"Adventure is inconvenience properly perceived." — Llewellyn Thomas
"Places to go, things to do, Porsches to pass..." — 350Z showroom banner
"Think of it as a high-performance park bench with a mechanical beauty far
exceeding any external good looks." — the author
350ZR» 2004 Roadster Issues and Fixes
On this page...
Last revised on 06/04/2005 at 21 months and 15,400 miles from purchase.
The 2004 roadster clearly left behind some of the known imperfections of the
early 2003 coupes, but it still carries forward some minor 2003 flaws and
manages to add a few, most of which are common to 2004 ragtops and coupes alike.
Most of the 2004 roadster issues I'm aware of turn out to be minor annoyances or confusions, but some—
the 2003 right drift and front tire feathering problems,
and the tendency for multiple manual transmission replacements in some 2003s— are
potentially serious matters that may or may not have been fixed for 2004. Only time will
tell at this juncture. IMO, the 350Z pros still far
outweigh the cons, but it's better to know about such things up front.
What you won't find here are complaints like, "Why didn't Nissan throw
in this or that expensive feature for the price?" If they threw in the
kitchen sink, the 350Z would cost a lot more. Then they'd be tempted to cut
back on the mechanicals. Thanks, but no thanks. The car is a bargain as is by
and the motoring press seems to agree. An article in the November, 2003 Road
& Track opined that the stock 350Z stands among the best sports cars
ever made, and we all know the kind of cars they hobnob with. Even more telling
is this recurring theme: At every car magazine with a long-term 350Z test,
the staff fought daily over who got to take the 350Z.
* In the heat of his best sermon, "We're all sinners
before God," Reverend Symington swept his hand slowly over the congregation
and commanded in a quavering voice, "Let any man or woman among us who
can claim perfection rise!" To his utter astonishment, a middle-aged man in
the last pew rose. The congregation gasped. The minister leaned over the podium
with a stern, piercing look.
"Surely, sir, surely you don't consider yourself
perfect," he sputtered. "No, no, of course not, Reverend," said
the man. "I'm standing in proxy for my wife's first husband."
New or fixed For 2004?
list of the Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) issued on the 2003-04 350Z
outlines what's gone on with the 2003 models. What's been fixed for 2004 remains unclear at this
early stage of the model year, but some of the early 2003 problems (e.g., power
window grease streaks and malfunctions) were apparently already rectified in
later 2003 units. Nissan added a subwoofer to the Bose audio
system and claims to have "retuned" it, but I'm sorry to say that
it still disappoints in the mid-range. Front tire
feathering still plagues some 2004 Z-cars.
According to a 12/01/03 news item, ^CarWeek,
"Far East Peek: Nissan makes running changes to 2004-model 350Z",
2004-model Z's got additional interior padding here and there, a new center
dash compartment lid, some texture upgrades around the instruments, easier
to reach seat belts, a less harsh "Euro-tuned" suspension and, on cars so equipped, dual-cylinder Brembo brakes. By all accounts, these changes
first appeared on cars made in October, 2004 or later. Certainly, none of the
interior changes showed up in my July, 2003 roadster.
First, the home runs
Let's give credit where credit is due: Nissan got most things right and all the really important things (the
mechanicals) spectacularly right in the 2004 roadster. Before
I start nitpicking, let me count some of the biggest home runs, in no particular
performance-to-cost and fun-to-cost ratios
Why's this man smiling?
|Z-cars got their
start delivering unbeatable performance-to-cost ratios, and the 350Z is no
exception. For starters, the 350Z's impressive 11:1 weight-to-power ratio
is matched only by high-end sports cars costing far more and by muscle cars with
far less refinement and handling prowess.
DOHC V-6 and 6-speed manual transmission
Award-winning VQ350ET 3.5L DOHC V-6
|I can't rave enough about
the way the engine and the 6-speed manual transmission work together,
but words like "effortless", "tight",
"solid", "holy moly!" and "yeeee ha!" come
to mind. You'll just have to try it to see what I mean. Peak
torque (270 ft-lb) comes at 4,800 rpm, and the engine couldn't be happier there.
The manual transmission is a joy to work. The close, well-chosen
gear ratios make it easy to bring peak torque to bear under wide range of
Torque is good.
|For me, Nissan struck
the perfect balance between handling and ride comfort. The emphasis is clearly on performance, but
the roadster handily doubles as a daily driver. Much of the credit here
goes to the 350Z's exceptionally rigid chassis, which in the roadster's
case was further stiffened to compensate for the lack of metal on top. The
roadster took on an extra 240 lbs. over the coupe in the process but was
then geared down a tad to keep quickness on par with the coupe.
|The roadster's standard (non-Brembo)
disc brakes are strong and sure. In fact, their one-shot 100-0 and 60-0
mph stopping distances rank among the best in the world. Fade is a
non-issue on public roads — even on long, spirited mountain runs On the track,
however, the brakes could use some help.
|The 350Z points
quickly and precisely, with a little understeer in
extremis to keep things more or less under control. At the limits of
adhesion, throttle steering is quite predictable. The power steering
provides just the right mix of assist and feedback. Nothing about this car
is out of touch with the road.
layout and feel
|Some complain here,
but the pedal layout works for my 11˝C dogs. I can easily heel-and-toe
brake and accelerator with the right foot alone) if I wear the right
clutch spring is surprisingly light for a performance car, and the
engagement point is very predictable.
Instrument pod at night
Driving computer display at far left
and easy to read — what more do you
need? The digital driving computer display makes it easy to keep an eye or
your speed or gas mileage.
mirror with HomeLink transceiver
Auto-dimming HomeLink mirror
storage for even a garage door opener in short supply, the mirror's
X-10-compatible ^HomeLink universal transceiver
turns out to be a real boon. Train it to open your RF-controlled garage door
or driveway gate, control home lights, start
the coffee, or turn off your daughter's music before entering the house. The
RF-controlled X-10 gizmos required on the home-side are less
expensive than you might think, especially on e-bay.
Hand controls on wheel
|The hand controls are the by far
best I've ever encountered. Your right thumb operates the simple 3-button
interface comfortably without straining the hand's grip on the wheel. Thanks to the 350Z's
drive-by-wire electronic throttle control technology, the car responds to
the hand controls as smoothly, stably and predictably as to the
gas pedal. If your right foot is as hard to reign in as mine, try
dialing in 25 mph when you enter your next school zone. Then sit back and
|The roadster's looks certainly work for
me — and also apparently for the many passersby who go out of
their way to compliment it with a frequency I've never experienced with any
other car. I still get lots of comments 2 years down the line.
Positive attention is good, especially when you share a living space
|The engine's song is
automotive music, pure and simple. It's silly,
I know, but as USA Today's automotive editor James Healy pointed
out in his glowing review,
the 350Z roadster's all about sensations, and this is one of its very best. "Listening to the engine's song rising and
falling as the gas and gears are worked makes the Z Roadster so
entertaining that a radio seems superfluous." I couldn't agree more.
On the way up
|Fast, easy to operate
and smooth as silk. (Just pray it never breaks.) With an 18-second up or
down time, there's little risk in putting the top down in iffy weather. You can
easily button up at a stoplight without holding up traffic.
Cabin air dam
|Even at speed with the
top and windows down, the cabin air is amazingly still, thanks in part to that
"Z"-bearing glass air dam behind the seats. Nissan claims to
have pumped a lot of wind tunnel time into their quest for quiet cabin air. I believe
A less obvious but but no less welcome benefit of quiet cabin air is
temperature control. In Denver, comfortable top-down temperatures are
easily attainable year-round.
|In-dash 6-CD changer
still substandard for a car in this price range, but I give the 2004
touring package's in-dash 6-CD changer an A+ for changing speed and ease
You'll find more discussion of the pluses on the shake-down
cruise and Break-out! pages.
Misses and fixes, 2004 roadster
The table below lists some of the imperfections I've
personally encountered in my 2004 roadster. Also included are a few
well-documented issues that I have yet to experience. Most of the problems are insignificant, and
I remain enthusiastic about the car, flaws and all. I mention them here not to whine,
but to help new and prospective Z owners understand and approach them as they
see fit. The offered fixes are simply the ones I've chosen to pursue
or consider for my own Z.
For the record, my 2004 350Z Touring Roadster came with burnt orange-trimmed ventilated seats, the standard
7-spoke 17" wheels and tires,
TCS (Traction Control System) but not VDC
(Vehicle Dynamic Control), aluminum kick plates, and carpeted floor and trunk mats.
The standard 2004 touring package came with a number of features sold separately in the 2003
"Premium Package", including the Bose audio system
and the auto-dimming mirror with the HomeLink
Aside from a highly recommended do-it-yourself engine grounding kit,
front brake pads and some high-temperature (DOT4) brake fluid, my roadster is completely stock and will probably remain so until the CXO (X = anything you can
think of) gets her new deck and landscaping.
As you read on, please keep the Llewellyn Thomas quote
at the top of the page firmly in mind. Note that "OE" stands for "original equipment".
|Comments and Fixes
climate controls inscrutable
Automatic climate controls
Door vent detail
|The 3 automatic climate control
knobs (bottom) come with some unexpected twists. For example, turning on
the fan or pushing the recycling mode button turns on the A/C light. This
common 2003 gripe is alive and well in my 2004.
inspection, this odd behavior is more a curve ball than a real problem.
the fan does indeed light the A/C "standby" light, but the A/C
compressor kicks in only when needed. The confusing light signifies only
that the A/C is ready if called upon by the automatic climate
Bottom line: The climate control system does an admirable job once you get past the
somewhat counterintuitive user interface. Once set, it requires very little
Seat heater switches
seat bottoms are always a bit warm.
It's generally quite tolerable, but if you suddenly notice your butt really
baking, check your seat heater rocker switch — the one cleverly located aft on the center console,
right about where
the driver's elbow lands when holding the shift lever.
|After much thought, I've come to see
the seat heater switch positioning as a feature, not a bug. It's Nissan's subtle way of reconditioning us to keep
our right hands on the steering wheel where they belong, and I have to
say, it seems to be working, at least on the open road. Around town, it's
still a nuisance that has "accessory opportunity"
written all over it. A decent-looking self-adhesive hinged switch cover
would sell. So would an elbow-proof switch that disables both seat heater
Left blinker on
claims that the 350Z's LED brake lights and turn signals are quicker to
fire up than their incandescent forebears, but the synthesized click of the all-electronic blinkers isn't
nearly loud enough— even at a standstill with the top up and the audio
| If you
depend on the loud "click-click-click" of the thermomechanical blinker switches
of yesteryear to remind you to turn off your turn
signal or 4-way flasher now and then, you'll need to find some other
cue. Short of a quick dope-slap from your passenger (doh!), heightened
awareness is only defense I
can think of.
Front before brushing
Front after brushing
Rear stays fairly clean
factory pads, the front wheels collect brake dust like crazy, especially around town. The front wheel accumulation seen in the
top frame represents only 5 days' worth under mixed city and highway driving.
By comparison, the rear wheels stay fairly clean. The bottom frame
shows a rear wheel that hadn't been
cleaned in over 3 weeks and 300 miles, again with stock pads.
350Z's static front/rear weight distribution is an enviable 50/50%, but
the front brakes still do the lion's share of the stopping. All other
things being equal, the front brakes would be expected to generate more
dust, but after installing a pair of highly-recommended ^Hawk
HPS front pads, the front wheels actually ran much cleaner than the
Even so, a minute or two of wheel
brushing can make a substantial improvement in the car's day-to-day appearance. Like most
silver-colored alloy wheels, these 17" OE wheels are painted and should be
cared for accordingly, but it's safe to dry-brush the brake dust off. At
first, I used the brush shown at left ($3 from the
supermarket, dust pan included), but an equally cheap long-handled wheel brush
from K-Mart proved easier on the back and knees with no visible marring of
the wheel finish.
audio system— improved but still wanting
Bose head unit
Bose "subwoofer", 2004
|Few 2003 350Z owners have repeatable things to say
about the ^Bose
audio system. For 2004, Nissan/Bose added a 10" speaker they
call a "subwoofer" behind
the driver's seat (bottom frame), and they claim to have retuned
everything. Granted, the 2004 sound quality's better, but it's still
mainly for lack of a mid-range. On the positive side, the fast in-dash 6-CD is a pleasure, and
with the right music, the
"subwoofer" can provide a nice lumbar
| Avoid the
Bose option if you can, particularly if you plan to replace the audio
system anyway, but here's the rub: The auto-dimming mirror/transceiver
bundled with the Bose audio in the 2004 touring package is a very
If you get stuck with a Bose system, you might try setting the bass and treble at
zero or even negative
levels to give the mid-range a chance. Nissan and Bose both acknowledged the poor 2003 audio performance and promised a fix for 2003
owners back in 2004. How that's played out since I have no idea, but
interested owners might check with Patty Bolack of Bose customer relations
at (800) 231-2673 or via ^http://www.bose.com/contact_us.
Not an anti-noise device
roadster is reasonably quiet with the top up. Wind and road noise become
progressively louder as first the top and then the windows come down, but
even then, I find it quite tolerable. You won't hear much of the radio or your
mobile phone in that last configuration, but wind in your hair has its own
The obvious first step is to run quieter tires.
For those times when you must DWP (drive while phoning), a headset
with an amplified earpiece helps.
Whatever you do,
don't turn up the audio system to drown out the road noise!
The ear-damaging effects of loud sound are
both insidious and additive, whether from road noise, music or both. If
you find your audio
uncomfortably loud when you bring the car to a stop, you're
endangering your ears, period.
space scarce, especially in the roadster
Trunk nearly full
Main cabin storage bins
Main console bin
Dash storage bin
Door storage pocket
Seat storage pocket
wife has handbags with more capacity than the
roadster's trunk, but that's to be expected in a
mid-size roadster. After all, the top has to go somewhere. In all fairness, the
more than it looks if you're willing to pack in several small bags or use
the trunk as one large suitcase.
Scattered through the cabin are
several storage bins and pockets, but most are small, inconveniently shaped, hard to
access, or all three. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th frames show the bin in the dash
and the coin and storage bins in the console. Not shown are two additional
book-sized covered bins behind the driver's seat.
The generous locking "glove box" behind the
passenger seat (5th frame) is big enough for boxing gloves or a full-size brief case but access is awkward at
best, even with no passenger. Don't overlook the "secret
compartment" below the glove box floor pad. It'll hold several small
or flat objects.
Also provided are small pockets in both doors (6th frame) and on the
outboard sides of both seats (last frame) and a map pocket at the bottom
of the back of the passenger seat.
line: Learn to travel light and pack the trunk very efficiently.
That's simply one of the trade-offs you accept for the privilege
of open-air motoring in an 350Z. Nissan deserves some credit for opening
up spaces for storage bins wherever they could, but storage is still
As you might imagine, there aren't many places to stow beverage
containers, either. The dog bowl in the passenger footwell in the last
frame is my working solution for Nalgene bottles and wide-bottomed
For $29 MSRP, Nissan offers an accessory seat-back organizer that looks like a good
bet for 350Zs with removable headrests, but it won't
work with the integrated head rests that come with the ventilated
^Case Logic makes a number of
caddies of potential interest to 350Z owners strapped for storage. To my mind, the most attractive
of these is a front seat caddy that mounts to and theoretically moves with
the seat bottom. Some have had luck with this caddy, but I couldn't
get it to move properly with the seat using the supplied mounting system
and didn't bother trying to jury-rig a substitute. Target carries these and many other
Case Logic offerings at prices well below those found on the Case Logic
Packing the 350ZR for a long trip can be quite a challenge, particularly if you
have to give up the other seat and footwell to a real live passenger. Fancy wheeled
luggage wastes far too much precious space, so try this old small plane
pilot's trick instead: Clean out the trunk and use the whole thing as your
suitcase. Filling all the odd-shaped and otherwise unusable recesses with
smaller items frees up a good bit of volume for larger items in the
center. Stuff one of the recesses with a single large folded-up duffle for
shuttling gear between car and room.
gone in 2004 auto-dimming mirror
to some reports, the
auto-dimming mirror does not include a compass in 2004.
would have been nice, but it's no great loss — just don't waste your
time looking for it like I did.
Cup holder shortage
OE front cup holder
Dog bowl cup holder
Dog bowl in place
1.0L Nalgene fits!
The only way to get enough cup holders is to buy a mini-van. Chances are,
you're not that desperate.
With the 350Z, you get 3
holders for narrow-bottomed cups: A very fragile-looking fold-away single by the
passenger's left knee (top frame), and a
2-cup insert for the center console storage bin (not
shown). In place, the 2-cup insert is very hard to
reach and to my mind wastes precious cabin storage space.
If you prefer commuter mugs or other wide-bottomed containers, you'll
need to get creative, but keep in mind that the only flat surfaces
of any significance in the 350Z cabin are the footwell floors. Since
the driver's footwell isn't a safe place for loose objects of any kind,
the passenger's footwell is your only hope.
The OE cup holders won't take a commuter mug or a
1.0L ^Nalgene bottle, but a
64 oz. rubber-rimmed stainless steel dog bowl on the floor in the
passenger's footwell will. The bowl stays put, contains its cargo
reasonably well and
stays clear of the passenger's legs and feet if tucked up against the seat.
Its contents remain well within the driver's
reach, but you may have to negotiate access rights with passengers who
don't recognize the driver's mandate to absolute power.
stabilize loads lacking a wide flat base, I use a plastic mesh
sack of glass beads from a bed and bath store. It fits the bottom of the
dog bowl perfectly. Any flat round beanbag will do here— including some
of those countless hoards of Beanie Babies languishing in your garage.
Dash storage bin doesn't always open
Dash storage bin
|The open dash storage bin
shown here is your consolation for
opting out of the navigation package. The 350Z's limited cabin storage
makes the reluctant latch more a sticking point than it really deserves.
|A light jab at the
button works better than a simple press; persistence and holding your
mouth just right also help.
The small size and odd shape of this shallow bin limit its utility, but I'm
thankful that Nissan elected to make the space available— they could have
just covered it up in Zs without the navigation package.
|Feathered Front Tires
Feathered front tires
My front tires at 15,000 miles
|Some 2003 and 2004 350Z owners
have experienced excessive wear (feathering) along the inside edges of
their front tires, as illustrated at top right.
If you observe uneven front tire wear, or hear excessive tire growl
below 30 mph or under moderate braking, have your dealer inspect your 350Z immediately. Realignments and tire
replacements for feathering are now warranted for 2 years, but why waste
|Since negative wheel
camber enlarges the critical inside contact patch in corners, most
track-oriented sports cars like the 350Z use it front and back. You'd
expect some uneven tire wear in any such car — especially one with the
350Z's low-end torque and cornering ability. Soft-compound OEM tires like
the 350Z's Potenzas can only aggravate the situation.
That said, the feathering seen on some 350Zs is clearly excessive. An
article in the Spring, 2004 issue of SportsZ
Magazine claims that a specially formed Nissan engineering task force
continues to seek the cause, but they doubt a fundamental suspension flaw
at this point.
See the online version of the article for more details, or this PDF
of Nissan's latest official technical service bulletin NTB04-043, dated
4/12/2004. You'll find much more on the feathering issue at www.NissanTireProblems.com.
Rear deck lid scratches
|Complaints about fragile paint are
frequent among 2003 and 2004 350Z owners. Color doesn't seem to matter
but some colors (like my black) show the inevitable chips and scratches more than others.
|My roadster picked up two nasty
door dings and several minor nose chips in its first 2 months. Shortly
thereafter, I found several scratches on the crease along the rear edge of
the trunk lid — probably
from my son's nylon school bag. In each case, the 350Z parted with more paint than
other cars I've known would have.
Whenever I mention the fragile paint
to my service rep, who's generally been quite responsive, he falls into a
|Grounding the engine
After (intake manifold cover off; the grounding cables are red)
Finished (intake manifold cover replaced)
| Have you noticed a power
flat spot just off idle, or a bit of engine roughness at 4,500 rpm and up?
Beefing up the engine's grounding (earthing) pathways will eliminate these
minor but recognized 350Z quirks.
But that's not all. Added benefits include more immediate throttle
response at all engine speeds and, according to one dyno test*, an extra 5
bhp at 5,100 rpm and 6 ft-lbs of torque at 5,400 rpm, with lesser gains
throughout the power curve. And all this for under $30 if you do it
yourself! You'd be lucky to get gains like that with a cold-air intake and
cat-back exhaust costing over $1,500 in parts alone. **
With that kind of bang for the
buck, it's easy to see why so many experienced 350Z enthusiasts recommend
grounding as the first engine modification.
grounding increases the signal-to-noise
ratio across the board for the scores of electronic sensors feeding
real-time engine information to the car's ECU (electronic control unit)
— especially for high-frequency, performance-critical inputs
like the oxygen and mass air flow sensors. Simply put, faster and better
ECU decisions translate directly into improved engine performance,
particularly in a car with drive-by-wire throttle control and
ECU-controlled variable valve timing.
In ~2.5 hours, I fabricated and
installed do-it-yourself engine grounding cables using only $29 in parts
and supplies and the detailed
illustrated online instructions kindly provided by the folks at Z-extreme.com. (If
you like, they'll sell you a set of high-quality cables ready to install.)
line: I highly recommend this simple but highly gratifying modification. The claimed benefits—
engine smoothness, responsiveness, power and torque— are real and
noticeable, and the cost and effort are negligible. I used to be able to feel 6,000
rpm coming, but no more. That programmable "up shift"
warning light now earns its keep.
* Turbo & High-Tech Performance Magazine, July, 2003
** Dyno-tested exhaust shoot-out, Sport Z Magazine, Fall, 2003
mark the drill points (ouch!) for the OE front plate holder. (Note the author's
reflected feet cleverly pointing at the dimples in the top frame.) If you'd rather
keep your dimples intact, catch your dealer before the prep crew installs the OE front plate holder.
The rear plate (last frame) attaches to built-in threaded inserts
taking 16 mm M6 1.0 pitch metric machine screws.
excellent alternative to
the OE front plate holder is Up Front Enterprises' black anodized aluminum
(1st and 2nd frames), which mounts via much less conspicuous holes drilled in
your grill. Be sure to carry a Philips
screw driver and a 3/8" open-end or socket wrench to remove the bracket
should you ever need to mount the front tow hook. The 3rd frame in this section shows Nissan's polished stainless steel Z-logo frame
in place on the Zee-Bracket, all of which are available at discount prices from ^Courtesy
Hanging your plate in front of the grille will reduce radiator air
flow, especially if you also install an after-market grille like the mesh
unit shown in the last frame. With plate and grille in place, my roadster
seriously overheated on its 1st track day, but temporarily removing the
front plate fixed the problem.
phone— no place to g
Best phone rest found so far*
Phone, headset and coin purse in the console recess
originally occupied by the OE coin receptacle
Next best phone home— the recess in the drivers arm
No safe, out-of-the-way flat mounting surfaces
interior offers no safe, accessible, out-of-the-way 2 x
1.75" flat spot to mount the car
holster for my smallish mobile phone. When I'm stuck DWP (driving while
phoning), the phone lives in the console recess normally inhabited by the coin receptacle.*
Even with a liner, the hole has room for the phone, a headset and a coin
purse bulging with nearly as much change as the original hard plastic
receptacle could hold. Better
yet, everything stays put.
Whatever you do, don't mount anything on
or near your airbag covers! Should the airbag ever deploy, an overlying phone
or holder would instantly become a potentially lethal high-speed projectile aimed directly at
Potential EMT report excerpt: The air bag
would have saved him, but the cell phone holder ended up in his left
frontal lobe. =8^(
| For details on a fairly simple way to
the console coin receptacle recess for duty as a phone holder, see Phone Home on the Tips
& Tricks page.
try to talk hands-free whenever you're stuck DWP. The statistics on DWP are
abundantly clear: As an impediment to safe driving, DWP tops
smoking and eating in the car and even tops alcohol intoxication!
Hands-free or otherwise, mobile
phones distract from the serious business of driving.
And just how does DWP differ from conversing with a passenger? For
starters, a live passenger might well alert you to unnoticed hazards,
missed turns, etc.
Hands-free phoning also spares your brain the attendant microwave dose.
Credible research results raising concerns about cell phone-related
microwave exposures continue to emerge. ^Science News covered several such reports
Mobile phone head-sets are cheap, convenient and ubiquitous. It's just plain common
sense to use one whenever you can, in or out of the car.</soapbox>
BTW, the fold-away dash cupholder makes a great headset hanger. It will
also hold your phone, but small phones are likely to slip under the rail on the left side and onto the
floor without added containment.
* Thanks to Yobri of the 350ZMotoring.com
forum for this great idea.
equipment "summer performance" tires
OE 17" wheel and tire, front
OE 17" wheel and tire, rear
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S
Michelins all around
|As of this writing, all
350Zs have all come shod with ^Bridgestone
Potenza RE040 "summer performance" tires. Perhaps Nissan
these summer gumballs to reduce its liability
exposure to driver excesses, but IMO, all-season tires would have been a
much safer bet.
Granted, the Potenzas do very well when on warm, dry pavement, but
below 50°F or so, they tend to get hard and slippery. They're reputed to be so-so
in the rain and impossible in the snow, but I've done no real testing
under such conditions.
The Potenzas are also fairly noisy, both on the
highway and in the curves.
In short, the Potenzas are ripe for replacement, but any alternative
befitting the 350Z will be expensive, and used tires are hard to sell for
true value, even on ebay.
If only the 350Z packagers followed the lead of their G35 Sport Coupe
counterparts, who offer all-season tires as an option. Here in
Denver, I'd have taken that option in a heartbeat.
|Many 350Z owners report marked improvements
in both ride comfort and road noise after replacing the OE tires.
I seized the opportunity to switch to M+S-rated ^Michelin
Pilot Sport A/S (all-season) radials all around when a nail ruined my right rear
Potenza at ~5,500 miles. ^Tire Rack
reports excellent to superb consumer ratings for the Pilot Sport A/S in
all performance categories, and I couldn't agree more. They ride and
handle beautifully and quietly, wet or dry. Two track days have shown them to be at least as sticky as the Potenzas
on warm, dry pavement — and with a lot less groaning in the tight hairpins.
I haven't seen signs of feathering.) Short
of heroic measures, I've been unable to break them loose on wet roads,
even at near-freezing temperatures. Nor has there been any noticeable hydroplaning
when punching through huge puddles at highway
speeds during Denver downpours.
As of 2004, few other high-performance all-season tires came in sizes
suitable for the 350Z's standard 17" wheels. Based on detailed tire
specs posted by ^Tire Rack, the Michelin sizes most closely matching the diameters
of the 350Z's standard 225-50/17 front and 235-50/17 rear Potenzas were
235-45/17 and 245-45/17, respectively. These sizes fit my roadster
perfectly, as you can see in the photos at left.
Z owners with 18" or larger wheels will find a
wide array of good Potenza alternatives out there, but I don't have details to
Sorry, no photo
| Early-2004 roadsters
pinhole leaks in their ragtops — apparently from repeated chaffing against the
rear metal strut. Oddly, the holes
usually develop on the passenger side. The
potential for leaks is apparently limited to roadsters (like mine)
manufactured in June and July,
2003. Nissan apparently made substantial changes to the top's design and
materials after that.
|My July, 2003 top
remained water-tight for about 9 months. When a pinhole appeared in the
usual location, my Nissan dealer replaced the top under warranty without a
To inspect your ragtop for
pinholes, get inside the car with the top up on a sunny day and look for
light coming through the cloth — particularly around the bends in
the rear crossbar. Confirm any pinholes with a flashlight, then take your
roadster in for a top replacement (cloth plus frame) right away. Nissan
has been replacing leaking tops without hesitation, but they apparently
won't replace tops with partial-thickness rub marks alone.
to my old friend Les Novikoff for sharing his leaking top
Sorry, no photo
| No 2004 owners have complained of it on 350ZMotoring.com
as of November, 2003, but some 2003 350Zs drifted excessively to the right
due to suspension or subframe malalignments covered under
|According to NTB03-046 dated April 25, 2003,
a 350Z with excessive right drift will effect a complete lane
change to the right in less than 7 seconds at 60 mph on a straight and level
roadway in the absence of steering inputs. (Please conduct this test on a multi-lane
out of traffic.) Mine passes, but if your Z fails, or if you hear excessive tire growl under
moderate braking below 30 MPH, or if you observe excessive uneven front tire
have your dealer inspect your Z immediately. Realignments and tire
replacements for drift are apparently only 1-year warranty
TCS (left) and power top (right) buttons
|The 350Z manual describes Nissan's optional
Traction Control System (TCS) and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) package
separately but fails to make it clear that TCS is a subset of VDC.
If you find a "TCS" switch on the dash by your left knee, you
have only the TCS component of VDC. If you find a "VDC" switch, you
have the full VDC package, including TCS. Either way, there's only one
letter appearing in the Winter, 2003 issue of Sport Z
Magazine, Robert Scholer, a 350Z engineer with Nissan North
America, wrote that VDC is a coupe-only option, at least through 2004. Why it's not
offered on roadsters, he didn't say.
By design, VDC/TCS
is on by default at startup. The switch is there only to disable VDC/TCS when you
don't want it — and you definitely don't want either one engaged on your Z club's track
Legitimate racers unhappy with the default may
want to look into a ^VDC
auto-off kit. The rest of us are unlikely to have
the time or presence of mind to turn VDC/TCS back on when we really need
seat bottoms always warm
"Ventilated" seat bottom
Generously ventilated seat back
| The seat back netting covers a
gaping hole (upper frame) that readily passes fresh air to the occupant's
back. No problem there, but the seat bottom netting covers solid-looking
padding (lower frame) with no clear means of ventilation. My "ventilated" seat bottoms are always
a bit warm — even when I manage to avoid turning
on the seat heater with my elbow.
old enough to remember those early fishnet-style "thermal"
long-johns? As with all thermal fabrics since, they worked by trapping
small pockets of dead air (with its negligible thermal conductivity) between
the skin and the next layer out. Fishnets worked exceedingly well as long
as the air in those pockets could be cut off from exchange, and that's
precisely what happens in an occupied "ventilated" seat bottom.
The result — a toasty butt no matter what.
That said, I'd probably buy the ventilated seats again.
limited with the the top up
Top-up view port
|With roadsters of any make, top-up visibility
is limited at best, and the 350Z ragtop is no exception. A look over either
shoulder reveals little of the outside world, no matter how much you crane
Winging out the side mirrors to minimize overlap with the center
rearview mirror is always a good idea, even if it takes a little getting
used to. That certainly helped the 350ZR's top-up visibility, but not
enough for my comfort.
|We managed to cover
the roadster's gaping top-up blind spots nicely with two articulated windshield-mounted convex "autobahn mirrors" from ^Griot's
Garage, one on each side. The outside mirrors don't have much
room for stick-ons, and these provide a lot more coverage anyway.
(I tried both approaches.) As an added benefit, the articulated
mirrors can be pushed out of the way when you're at speed on a twisty road
and need to see as far as possible around the next turn.
The plastic ball joints in my driver-side mirror lost their hold after
about 7 months of use. I haven't yet tried the spray adhesive the
instructions recommend for keeping the joints in place.
Some of the issues listed here are also discussed on the shake-down
Acknowledgment: Thanks to the forum members at 350ZFrenzy.com
and 350ZMotoring.com for helping me
understand and address some of the issues discussed here.