The new 2023 Nissan Z is priced at $46,498 in Canada and $39,990 in the US.
The new Z is old and new.
I’m thinking that how I feel about the new 2023 Nissan Z might be upsetting to some. I also know that I’m over-simplifying the story behind the new Z but it’s reskinned old car with a more powerful engine. In other words, it’s a modern-day muscle car.
Most generations of the Nissan Z car were never considered high-performance sports cars. Rather, they were agile and highly entertaining sports cars not necessarily built for straight-line speed. The possible exception to this rule was the Z32 4th generation Nissan 300ZX. Its twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine produced a staggering (for the time when considering that the Ferrari 348 offered 296hp) 300hp and over 280 lb.-ft. of torque. This kind of power and the related speed shamed many a supercar at the time. For these reasons, I would have thought that baptizing the new Z as the 300Z or 300ZX to be logical…
Three Ts: Twin-Turbo Torque
My thinking is mainly due to the fact that the new 7th generation RZ34 Nissan Z is once more powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine, inherited in part from the defunct Infiniti Q60 coupe. Most thought the 400Z name would have been appropriate given the car’s 400hp output but obviously, we weren’t present at the marketing department meetings.
It is the addition of the 3.0L VR30DDTT V6, replacing the naturally-aspirated 3.7L VQ37VHR V6, that justifies the new Z’s muscle car branding. Where the 370Z was quick, the new Z feels fast thanks to its 400hp and 350 lb.-ft. of torque. The boosted mill can be mated to a 6-speed manual transmission a 9-speed automatic Jatco automatic transmission and depending on how aggressive the throttle input is, the coupe will reach 100 km/h in just over 5 seconds. There’s one thing wrong with this stat and it essentially matches the 150-lb lighter 370Z’s sprint number.
But, the main difference is that this one has a massive amount of torque. That ingredient is the one that, via the trusty butt-o-meter, makes the new Z feel faster. There’s another small issue with the TT V6: it’s far too quiet. Although the 370Z was essentially as quick, the new Z’s twisting power rewards almost immediately and generally without the need to downshift.
This manual transmission is not for the uninitiated or novices. Unlike the one found in a Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Civic Type R, or Mazda MX-5, care must be taken when synchronizing the left leg and right arm, and the right amount of throttle is a must to avoid rev-hang or nearly missing the 3-4 shift. The same involvement is necessary on a downshift which will be helped with the available SynchroRev Match function included with the Performance trim. The simple fact that there’s work to be down when shifting makes the new Z that much more endearing.
Another element is steering, feedback more precisely, and the lack of it. There’s a long and somewhat disconcerting delay between wheel input and feedback from the front axle to the driver. Again, thanks to the abovementioned trusty butt-o-meter, figuring out what the front tires are up to is possible. Still, the means of information transmission leave something to be desired.
Given that the 2023 Nissan Z rides on an updated nearly 15 years-old platform, little in terms of refinement can be expected over the 370Z, and none is delivered. This is one of the new Z’s best aspects as it rides like an older car. Contrary to the Golf R, Type R, and MX-5, the Z’s raw-ish and unfiltered much like the wonderful Toyota GR Corolla. Handling is good overall however it quickly becomes a handful under throttle and loads and this is despite the tested Performance’s mechanical clutch-type limited-slip differential and grippy Bridgestone tires. Trusted colleagues who’ve tracked the Nissan agreed with the “handful” categorization. Thankfully, the Performance’s Akebono brakes are responsive and powerful.
Styling masterpiece on the outside
I’ll admit that I thought the new 2023 Nissan Z looked somewhat uninspired at first. That opinion was based on manufacturer images. Where I took the most offense was with the front rectangular grille cut-out despite being inspired by the 240Z. Mere seconds after receiving the press car keys, my mind changed. In fact, it’s plain, gorgeous, and plain gorgeous. Other elements added to the Z under the Performance trim are the superb 19-inch RAYS super lightweight forged alloy wheels, front chin spoiler, and rear spoiler.
Nissan wisely offers a variety of colours for the Z including Seiran blue, Ikazuchi yellow, and Passion red. Although my tester was Boulder grey outside, it featured blue leather throughout the cabin.
There are a few new touches indoors such as a standard 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and an 8-inch touchscreen display however there’s a clear and visual link between the 370Z and the new Z. a good portion of the switchgear is carried over including the HVAC controls. The latter are positioned below the screen and are not lit up nor are readings displayed on the touchscreen.
Otherwise, the triple gauge pod atop the center stack is present and accounted for and the seats, power operated, heated, and leather-covered in the Performance provide support and comfort.
I love the new Z
It is truly a muscle car where it’s been updated sufficiently to pass as new in 2023 over the previous model and has been fitted with a more powerful and torque-rich engine. It’s not entirely easy to drive and thanks to this (and dealer markups), won’t find itself in all driveways.
I was lucky enough to track a manual-transmission equipped 2023 Toyota GR Supra ($68,640!!) two weeks after driving the new Z and without hesitating, I would jump on the Nissan over the Toyota. In contrast, the GR Supra is heavy, burdened by the desire to please on-road, and therefore less of a true driver’s car. Also, and despite the Z’s difficult gearbox, it’s far more rewarding to work with than the Supra’s almost flimsy-feeling ‘box.
The 2023 Nissan Z is a rare treat where the car is not designed to please buyers. Its sole purpose is to be true to its roots.
Final note: No need to opt for the Performance which retails for $58,498. Save $12,000 to buy wheels and, if track use is intended, upgrades the brake pads.