbocharged version offers 200 horsepower.

In 1989, the American automotive economy was continuing to evolve. Minivan's and sport utility vehicles were gaining in popularity. In response, Nissan introduced the fourth-generation Z-car in 1990. The new 300ZX featured improvements both mechanically and aesthetically. Under the hood sat an all-new DOHC 3.0-liter engine with a horsepower rating of 222. A twin-turbocharged version of the engine was available and brought the total horsepower output to 300. The body of the vehicle had been improved giving it a more aggressive stance.

Motor Trend awarded the Z00ZXTT 'Import Car of the Year' and 'One of the Top Ten Performance Cars'. Automobile Magazine honored the car with 'Design of the Year' and was added to its 'All Stars' list. Not to be outdone, Road & Track named the car 'One of the Ten Best Cars in the World'. Car and driver named it 'One of the Ten Best Cars'.

During the 1990 model year the one-million sales mark was achieved making it the all-time best selling sports car. The car continued to receive great reviews and awards by Magazines and publications. The year 1995 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Z-car. To commemorate this occasion, a limited edition was produced with the help of Steve Millen Sport Cars.

In 1996, the production of the Z-car ceased in North America. Decreasing Sales figures, and increased smog regulations and production costs were to blame. The price of the twin-turbo 300ZX was priced at $45,000, a cost that was to expensive for most consumers. Production of the Z-car continued in Japan until 1999, although it had undergone a major redesign in 1998.

In August of 2002, Nissan introduced the 350Z. This six-gear, two-seater was the fifth generation of the Z-car. Offered in five trim packages that included Base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring, and Track Editions, the vehicle was an instant success. Base price was around $26,000 with the fully-loaded Track option costing over $34,000. Aesthetic and performance upgrades were available through Nismo, Nissan's motorsport and performance division.

In 2004, a roadster option was offered. The roadster was available in two trim packages which included the Enthusiast and Touring editions.

A special 35th Anniversary model was released in 2005 featuring twice the output of the original 1969 model.

Sales figures, race results, and satisfied customers have proven this to be one of the best sports vehicles ever produced.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2007
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