The first drive of the 2023 Nissan Z.

Increase / Nissan pays close attention to its heritage, bringing a much-needed dose of modernity to its rear-wheel drive sports coupe. But is it enough to go to each other with the best in the segment?


The Z badge enjoys a certain respect in the world of Japanese performance. Apart from the annual break in 2001, Nissan’s two-seater has been in continuous production since 1969, and the formula, which was created by the original 240Z, still remains in place more than half a century later: attractive proportions, driver-oriented design and a six-cylinder engine that transmits power to rear wheels.

For decades, Z competed with the Toyota Supra for an advantage in sports cars, but in 2002 Toyota decided to abandon its sports coupe. Perhaps in part due to the lack of its natural sparring partner, the 370Z, which originally debuted in 2008, has indeed begun to show its age in recent years, but any notion that Nissan could afford to dwell on its laurels was put to sleep in 2019 when Supra got into a fight again.

Instead of collaborating with another OEM to create its new sports car (as Toyota did with BMW to develop the new Supra), the Z is entirely a Nissan product, and it has inherent advantages as well as some notable disadvantages. But, as we discovered while hunting at the top of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, carving corners on a winding desert lane near Lake Mead in Nevada and cruising the City of Sins, the foundations of Z thankfully remain intact.

Remastering classics

Interest in vintage Japanese production cars has risen sharply over the past decade, a trend that clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed by Nissan. The design of the new Z takes clear inspiration from first- and second-generation cars, including the magnificent long nose and short deck of these cars, while other elements such as LED taillights, reminiscent of the 300ZX from the 1990s, take examples from model history.

The addition of turbochargers means that the new Z needs much more cooling.
Increase / The addition of turbochargers means that the new Z needs much more cooling.


Under the hood is a new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that produces 400 hp. (300 kW) and 350 lb-ft (475 Nm), with an improvement of 68 hp. (50 kW) and 80 lb-ft (109 Nm) compared to the 3.7-liter V6 without a supercharger in the 370Z. According to Hiroshi Tamura, chief product specialist of Z, a reinforced engine requires much more airflow to maintain it and all associated coolers properly, hence the large grille that achieves this goal while staying in line with the return style.

The new powerplant comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, and the Performance-trimmed models get incredible automatic revs, as well as a shift-up function without lifting (along with a number of other upgrades). Nine-speed automatic with petal switches mounted on the steering wheel is also available as a free option.

The new machine draws on the same architecture as the 370Z, a platform that actually dates back to the launch of the 350Z two decades ago, but it has been significantly redesigned for the Z-function. Nissan notes a 23.9 percent increase in body stiffness and a 10.8 percent increase in torsional stiffness compared to the 370Z, which means improved steering response and overall handling. The geometry of the suspension has also been revised to gain a greater tilt angle for a better steering feel, and this should provide some comfort to those who may be upset to find that the Z uses a new steering rack electronically rather than the 370Z hydraulic unit. Tougher springs, rebuilt front and rear stabilizers, and new single-tube shock absorbers are also part of the mix, the latter providing a faster damping response than the two-tube units used in the outgoing vehicle.

The cabin has also been heavily redesigned, with a new 12.3-inch customizable digital instrument, an optional 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a new leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, which do much to significantly upgrade the process. Consistent with the retro theme, Nissan wisely decided to keep the analog sensor on top of the dashboard. This is a style trait that dates back to the original 240Z; here three manometers measure the boost pressure of the turbocharger, the turbine speed of the turbocharger and the number of volts generated by the car’s electrical system. While some of the switchgear and some other claims are carried over from the 370Z, it’s a big step forward that makes the interior modern from a technological standpoint and stylistically matches the exterior.

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