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Reader Test: Nissan 350Z

2007-08-01 07:10

Gustav Schindler, Cape Town

To begin with - the name is all wrong. This car should be called the "365Z" - for the number of days of delight it provides a year! I have had mine for that long now and my eagerness to drive it is as unblemished as the day I took delivery.

Nissan's Z revival car has been around in SA for just over three years now, yet its lines, all scalpel edges joined through sweeping classic curves, have not aged. Look at it standing still and it looks like it's in motion.

Mine is my daily driver. Initially it did take some getting used to for all the attention it elicits, from boys' cell phone snapshots to petrol attendants? questions about top speed and whether it's a Z4?

A pukka sports car

With over 200 kW of power, the car is never short of breath, but also throws so much torque that it allows you to drive it in normal traffic and enjoy it, without having to drive it as if you stole it. The clutch is not as feathery as one is accustomed to from Japanese cars, but adds to the feeling that you are driving something substantial.

The gear shift is slightly notchy but always precise, short and well-spaced to take advantage of the wide rev bands. The bellow beyond the 4 000 r/min mark can never be heard too often and the ensuing sling-shot shove, especially in the first three gears, is intoxicating. Impractical? Who cares. I have taken the car to the South Coast from Cape Town with luggage for two for a week and did not have to go in search for extras on the other side. On the open road the car comes into its own and overtaking manoeuvres become split-second destractions.

Engine noise levels are acceptable and allow one to comfortably listen to the excellent inbuilt CD player. Road noise can be more intrusive though especially on rough surfaces due to its low profile ride. Suspension is expectedly firm but Nissan have done a good job in getting it to soak up most road bumps smoothly and so you never really experience that tooth-cracking shake that's a phenomenon of some other performance cars.

... but "practical" too

Fuel consumption is acceptable considering the engine's pedigree: I average between 14 to 15L/100km in town, including rush-hour traffic.

Interior-wise, it has good leg and shoulder room - and I am over 6ft tall. I have owned German marques before this car so I recognize good plastic when I see it. This car however doesn't have it. Again, not serious. Its intentions are honest. The dashboard layout is good, with the auxiliary dials atop the center section nicely angled towards the driver and the swing-happy rev counter easily legible in the main instrument cowl.

The seats are comfortable and very supportive. Driving position is easily achieved via the electric button adjustments. For those whose adrenalin doesn't warm them up quickly enough, electric seat heating will do the rest. Thankfully, rattles and squeaks are absent, there is no scuttle shake and in fast cornering you feel as if the car slices the road exactly as per your instruction.

It is a reliable, fun car and although it may not have the badge appeal of some of its German opposition, it is packed with engineering know-how and capability. So, from daily commuter to Grand Tourer to race-track bruiser, this car bears multiple personalities. Yet one shines through the strongest - the will to entertain!


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