2023 Nissan Z Review: Making Up For Lost Time
The wedging of iconic design cues can backfire on a modern car, but the Nissan Z pulls it off. The eye-shaped headlights and square grille up front carry just the right amount of Datsun vibe, while the 300ZX-style taillights look excellent under the hatch lid. The rear haunches are the right amount of thicc, while the long hood and roofline scream speed. My tester’s $1,295 two-tone black and blue paint job is also neat.
If you like the blue outside, I hope you to like inside, because it is everywhere. The Z on my driveway has blue leather and suede on the seats, as well as the lower halves of the door panels and dash, and it’s quite the talking point. The top half of the cabin is standard black plastic, but the overall layout is much more modern than in the past. The gauge pod atop the dash is still a fun little piece, though I don’t think anyone in the universe needs to know the speed of the turbine. My only real complaint in the design is that I think the door handle lock button looks cheap.
From a practical standpoint, the 2023 Z gets an Andrew Krok practicality rating of “somewhat”. The only permanently visible cup holder accepts most bottle sizes, with a second hidden under the sliding center armrest. Lift the armrest and you’ve got a compartment deep enough for a wallet and little else, but two pockets behind the seats and the compartment under the climate controls offer more unsecured storage at a glance. The Z’s sedan does its best and handles errands like a champ, but taking two people to the airport for a week’s vacation might be asking too much. Anything big will undoubtedly slam against the glass, and anything big the person may find themselves wishing the seats were positioned a bit lower, especially if a helmet is involved.
However, I don’t give a single moment of brain power to worry about headroom once I’m on the road. This is where the Z really makes me smile. A 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 borrowed from Infiniti puts 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque at my disposal. The boost will increase and the car will pull at almost all points of the tachometer, making it easier to drive on the highway without worrying about downshifts. Although I wish cars with the six-speed manual transmission had the sport muffler which is only legal on automatic transmission variants, the engine note is only really muffled at lower gears; As the tach nears its 6,800 rpm redline, the V6 has no problem bouncing its song off the trees that line my favorite twisty roads.
Despite a slight increase in curb weight over its predecessor, the new Z’s additional 68 hp and 80 lb-ft eliminate any reflection on the scales when the going gets twisty. My performance tester’s mechanical limited-slip differential keeps the power from consistently yawing, though there’s more than enough punch to nudge the Z sideways. The static shocks do a commendable job of transferring weight without making the ride downright boring on regular roads, although it still feels stiff in everyday use. The steering has good weight, and while it’s not as communicative as the old 370Z’s hydraulic handling, it’s very good by modern standards. The performance-specific brakes are easy to modulate, allowing for a smooth experience in everyday driving situations and shit, it was a cop. Tire noise isn’t an issue at low speeds, but it is clearly felt at or above 70 mph.
This Nissan Z comes with a six-speed manual, but a nine-speed automatic is also available. The manual shift action is heavy but precise, with no worry of missing a gate when rowing back and forth. Purists might appreciate the old heel-toe action, but the Performance model’s rev-matching system is perfect. My only real complaint here is the clutch pedal, which has a long, vague bite; it’s not a problem in fast corners, but it’s far too easy to set the wrong amount of throttle on start-up, resulting in awkward headbutts. The Rev Hang is also almost non-existent, a growing rarity in modern sports cars.
All that power usually equates to thirst, but the 2023 Nissan Z isn’t too bad at the pumps. The manual is rated at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, though my right foot was having too much fun, which led to a combined personal rating of around 18 mpg. If you really want to lean into savings, the automatic variant boosts those EPA numbers to 19 city and 28 highway.
Some sports cars just pretend the technology doesn’t exist, but Nissan has done a good job modernizing the Z in this area. An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard, with higher-end models getting a 9-inch, but both come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and run the same system you can find in one of the latest Nissan models. The larger screen also includes built-in navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a pretty good-sounding eight-speaker Bose audio system. A USB-A port and a USB-C port provide plenty of juice for both passengers. A 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster puts all relevant information front and center, and it offers three different arrangements in case you don’t want to be reminded of your Pathfinder all the time.
There’s even a fair amount of active and passive security systems here. Every Z up and down the lineup comes standard with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control. Leave them on, turn them off, the choice is yours, but I’m glad they’re there.
While the outgoing 370Z looked like a bargain with a starting price of around $30,000, the all-new Nissan Z is a bit tougher on the wallet. Base Z will cost you $40,015, which includes $1,025 in destination fees. My Performance-trim tester adds a host of goodies, from chassis tech to cabin tech, and it rings in at $53,210 after factoring in $500 for lighted skid plates, $1,295 for paint. two-tone and $400 for floor mats. That might seem like quite a leap, but it’s still a few thousand under the four-cylinder Toyota Supra.
After letting the latest Z languish unchanged for a presidential administration or two, I had reservations about the next-gen. But with its big power bump, newfound appreciation for modernity and an on-road character that’s just plain great fun, we should all be happy that the sportscar arena welcomes a new challenger.