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The Ultimate 350Z Buyer's Guide

So you're looking to buy a Nissan 350Z, congratulations! They're one of the best values in terms of performance, reliability, and aftermarket support on the market right now. But there are allot of factors to consider, all of which we will be diving into to help you get the best 350Z in your budget.

DE vs. Rev-Up vs. HR

From the model years 2003-2005* your Z was powered by the notorious VQ35DE. These motors came out of the box with 276HP at a 7500RPM redline, variable valve timing on your exhaust side, and are differentiated due to their singular intake on the driver side. These motors do often fall victim to the oil burning stereotype often due to neglected maintenance in combination with questionable modifications. However, bone stock well maintained higher mileage DE's can still be of fantastic value without oil consumption issues. Aside from oil the intake plenum design from the factory was inherintly flawed due to a slope in the plenum itself starving air from the front two cylinders which is commonly fixed with a plenum spacer or through a ported plenum. As far as making power on the DE platform stock internals are good to hold 400hp on boosted/high power NA applications without desparately compromising reliability however if you've got the guts the sky (and your rods) are the limit. Despite some of the new motor flaws where the DE shines is on price of aftermarket modifications, if you're looking to build a 350 on a budget the DE is your best friend. For not allot of money you can get quality parts and match/even out perform the HR powerplant. Proper cold air intakes will run you around $300, plenum spacers can be had for around $200 and paired to a free flowing exhaust system the DE can be good for 325HP!

Now for select model years in 2005 and all models in 2006 the VQ35DE was given a "rev-up" addition, moving the redline up to 8k and now pushing 286HP out of the V6. Internals were exactly the same however Nissan messed up the clearancing on the piston rings causing these motors to be oil consuming monsters. Now it's unfair to say every Rev-Up falls victim to this oil consumption issue but my advice would be to stay away from Rev-Up's as making power on the DE is easier and it assures at least a little peace of mind against oil consumption.

In 2007 the VQ35 got a complete redesign with the HR variant standard in all models past the '07 mark. Biggest differentiation is now the dual intake and throttle body design however, internals were made 80% stronger, variable valve timing is now on the intake and the exhaust side, and the block is a whole inch taller in comparison to its DE brother. The HR fixed allot of the problems which plagued the DE and now was pushing a very healthy 310HP out of the Z33 chasis. If you're looking for a good "out of the box" power plant with no crazy intent of modification the HR will leave you more than satisfied. However, for those who are wishing to make more power out of their Z there's plenty of options. A proper intake setup will run you around $600 and paired to a proper exhaust system substantial power gains can easily be seen. For the boosted boys out there there's no shortage of options to go with and 500HP can be achieved while still maintaining decent reliability. If you've got the money to build an HR you will see significantly more power being made out of these motors in comparison to the DE.

Trim Level Breakdown.

The 350Z was outfitted with a variety of differing trim level options and here are the one's actually worth spending the extra money for. At the very bottom is obviously your base model 350Z, these are the only ones really worth "avoiding" as there was no cruise control and they came with a factory open differential. Next is the cluster of Enthusiast, Performance, and Touring, all of these options came equipped with cruise and a Viscous Limited Slip Differential, in addition there was the choice of cloth or leather seats, a factory built in navigation system, and other odds and ends but all of these are going to basically be the same and well worth their value. Moving a significant step up is the Track trim level of the 350Z which saw the addition of 4 piston front brembos and 2 piston rear brembos and 18" Rays Wheels. This is 1000% a trim level you should look for as the factory standard brakes leave somthing to be desired and the rays stocks look so much better than the standard OEM Wheel design. Finally we get to the NISMO package (pictured above) this was limited to 1,613 and is a track spec 350 with a body-kit exterior wise. Interior wise you get one off Nismo-specific seats in a red and black design along with a celebratory plaque telling you which one of the 1,613 NISMO's is yours.

Interior wise comparing '03-'06 against '07+ you get a slightly redesigned center console consisting of an additional two cupholders but that's really the only thing to note.

Things to look out for.

Now for how to look for the right 350Z. First and foremost ask for any and all maintenance records (or pull a carfax), obviously there's the basics such as tire tread life, brake pad life, proper allignment, dents/dings, rust if applicable, but now let's dive into 350Z specifc things. Firstly if you're looking at higher mileage platforms ask about the 120K mile service, right around this point is right when all of the rubbers/belts/plastics like to wear out and throw in the towel. This includes timing belt, valve cover gaskets, rear main seal, and other odds and ends. If you're looking at manual 350's be sure to row through the gears and ensure everything is smooth, on early models it isn't uncommon for it to chirp into a gear due to weaker synchro-mesh in the trans itself.


In conclusion the 350Z is one of the best bang for the buck enthusiast cars on the market right now. The more stock the better as these cars can sometime be questionably modified with questionable maintenance. The right one will find you if you're willing to wait for it. Do your maintenance, put resonators on your exhaust, and enjoy the Nissan 350Z!

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