Nissan has tweaked their venerable 350Z range with a host of engine modifications. Both the coupe and roadster have been given similar power boosts.
In essence, this is more an evolutionary exercise and the better, more powerful cars are virtually indistinguishable from their predecessors.
Nissan acolytes might notice the single exterior change, a power bulge in the bonnet, which has been sculpted to accommodate the raison d'etre of the new 350Z: a slightly taller, more powerful engine.
Same size, more punch
Swept capacity and configuration has remained unchanged at 3.5-litres, with an 80% redesign coefficient resulting in the V6 now producing 230 kW at 6800 r/min and 358 Nm at 4800 r/min - up from 216 kW and 350 Nm.
Key areas of improvement with the new engine have been with its breathing, revised intake and exhaust systems have been the primary sources of the improved performance instead of radically re-engineered internals.
Smaller valves combined with twin symmetric air intake and a straight intake port have improved engine response at lower speeds, with the smaller valves especially yielding better throttle response at low engine speeds. The intake and exhaust systems are now symmetrical too, thanks to a common length exhaust manifold.
A twin knock sensor, additional spark advance and coolant flow improvements have aided combustion efficiency and enabled the compression ratio to be raised from 10.3:1 to 10.6:1. Despite all these modifications the new engine retains the same weight (188 kg) as its predecessor.
Nissan says the new engine has enabled the 0-100 km/h sprint time to come down from 5.9 seconds to 5.7 seconds for the coupe and from 6.2 seconds to 6.1 seconds for the roadster. Fuel consumption is reportedly 10% better all round, too.
On the launch route which took us around the winding roads towards Rustenberg it was hard to actually feel just where exactly those extra 15 kW were hiding.
With a coastal frame of reference regarding performance it is always difficult to gauge cars with incremental performance updates at Reef altitudes.
The eagerness of the rev-needle to touch the new 7500 r/min limiter was noticeable, however, and while perhaps not being noticeably quicker, the 350Z felt decidedly more free-revving. The improved engine breathing and heightened throttle sensitivity results in a car which is always keen to explore the boundaries of its revcounter's red-line district.
With symmetrical intake and exhaust systems the engine note has been improved and full-bore acceleration heralds a crescendo of noise which is simply stupefying. It simply has to be one of the finest-sounding V6 engine available on the market today.
The rest of the 350Z is strikingly similar to before. It still looks great, rides hard, has loads of tyre noise and a notchy yet bulletproof gearbox.
Although the seats are still hardly the most comfortable items around, the new active headrests are a cruising boon. The Bose audio system, with its six disc CD-changer, is still a perennial favourite with me for its often-ignored ability to play cassette tapes... Indeed.
Still riding on 18-inch wheels, the Nissan retains it meaty steering feel, which is communicative. It makes hustling the 350Z through sweeps at speed an entertaining driving experience, especially with the engine now mounted 15mm lower to aid the centre of gravity.
The 350Z demands to be set up with respect for fast sweeps and trailing throttle antics remind you that this is no lightweight sportscar.
If you make the effort to brake-throttle-control it dutifully, it is a fabulously involving car to drive fast. However, it does tend to generate warping lateral G-forces, which demands total dedication.
The new 350Z is no cynical marketing exercise. Nissan has left the exterior and interior detailing that have popularised the Z unchanged, and simply given it a fabulously rapier-like driving experience by freeing up the engine.
Chasing the rev-limiter has never been easier or more rewarding in a Z-car, and with incremental price increases of R 414 350 to R 419 500 for the coupe, and R 448 000 to R 453 900 for a roadster the quintessential Japanese sportscar has just become an even better deal.
Coupe R419 500
Roadster R453 900