Road & Travel Magazine

Auto Advice & Tips
Auto Buyer's Guides
Car Care Maintenance
Climate Views & Videos
Auto Awards Archive
Insurance & Accidents
Legends & Leaders
New Car Reviews
Planet Driven
Road Humor
Road Trips
RV & Camping
Safety & Security
Teens & Tots Tips
Tire Buying Tips
Used Car Buying
Vehicle Model Guide

Travel Channel
Adventure Travel
Advice & Tips
Airline Rules
Bed & Breakfasts
Cruises & Tours
Destination Reviews
Earth Tones
Family Travel Tips
Health Trip
Hotels & Resorts
Luxury Travel
Pet Travel
RV & Camping
Safety & Security
Spa Reviews
Train Vacations
World Travel Directory
Bookmark and Share

by Steve Siler

Nissan 350Z
2003 Nissan 350Z

The all-new 350Z coupe has been a bargain-priced bombshell since hitting the road last fall. And this summer, it is joined by an edgy new convertible version that will represent not only the long-awaited successor to the basket-handled-but-still attractive 300ZX convertible of the last '90s, but perhaps the sexiest Z car in history.

Whether you choose a hardtop or convertible Z, you'll get the same techno-themed styling with squared-off headlights and meaty, flared fenders. In place of the coupe's cleanly styled dome roof, the convertible features a nice fabric top with a small glass rear window, which disappears at the touch of a button underneath a rigid tonneau cover with cool headrest fairings.

And they only get better in motion, thanks to tight suspensions, razor-sharp steering and 287-hp engines powering the rear wheels. It's hard to pick a favorite, but we will say that the convertible offers the most direct line to the sonorous melodies coming from the twin rear exhaust tips. Yum.

The dash of the 350Z is an attractive yet serious-looking piece of sculpture, rendered in metal and plastics-the former being of good quality and the latter not so much. But that's easily overlooked by virtue of all the other interior strengths, which include big, clear gauges set in a pod that moves up and down with the steering wheel to ensure that you can see them regardless of wheel position. Great seats coddle your bum for high-energy driving (which, after all, is what any Z-car does best).

There's also a respectable amount of front shoulder room, something you don't' always get in sports cars, although we did find it a bit too easy for an errant elbow to flick on the seat heaters (a terribly unwelcome surprise on one particularly sweltering June day). The other bummer inside the Z is the enormous rear strut tower brace that, while lovely to behold, renders the cargo area much less useful.

Worth noting is that Nissan's luxury division, Infiniti, offers its own version of the Z car, called the G35 Coupe (no convertible, though). With its longer wheelbase, real trunk space and genuine back seat, the G35 coupe is capable of delivering 95% of the Z Car's performance whilst adding about 95% more real-world usability, for only a nominally higher price.

Price: $28K-$40K