This year’s model now boasts 296bhp – a 20bhp increase – as well as some minor tweaks. Squint hard and you may notice the new front bumper and headlamps. Run your hand over the centre console and the higher quality plastics will catch your attention.
But elsewhere the car has been left alone, which is exactly as it should be, because to my mind there isn’t a better sports car for under £30,000. With a 3.5-litre V6 engine, rear-wheel drive and funky looks the 350Z is a package which is hard to fault.
The extra power doesn’t impact greatly on the headline performance figures – 0-62mph is 0.1 seconds quicker now at 5.8 while top speed is still limited to 155mph. However, the torque curve has been massaged and is much flatter than before, which means there is more pulling power higher up in the rev range.
This should mean fewer downchanges to stoke the engine up before overtaking, but in reality the aural pleasure provided means you’ll continue to change down anyway. And when you do you unleash a wave of power which doesn’t abate until 7,000rpm.
The Nissan also has a chassis which is more than capable of delivering driving thrills. With the engine at the front and rear-wheel drive, the 350Z has an almost perfect weight balance fore and aft, making it a very easy car to drive quickly.
The wide 18-inch tyres provide plenty of grip, and the traction control system doesn’t intervene into the fun until late on, meaning you can feel like a hero behind the wheel without putting yourself or anyone else in danger.
The steering remains as precise and well-weighted as before, even with a new variable ratio rack which offers more assistance at slow speeds and firms up as speed builds.
It adds up to an even better driving experience than before, and with no price rise. Factor in extra kit as standard (the RAYS alloys pictured are now standard rather than being a £1,000 option) and the 350Z makes a compelling argument for perk drivers who want a car to stand out in.
Just so long as they don’t want much boot space, as the load area is compromised by the thick strut brace which straddles the boot. And while on the subject of niggles, who on earth designed those clunky door handles? They stick out like a sore thumb on such a sleek shape.
And, to be honest, that’s about all I can think of to criticise. The 350Z really is that good.
P11D value £28,597
CO2 emissions (g/km) 280
BIK % of P11D in 2006 35%
Graduated VED rate £210
Insurance group 18
Combined mpg 24.1
CAP RV (3yr/60k) £12,800/45%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k) £526
We don’t like:
Three rivals to consider
A MIXED bag of cars, with the 237bhp Honda (in GT spec with a removeable hard top) leading from the similarly-powerful Alfa. The Nissan is a grand more than the S2000, although the 350Z has much more power – 296bhp. The BMW is the most expensive and has 261bhp. from its 3.0-litre engine.
Emissions and tax rates
DEEP pockets are needed to run these as company cars as all cost more than £300 a month in benefit-in-kind tax. For a 40% taxpayer the BMW is the cheapest at £301, followed by the Honda at £312. The Alfa will cost £332 and the Nissan is the most expensive at £333.
THESE high performance cars are likely to make their way through a fair few sets of premium brand tyres over 60,000 miles, so they’re not going to be cheap to maintain. The 350Z is cheapest while Alfa dealers’ higher labour rates mean the Brera will cost more than £3,000.
ppm (60,000 miles total) 350Z 4.12 (£2,472) Z4 4.66 (£2,796) S2000 4.75 (£2,850) Brera 5.04 (£3,024)
THE BMW returns a claimed 31.7mpg, which means a likely fuel bill of around £8,000 over 60,000 miles. The Honda returns 28.2mpg while the Alfa and Nissan hover around 24mpg. However, these figures require a light right foot – not very likely in these cars.
Z4 13.55ppm £8,130 (60,000 miles total)
S2000 15.23 £9,138
Brera 17.46 £10,476
350Z 17.82 £10,692
A NARROW win for the Nissan. CAP estimates the 350Z will retain 45% of its cost new after three years/ 60,000 miles. This means it will lose £15,744 over its fleet life. The Honda will retain 43% and the BMW 42%. The Alfa is marked down to a relatively lowly 38%.
350Z 26.24ppm £15,744 (60,000 miles total)
S2000 26.28 £15,768
Brera 29.25 £17,550
Z4 30.12 £18,072
THE Honda is the cheapest to run over 60,000 miles. At 46.26ppm it will cost a fleet £27,756 – more than £1,000 less than the Nissan. The BMW loses out, unusually, by having the worst depreciation cost. The Alfa Romeo suffers from high depreciation and servicing bills.
S2000 46.26ppm £27,756 (60,000 miles total)
350Z 48.18 £28,908
Z4 48.33 £28,998
Brera 51.75 £31,050
AS the best all-round proposition, the Honda S2000 takes some beating. It looks cool, offers the lowest running costs and reasonable tax bills for drivers. But it doesn’t win, simply because it hasn’t got enough character. While revving its engine to 8,000rpm is great fun, it’s no substitute for a meaty V6, which is where the characterful Nissan 350Z comes in. It’s got all the others licked for pace, is good on running costs and looks fabulous, too.