Driven by the romantic vision of a young obligation free existence, embodied and expressed in the purchase of a completely frivoulous and expensive asset (or more simply a desire to impress chicks), I purchased a 2003 350Z brand new in June of 2003. It has since accumulated some 10000 km, being driven through the varied climate that we Ontarians all cherish.
As I suspect is the case with a brand new marriage, the first few months together were practically blissful. Following the manufacturer’s recommendation, I never exceeded 4000 rpm and constantly varied the engine speed (this made me very popular indeed!). Kept at this sedate level, the engine impressed me with its instant response and wonderful exhaust note. I felt comfortable and well placed in the enveloping and basic, but stylish interior. I marveled at the granite-like solidity of the car’s platform and the corresponding poise in all maneouvers from the mundane to the maniacal. All the time I savoured its beauty and its magical ability to attract the attention of all.
But alas the honeymoon was to end. By about October the car had accumulated the requisite 5000 km to allow for more adventurous probing of its throttle. Such probing meant the end of my short-lived automotive bliss. What I soon discovered was the coarse and utterly truck-like character of the VQ engine. The VQ is simply an unlikable brute. It grunts and strains as it pushes forward (admittedly with great force) all the time emitting very unpleasant noises. All of this stands in stark contrast to the wonderful snarl and push of a BMW inline six, or even the buttery smooth progression provided by the VQ’s own 3.0 liter predecessor. The unsavoury character of the VQ meant the end of my love-affair with the 350Z. For, as all true enthusiasts know, the engine is the true soul of a car, the part of the sum that makes all the difference and most influence’s one’s feelings for a car.
Yes, the Z is still rock solid, poised, beautiful inside and out, but whenever I get the urge to press forward in a frenzy, there is a corresponding reluctance grounded in a desire to avoid the unpleasant sounds and sensations that the VQ generates. I avoid taking the VQ over 3500 rpm, whereas I savoured the moments where I could take its predecessor to its upper limits.
I recently drove a BMW 330CI back to back with my car, and the contrast between the engines was immediate and undeniable. While the inline six emitted a gorgeous roar, the VQ groaned unpleasantries. Had I, as I should have, undertaken such an immediate comparison between the cars prior to purchase, I would have certainly not bought the 350Z.
In the end, this glaring deficieny of the Z is truly regrettable. With all its attributes, the Z is a great car that delivers much automotive return given its relatively modest price. But a car without an engine that stirs one’s soul is one that regrettably fails to deserve the moniker of promoting sport.