Nissan 350Z

Nissan's 350Z GT has a heavily reworked engine which gives more power without sacrificing fuel economy

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It's difficult to think of many ways that the 350Z could have been improved, but Nissan has managed it. The heavily reworked engine offers even more urge and personality, without any sacrifice at the pumps. And to top it off, the firm's engineers have left the best bits alone. The 350Z remains a handsome, well built and entertaining sports car that boasts bags of character as standard. What's more, despite the price rise, it still represents excellent value for money.

With power, pace and polished handling, there wasn't much wrong with the original 350Z. Launched in 2003, the muscular Nissan two-seater was as good to look at as it was to drive, A minor update early last year only served to highlight the fact that relatively little needed improving.

But the Japanese firm has been at it again, and is offering another facelift for both the roadster and coupé. Take a walk past the newcomer and you'll be hard-pressed to tell it apart from the previous car.

While the bright orange finish is a new colour, the shape and details are otherwise identical. But move a little closer and you'll see a power bulge in the bonnet that designers claim is inspired by the classic 240Z.

This subtle change offers a clue to some major heart surgery within. The 3.5-litre V6 has been tweaked by Nissan's engineers to the point that it's 80 per cent new.

Peak power has risen by only 9bhp, but the motor now revs to 7,500rpm, while 90 per cent of the 358Nm of torque has been made available from 2,000rpm, with neither economy or emissions suffering as a result.

Finally, the whole unit has been lowered by 15cm to drop the car's centre of gravity. Although the bare figures show that the 0-60mph time has been shaved by only 0.1 seconds, the benefits feel much more potent.

The more tractable engine pulls harder from lower revs and emits a deep growl which turns into a spine-tingling yowl the harder it's pushed. Some further modifications to the powertrain have also resulted in an even sweeter gearshift and less vibration while at idle and under load.

Other tweaks are less substantial. The suspension has been left as it was, but not at the expense of the driving experience. The steering is still well weighted and accurate, the chassis balance remains superb, thanks to the rear-wheel-drive set-up, and the Brembo brakes bring everything to a stop with strong bite and the minimum of fade. In this GT spec, the Nissan now weighs in at nearly £30,000 - around £1,000 more than the old model. But even at its new price, the 350Z is still hard to beat for driving thrills.

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