Before the Nissan 350Z entered the North American scene, Nissan didn’t have much success in the market. The lineup it had from the late 1990s and early 2000s was missing something. Fortunately, the fifth generation of the Z sports car brought much flair with it. The two-door sports car’s compact body shape, muscular engine, rear wheel drive, and sharp handling became a hit. It helped that the 350Z wasn’t overpriced; it came at a price that most was able to afford. The 350Z gave Nissan’s Z lineup a much stronger comeback since the 300ZX. It brought back fun and performance in a sports car. The 350Z had a 7-year stint. Produced in 2002 and released as a 2003 model, it lasted through the 2009 model year. During its run, the Z sports car received a good number of recognitions, including Japanese Performance Car of the Year in 2007 by TopSpeed Magazine, 10 Best Cars in 2003 by Car and Driver, Editor’s Most Wanted in 2003 by Edmunds.com, International Car of the Year: Most Sex Appeal Award 2003 by Road and Travel, and Driver's Choice Best Performance Car in 2003 by MotorWeek.
2002: The Nissan 350Z first rolled out of the production line
When the 300ZX was taken out of the US market in 1996, Nissan had to think of ways to continue the Z line. The recreation of the 240Z happened the following year. The Z concept sketch was shown to the public by Yutaka Katayama, known as the Father of the Z, when he was awarded the motor industry award. Unfortunately, the design didn’t sit well with Yoshihiko Matsuo, the original 240Z designer. The 240Z concept was unveiled in the Detroit Motor Show, but its initial design seemed underpowered and backward. A redesign was later commissioned until the Z Concept was introduced in Detroit Motor Show several years later. It had a similar body shape but came with a new front end. After a minor redesign, the sports car became known as the 350Z.
In the first year of the Nissan 350Z, it was available as a coupe. The roadster was offered the following year. The coupe came in base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring, and Track trim levels. Meanwhile, the roadster was available in Enthusiast and Touring versions.
2009: Through the final year of the 350Z
There were minimal changes on the 350Z during its first few years. One of the bigger changes came when the 35th anniversary edition was released. This M/T model had an engine that could produce 300 hp but generated less torque. Some of the updates on the 350Z included speed-sensitive steering, better interior, new navigation system, and more standard features. The style was also upgraded. Non-Brembo models were given larger brakes. The Performance trim was eventually discontinued while the Grand Touring was added. For 2007, the Nissan 350Z was equipped with a more powerful V6 engine that could generate up to 306 hp. The Track trim was later dropped. The coupe-only Nismo 350Z, which was more performance-oriented, took its place. The coupe version was produced till 2008 while the roadster lasted through 2009. The 350Z was highly regarded by critics and reviewers for its value, performance, braking, and handling.