If you’re a driving enthusiast seeking a perfect blend of performance, style, and affordability, the Nissan 350Z should rank highly on your list of potential purchases.
Sold in the Japanese Domestic Market as the Nissan ‘Fairlady Z’ (and available in some countries such as New Zealand with plenty of ex-JDM imports) the 350Z still cuts an elegant shape 20 years on from its initial release.
This sleek model graced the roads from 2003 to 2009, drawing admiration and fans worldwide.
The Nissan 350Z isn’t just a car; it’s a testament to the harmony of design, performance, and affordability. From the moment it hit the roads in 2003, this iconic machine quickly etched its place in automotive folklore. Its distinct, curvaceous body, reminiscent of sports cars priced many times higher, promised a thrilling drive – and boy, did it deliver! Beneath that sculpted hood lies a heart that beats with raw power and responsiveness, making every drive feel like an event. Yet, the 350Z isn’t just about speed and looks. It’s also about accessibility. Nissan managed to package this dynamism at a price point that made sports car dreams attainable for many. It’s this blend of performance, design, and value that has solidified the 350Z’s esteemed reputation among enthusiasts and casual drivers alike.
While generally being regarded as a reliable, modern performance car (and a great used buy – although you want to get in quick as prices are rising – consult our comprehensive Nissan 350Z buyer’s guide for more information) as with all cars some years and specific iterations are better than others.
As part of our new ‘Best & Worst Years’ series, in this article we give a quick rundown on the best years of the 350Z as well as the worst.
Table of Contents
- There is no ‘scientific measure’ of best and worst years for the 350Z (or any car for that matter) – the following content is based on research from user forums, YouTube videos, motoring publications etc
- Buying a car from one of the better years doesn’t guarantee no problems
- Buying a car from one of the worse years doesn’t mean you will wind up with a lemon
- More important than the specific year is finding a 350Z that is in the best possible condition – and with the best possible service history – for your budget. That’s why it’s critical to consult our 350Z buyer’s guide in conjunction with this article.
- Whatever used car you are looking to buy, you should always undertake a pre-purchase vehicle history check – here’s the service we recommend.
With that said, let’s take a look at the years to buy and years to avoid for the 350Z.
Nissan 350Z – Worst Years
While these models paved the path to the 350Z’s legendary status, they did come with some quirks:
- Teething Troubles: As the debut year, it faced initial production issues that are more common earlier in the lifecycle of a vehicle.
- Tire Woes: Notorious for excessive tire wear.
- Transmission Glitches: Synchro issues in manual transmission.
- Transmission Troubles Continue: Synchro problems persisted from the previous year.
- Fuel Damper Squeal: Some units reported a high-pitched squeal, attributed to the fuel damper.
Nissan 350Z – Best Years
These are the years where the 350Z truly shined, and they promise an optimal blend of performance and reliability:
- Engine Superiority: Introduction of the VQ35HR engine, delivering more power and addressing the oil consumption issue.
- Build Quality: Refinements and improvements led to a sturdier car overall.
- Interior Facelift: Enhanced comfort and aesthetics in the cabin.
- Brake Enhancements: Upgraded brakes for top-notch responsiveness.
- 2006 (With A Caveat):
- RevUp Engine: Certain models boasted the VQ35DE RevUp engine with increased power, but with potential oil consumption issues. If you are fastidious with checking the oil level in your car and don’t mind topping up, this could be a good buy.
- Styling Update: Fresh features and tweaks set it apart from its predecessors.
The Nissan 350Z, regardless of the year, represents a significant chapter in automotive history.
As used buying, the 350Z (along with its younger sibling the 370Z for which we will soon produce a similar article) represents a still-affordable opportunity to purchase what is a dying breed – a pure sports car with a large-displacement, multi-cylinder engine up front and rear wheel drive.
Reviews at the time, as well as modern reviews, praise the raw and involving nature of the 350Z.
It also helps that this was a generally reliable car (thanks in part to its relative simplicity with no complicated forced induction, dual-clutch transmissions or trick AWD systems)
Earlier years for this car tend to be more problematic and while the 2007-2009 models are often hailed as the golden era, individual car care and usage can change the narrative. Always prioritize the vehicle’s history and maintenance when making your decision. For example, if you have to pick between a fastidiously maintained 2003 or a poorly maintained 2009, the 2003 model wins EVERY TIME.
Whichever year you lean towards, may your 350Z journey be filled with exhilarating drives and lasting memories.