I'm a bargain shopper. Like many of you on a budget, I want the most for what I pay for. I like the 99 cent menu at the drive-thru and I cut coupons to save money for automotive goods. I like to feel like I get a deal when buying something. That theory holds when it comes to purchasing cars as well. I look for cars that deliver the most bang for the buck.

With a base price of around $27,000, if you can escape the dealer mark-ups, the Z is an awesome buy. You get the 287-hp V6 engine with 270 lb-ft of torque linked to a close-ratio six-speed transmission. Also added are creature comforts like air conditioning, AM/FM radio with CD, power windows and alarm system--just to name a few.

So what do you do with all that extra money you saved on the bargain car? Performance parts. Many Z owners coax more power out of the already potent V6 by attacking the intake system.

And in order to produce the perfect intake system, AEM created and tested dozens of prototype systems with various pipe lengths and diameters. When developing an intake system, AEM takes into account where the performance gains occur.

For example, you don't want an intake system that gains 10 hp right before redline, but has no gains in the midrange. An ideal intake system will increase the output of the vehicle where it needs it most in the engine's sweet spot. In the 350Z's case, gains in the mid-range 3500 to 5500 rpm would be most ideal.

The 350Z AEM intake system comes in four main pieces; 3-inch mandrel bent piece that connects to the throttle-body, a CNC billet MAF adaptor, a 2 3/4-inch mandrel piece and high-flow air filter. We were impressed with the installation instructions, which were very helpful in our install.

The install took us 45 minutes from start to finish, and, since the vehicle was still strapped on the dyno, we were up and running the rollers in no time at all. Prior to bolting on the AEM system, the 350Z registered 231.6 hp to the rear wheels. With the AEM system in place, the Nissan now peaks out at 236.6 hp--an improvement of 5 hp from the stock run. The AEM system increased the output of the 350Z from 4000 rpm all the way to redline, with gains of 3 to 5 hp along the curve.

Since the release of the 350Z, aftermarket manufacturers have been at R&D drawing boards 24/7; as a result, we're slowly starting to see more aftermarket products come down the chute for the Z. The intake is only the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of exhaust systems and, as showcased in our July and October issues, forced induction is at hand. The emergence of the 350Z roadster to join the coupe will increase the popularity of the model.