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3/4 Front Glamour 2004 Nissan 350Z

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MPG 20 City / 26 Highway

Introduction

The Nissan 350Z recaptures elements of the original Datsun 240Z. It's fast, it's fun, it's pure sports car. And, like the original Z, it's affordable, or at least attainable. A convertible called the Z Roadster has joined the lineup for 2004, adding the joy of open-air motoring to the mix. The Roadster's chassis gives up almost none of the solidness that characterizes the coupe. The Roadster feels as rigid as a prototype racer's and tighter, in fact, than some higher priced soft tops. With the top up, the look is traditional coupe, in profile giving no hint of its transitory nature. Top down, there's a hint of the Porsche Speedster's high-waisted, bustle back end. The Z Roadster looks even more like a mid-engine sports car than the hatchback. The coupe, introduced as an all-new model for 2003, continues without changes. Coupe or roadster, the 350Z is as responsive as a hungry cheetah, with racecar handling, rear-wheel drive, and thrilling acceleration performance. The suspension keeps the tires glued to the road through fast chicanes. Bounce over the curbs like Michael Schumacher and the Z will hold its line. Styling details like the controversial industrial-design door handles ensure this car will never be called bland. All 350Zs get the same sports suspension and Nissan's superb V6 engine, which punches out 287 horsepower and strong torque. It comes standard with racy hardware: a six-speed manual gearbox, carbon-fiber driveshaft, drive-by-wire throttle, anti-lock discs vented front and rear with electronic brake-force distribution. Add the convenience features that come standard, such as automatic temperature control and a premium stereo, and the price of the Nissan 350Z is quite compelling. Nissan says the 350Z was designed to be a sports car an enthusiast can live with every day. While its firm ride, abrupt throttle response, and awkward cup holders don't make it a great place to drink coffee, eat doughnuts, and make phone calls on the way to work, it is a comfortable car with usable cargo space, and getting in and out isn't impossibly awkward. Order a version with the excellent five-speed automatic, and you'll have a better commuter for the daily stop-and-go. Bottom line: The Nissan 350Z is no poser. It more than delivers on the promise of its stellar looks. It's a real sports car with serious GT performance. The Roadster simply adds wind-in-your hair freedom.
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