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Road & Travel's 2004 Sexy Car Buyer's Guide

Nissan 350Z Roadster
2004 Nissan 350Z Roadster

How long will someone wait for the return of a legend? Nissan Z fans proved they'll wait long enough. First, the Japanese automaker (originally known as "Datsun" until nearly three decades ago) brought back the revered Z (of Datsun 240Z fame). The revival was the hunky '03 hardtop. Now there's a sexy roadster version added to the mix.

Like a Bruce Lee or other martial arts icon, the rear-wheel drive Z is all about performance, from its throaty rumble to its hunkered down shoulder line that gives it the appearance of speed ready to explode. With a solid aluminum block 3.5-liter V-6, 287-horse-power powerplant under the hood, and a short-throw, six-speed manual for the brave, it eats up pavement with a vociferous appetite in low gear before complaining with a centered warning light that red line is coming up fast. Handling is solid and a tad heavy, but that fits the image of this true sportscar.

For '04, Nissan adds the Z Roadster, with the bulging coupe top stripped away for fresh air fun, but without compromising its solid, forceful appearance. A power-operated soft top (with heated glass rear window) disappears undercover to hide the fact there ever was one, seamlessly blending interior with exterior appearance. Nissan gave a lot of attention to a roadster characteristic that could be considered a bonus or a flaw, depending on one's point of view. It spent much of its roadster development time eliminating wind noise and the annoying "buffeting" often associated with the breed.

The 350Z Roadster comes in two well appointed versions, an enthusiast's model and a slightly pricier touring model with leather and a seven-speaker Bose audio system. Both are in the mid-30s range, about $10,000 more than the base coupe. Best of all, both models retain what Nissan calls the Z DNA. It is the avenger of all things bland, the terminator of boredom, the Men in Black of malevolent design. Oh yeah, and it's still known instantly as simply the "Z."