"Z." It's the last letter of the alphabet, but the first word in some classic duals...A slash of silver-tipped sword cutting a swift letter "Z" in the air as the fictional legend of Zorro a century ago surges to contemporary life. Picture an emboldened Antonio Banderas, as the ultimate Latino lover, in hot pursuit of a raven-haired Catherine Zeta-Jones while cutting down the desperado villains of the world...A silvery blur streaking along a band of unimpeded roadway. The legend of Nissan, as the Japanese automaker seeks to further banish boring from the combat of sports car driving.
Zs, in the auto sense, aren't something new. Nissan has built a hunky two-seater, rear-drive sports car with "Z" designation for some 35 years. But fans went into a frenzy a few years ago when a freshly-designed, beefed up Z was finally unveiled for North American lead foots in the mid-$20,000 to high-$30,000 true sports car buying range.
For 2005, Nissan calls upon the 35-year heritage with an anniversary model, one of six 350Z coupes to choose from, including Touring and down-and-dirty Track models. In addition to the strong, muscular good looks of the hardtop (in profile, sporting an almost fist-like tension -- ready to jab forward, contender-style), Nissan offers some sterling anniversary edition teasers. Among them: Six-speed manual and 5-speed automatic transmissions, bold, five-spoke 18-inch cast-alloy sport wheels, spoilers in front and rear for added authority, plus Brembo brakes. Special Z badging looks as if carved with a well-brandished sword tip. A screaming Ultra Yellow liquid-look exterior nearly glows.
Two buff chop-top roadsters have three-lock, power-operated tops that tuck out of sight, including rear window glass, in a real 20-second conversion -- not a smoke & mirrors trick. Top up, led by its overly elongated headlamps, bullnose front fascia and low ground effect, it appears to hunker down for a fast, roll-over-the-competition run -- a thrilling promise it keeps when ignited. Among roadster features: Standard tire pressure monitors, front and rear "lifter" for most driver's seats, a shortened clutch pedal for manual trans versions, and "downshift rev matching" so those with automatics and nerve can max their sports driving fun. Roadster power comes from the same gutsy 3.5-liter, 287-HP V-6 as the coupe's (300-HP in a special anniversary version).
A wide screened navigation system monitor, set below gauges, rules the Z350's center stack that houses comfort controls and six CD Bose sound system. Bold two-tone seats with shoulder cupping headrests add punch. On the road, Zs are assassins of timidity. They blaze with pure, no apologies sports car dominance not meant for the tentative.