The Nissan 350Z is one of the most popular Japanese sports cars of the past couple of decades.
Owing to decent affordability when new and high production numbers, you still see lots of 350Zs on the road (or in some markets you might see the JDM version – the Fairlady Z). In some respects, this is a bit strange as the 350Z is also one of the most dangerous cars on the road, but there are still plenty of “survivors” to pick from.
But is the Nissan 350Z a reliable car? If you’re thinking of buying one for yourself, are you likely to get good service, or are you potentially buying a bit of a nightmare?
In this edition of Car Facts we take a closer look at whether the 350Z is a reliable car, and what you need to know about the durability of this particular Japanese “modern classic”.
The 350Z Has A Good Reputation For Reliability
The good news is that the Nissan 350Z has a solid reputation for reliability.
This boils down to a few key reasons:
- As far as performance cars go, the 350Z is actually rather simple. It is an “old school” combo of a robust, large NA motor with a simple transmission and rear wheel drive. This is a formula as old as performance cars themselves! These days manufacturers extract huge power out of smaller and smaller turbocharged engines, and use complex dual-clutch transmissions and other technology to extract every last ounce of performance. For example, one of the editors of this site recently looked at a Peugeot 308 GTI 270, which produces nearly as much horsepower as the 350Z out of a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine. Incredibly impressive from a technical perspective, but all the components are under far greater stress. The Nissan 350Z is like a good burger – a simple recipe, but one that has been time-tested and proven.
- The VQ V6 engine in the 350Z is rock solid. This motor has a great reputation for reliability, provided you keep up with routine maintenance like oil changes. Some cars do use more oil than might be expected, but even those are likely to do Star Trek mileages provided the oil is kept topped up. Later models with the VQ35HR have the best reputation for reliability, so seek those out if possible. However, earlier cars are fine too, but you are more likely to encounter oil consumption issues. The V6 in the 350Z is a unit that has been used in a number of cars, including Infiniti models like the G35, the later generation Nissan Stagea, and even the Nissan Murano SUV. Buy a well-maintained example and keep on top of the maintenance, and you should have a good time – especially if you are able to buy a later example.
- No real “Achilles’ Heel”. Unlike some cars, the 350Z doesn’t really have any critical issues that can lead to the car massively blowing up or becoming uneconomical to repair. That is not to say that no owners have ever had their cars fail, but more often than not this is due to lack of maintenance and neglect over time. It’s a bit of a strange comparison, but something like the MG-F sportscar of the 1990s and early 2000s is a good example to compare to. This car had notorious issues with the cooling system and blowing head gaskets. On earlier cars it was basically a question of when the head gasket would fail, not if it would fail. While the damage was generally repairable, this came at a cost in terms of time and hassle, and buying a car like the 350Z that doesn’t have such a reputation is generally a good idea. The Peugeot 308 GTI 270 mentioned above is another example of a car with a clear Achilles’ Heel. The front brakes are massive “floating” ones, which can cost upwards of $3000 to replace for discs and pads, and stock availability is not great in some locations. On the other hand, most of the problems that do occur with the 350Z are fixable for a reasonable price. For example, there were some issues with interior trim like door handles falling off due to the weight of the doors and aggressive pulling putting stress on them, but replacing the handles isn’t overly expensive.
- The biggest issues to look out for are transmission grinding in earlier cars, usually on the 3rd and 5th gears, and excess oil consumption in 350Zs with the “RevUp” engine (which came in 2005/2006 cars). Interior trim issues can be common – Nissan has never had the best reputation for interior build quality compared to some other manufacturers, but generally most of these issues are easy enough to fix.
Conclusion – Is The 350Z Reliable?
Yes, the 350Z is generally one of the more reliable sports cars on the market.
It combines solid build quality (especially in terms of the mechanical components) with a simple drivetrain – naturally-aspirated engine, basic manual or auto gearboxes, and rear-wheel drive.
This is a good combination when it comes to ongoing reliability.
While no used car purchase will ever be perfect, if you are on the market for a reliable performance car, then find a well-cared-for 350Z could be one of your best bets.
The biggest issue you are likely to encounter is that many 350Zs have been thrashed and abused since the day they first rolled out of the showroom, or have been poorly modified. As such, it’s important to do your research and homework and buy your 350Z based off condition and service history (this is also far more important than mileage – a car that has been used for lots of motorway commutes is a better buy than a lower mileage example that has been raced at every set of traffic lights).
If you’re interested in buying a 350Z, then read our full buyer’s guide and model history here. We go into depth on how to find, inspect and purchase a 350Z, and what to look out for when it comes to reliability etc.
If you don’t have time to read our full buying guide, then the main things to look out for are:
- Buy the 350Z in the best condition you can find for your money. This might not be the first car you see!
- Service history is valuable, look for an example with the best possible service history.
- Condition is more important than mileage.
- Buy as new of a 350Z as possible – 2007/2008 models have the best reputation for reliability, especially with regards to avoiding some of the oil consumption issues that could occur on earlier cars (this is a general rule with almost any car – the later in the lifecycle you go, the more issues have tended to be ironed out)