A previous overall winner, the Nissan 350Z still impresses in its current incarnation, even if it's not quite as fresh three years later
Three years ago, the Nissan 350Z won this title outright; now, a makeover has earned it a reappearance. Engineers at the firm haven’t messed with the classic macho sports car formula too much, but the 3.5-litre V6 has had a radical overhaul (it’s 80 per cent new), giving more low-down torque and an extra 13bhp. And the gearbox is now more refined and slicker.
Inside, the changes are more discreet, but climbing into the 350Z is still an occasion. The car begs to be driven, thanks largely to the low-slung seating position, thin-rimmed steering wheel and stubby gearlever.
Nor does it disappoint on the move. The revised powerplant is very strong, with its soundtrack developing from a deep-chested growl to a spine-tingling howl the harder you push. As with Vauxhall’s VXR8, the 350Z’s rear-wheel drive is from the old school. Your direction can be adjusted as easily by your right foot as through the weighty and accurate steering.
Although it doesn’t have the VXR8’s power output, the Nissan is a more precise and accurate driver’s car, with better traction and powerful, fade-free Brembo brakes.
Yet the revisions can’t disguise the fact the 350Z is no longer as fresh as it once was. High-speed composure is a slight weakness, and while the steering is communicative, it suffers from kickback on bumpy roads. Of course, this crudeness also adds to the car’s rough and ready charm.
Just don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s slow. A 67.1-second lap time was only half-a-second adrift of the Porsche Cayman S, and better than even the Mercedes CL63 AMG and VXR8 could muster. The 350Z is quick and entertaining – so underestimate it at your peril.
- 1Welcome to Greatest Drives 2007We've gathered together this year's hottest cars to fight it out on road and track for the title of Auto Express's Greatest Drives 2007
- 2Mercedes CL63 AMGThe latest Mercedes AMG is a variant of the Bentley Continental-rivalling CL63. Does a two-tonne sports saloon make sense?
- 3BMW 130i M SportAlthough it's the baby of the BMW range, it bears the M Sport pack, giving it a formidable 261bhp
- 4Vauxhall Corsa VXRIt was our top supermini earlier this year, but does the VXR version of the Vauxhall Corsa cut it in this esteemed company?
- 5Audi S5It might not be the most thrilling to drive, but the Audi S5 is one of the easiest cars to drive quickly
- 6BMW M5 TouringThe estate version of the BMW M5 is no slouch, but it doesn't feel as special as previous M cars from BMW
- 7Lotus 2-ElevenThe Lotus 2-Eleven is an uncompromised trackday car - driveable, if not comfortable, on the road, but unsurpassed on a circuit
- 8Morgan Aero 8 AmericaThe most visually distinctive car here, the Morgan Aero 8 may look old-fashioned but it's a precise and powerful sports car with an engine note to die for
- 9Vauxhall VXR8The Vauxhall from down-under is very much an old-style muscle car - and the VXR8 knows how to let you have fun
- 10Nissan 350Z - currently readingA previous overall winner, the Nissan 350Z still impresses in its current incarnation, even if it's not quite as fresh three years later
- 11MINI Cooper SNow a more mature drive, the latest MINI is slightly less fun than previous Cooper models - which is why it's outside the top 10
- 12Caterham Sigma Roadsport 125It's a perennial favourite of Greatest Drives, and this year's Caterham Roadsport is no different - brilliant on the track, a little rough on the road
- 13Fiat Panda 100HPAs much fun as cars 10 times its price, the Fiat Panda 100HP won't set any lap records, but will leave a big smile on your face
- 14Mazda MX-5 RCIt's the top-selling two-seater of all time, but does the Mazda MX-5 still have the flair to challenge for the title of Greatest Drive?
- 15Renaultsport Mégane F1 Team R26The latest F1-inspired Renaultsport Megane has learnt from previous models' failings, and is now a brilliant all-round package