Nissan's 350Z is getting a bit long in the tooth, and while the company has an updated model of its sports car in the future product pipeline, they continue to add little refinements to the Z, making it still one of the best sports cars on the market.
There's only one semi-major feature new on our test car for 2008, though: Flashy "Nogano Red" paint, a $500 option that's almost mandatory for those who like to announce their arrival. It makes the 350Z roadster look like a tube of lipstick, and I mean that as a compliment.
The convertible version of the Z comes in three flavors: the Enthusiast, the Touring, and the Grand Touring. The test car was the midlevel Touring, which adds leather upholstery lacking in the Enthusiast, but doesn't have several of the features the Grand Touring offers, such as larger standard tires and wheels. They weren't missed.
The heart of every Z is the same regardless of model: that silky 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which has climbed in horsepower over the years to the present 306. With the six-speed manual transmission, there's power aplenty, delivered linearly and without drama. There's also a very competent five-speed automatic transmission offered, but I prefer the manual on this car.
The top operates easily but a little noisily: Flip a lever just above the rear-view mirror and press a switch, and a hatch located just behind the two seats opens, and the cloth top descends into the space beneath it, then the hatch drops back down. This does not affect trunk space, which is modest but quite usable.
Nissan has done an excellent job of stiffening the chassis for the convertible -- there's very little body shake, even on rough roads.
Inside, this is strictly a two-passenger vehicle, although those two can be full-size adults and not feel cramped. There are quite a few little storage cubbyholes, but no traditional glove compartment. Instruments and controls are all properly placed and easy to use. The bucket seats are supportive and adjustable to the point that anyone should find a comfortable position.
On the road, the 350Z has always delivered a fun, occasionally compelling ride, and it still does. Handling is excellent, and the ride is good on all but very rough pavement. This engine and transmission deliver an EPA-rated 18 mpg in the city, 25 mpg highway, not bad for a car with such sporting credentials.
The 350Z's styling still turns heads, and the new Nogano Red paint helps turn a few more. We await the next-generation Z-car, but until it arrives, this one still has a lot to like.