Face it: You’re frightened concerning the 2023 Nissan Z. You heard it’s practically 200 kilos heavier than the 370Z. You learn that it’s nonetheless using on the 370Z platform, which itself was an replace of the 350Z platform, a chassis approaching its twentieth birthday. You’re questioning how the brand new Z can probably examine to the Toyota Supra.
I used to be frightened, too. However you and I forgot about Hiroshi Tamura. Formally, he’s a product planner at Nissan. To us, he’s Mr. GT-R — the mind behind the current-generation Godzilla, a automobile in its thirteenth mannequin yr that also blows the doorways off exotics commanding twice the worth. He’s the person who launched the brand new Z undertaking in secret, then tap-danced his manner by way of Nissan’s company hierarchy to get it authorised for manufacturing.
Tamura’s principle, developed by way of years of tuning his private R32 GT-R, is that avenue tires can predictably deal with about 150 hp every. So, roughly talking, that’s how a lot energy in the present day’s 600-hp GT-R NISMO sends to every pushed wheel.
You’ll observe that the brand new Z sends 400 hp to the rear wheels alone. An imbalanced equation.
Tamura likens the all-wheel drive, dual-clutch GT-R to a mechanical go well with, a robotic exoskeleton that offers you superhuman powers. Once you’re driving a GT-R, “you’re the commander,” Tamura says.
The new Z? “It’s a dance partner,” Tamura told journalists at Nissan’s launch event in Las Vegas. “Gorgeous. Elegant. Not chasing numbers, only human feeling.” He puts on a frantic voice, mimicking what car writers and Nissan fans have no doubt been asking him for months: “What is the Nurburgring time? Thank you for asking. We don’t know. I didn’t check.”
That’s when I knew we didn’t have to worry about the new Z.
Full disclosure: Nissan flew me to Las Vegas, put me up in a fancy casino hotel, and treated me to some top-notch meals at the embargoed media launch of the 2023 Z. The automaker rented out a portion of Las Vegas Motor Speedway for racetrack impressions. The money I lost in the casinos was my own.
As Tamura explained to the journalists at the launch event, the idea for the new Z was hatched five years ago, clandestinely. At the time, Nissan had no interest in pursuing a new two-seater. Sports cars aren’t profitable. Historically, the U.S. has made up 75 percent of Z-car sales; today, Americans only seem to want crossovers and full-size pickups.
Tamura dipped into an animated whisper, the one his colleagues used when the bosses weren’t around. “Tamura-san, let’s do it! We have to have a sports car. Not super expensive. Accessible. It’s very important.”
Tamura went to bat. The bosses told him, sure, go for it — but only if the new car could take 80 percent of its parts from the 370Z. Tamura’s too polite to say it, but you and I know what that is: A “no” dressed up as “yes.”
Yes. The windshield, door windows, and hatch glass are identical. Nissan had a 370Z on display at the event; I checked the part numbers. The roof panel comes directly from the 370Z. Same for the engine start button, seat heater switches, trunk popper button, power window switches, and traction control button. The interior door panels are different, but the door handles, and the air vents ahead of them, are unchanged. The rear suspension geometry is pure 370Z, but with new dampers and bushings.
In all, 20 percent of the new Z’s parts are 370Z carryovers. Many of the rest are Nissan parts-bin items modified for sporting duty. The new 9-speed automatic comes from the Frontier pickup, however will get a light-weight magnesium case. The 6-speed guide is a tweaked model of the 370Z’s. The three.0-liter twin-turbo V6 is identical VR30DDTT discovered within the Infiniti Q50 and Q60, with aluminum block and heads, variable valve timing, direct injection, and twin water-to-air cost coolers, however the Z will get a brand new diverter valve to maintain increase up when the throttle’s closed.
Tamura received away with it. Over lunch, I requested him if he wished he might have began from a clear sheet, quite than adapt the 370Z. “I didn’t ask the executives for a totally new platform,” he informed me. “As a result of my perfect goal was an acceptable value — 3 liter engine, 400 hp, beginning value $40,000, this was the large goal for us.”
The Z’s styling is supposed to evoke the legendary sports activities automobiles of Nissan’s previous — and obscure the truth that the unibody is actually 370Z with some additional bracing. The gloss black paint on the roof and hatch is a trick borrowed from the Ford Mustang Mach-E to faux a extra elegant silhouette; the brushed silver accent stripe echoes the skinny roof of the unique 240Z. The creased, pointed beak and faux-bucket headlights are a pure nostalgia play; the ginormous grille helps feed the oil cooler, transmission cooler, and intercooler the 370Z by no means had. The outdated automobile’s goofy silver door handles have been smoothed (for aerodynamics) and color-matched (for model). The taillights are a direct nod to the Z32-generation 300ZX, final seen right here in 1996. Mashing collectively parts of sports activities automobiles born 20 years aside was a daring transfer, however it works: The brand new Z avoids the cornball wish-I-was-back-in-high-school nostalgia of each retro-obsessed American muscle automobile.
The 100.4-inch wheelbase is equivalent to the 370Z. The observe has been widened by 1.5 inches up entrance, 1.2 inches within the rear. General, the brand new Z is sort of 5 inches longer than its predecessor, which, coupled with the trompe l’oeil black accents on the roof and the facet skirts, helps to stretch out a few of the 370Z’s plumpness. It’s a easy, easy, and hanging design. I believe it appears to be like improbable.
In case you ever see an Ikazuchi yellow Z with matching yellow brake calipers and bronze RAYS wheels, give the motive force a righteous high-five: They purchased one among simply 240 examples of the Z Proto Spec, a scrumptious particular version that mimics the styling of the idea automobile we first noticed in 2020. Figuring out how this stuff go, the Proto Spec might be already offered out.
Nissan’s media day began with lead-follow laps across the outfield highway course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a dusty, dead-flat observe the place you’re continuously distracted by fighter jets taking off from Nellis Air Pressure Base down the highway. It’s exhausting to study a lot from a lead-follow lap, particularly on an unfamiliar observe in a automobile you’ve by no means pushed earlier than, however the Z was fast and composed. When left to itself in Sport mode, the 9-speed computerized all the time picked the precise gear, snapping off downshifts to maintain the revs excessive underneath braking and by no means fumbling in corners. The paddle shifters had been rather less spectacular. On most full-throttle upshifts, my fingers had been fully off the upshift paddle earlier than the transmission gave me the following gear, and above 4,500 rpm, any downshift request was steadfastly ignored. For observe work, I’d take the six-speed guide. It’s a little bit balky on redline upshifts, however the shifter is agency and exact. Nissan was the primary to supply computerized rev-matching on a stick-shift, all the way in which again in 2008. It’s completely seamless on the brand new Z, an enormous assist for getting as much as tempo shortly on observe. No surprise so many rivals have copied Nissan on this know-how.
I requested Tamura if he was involved with lap instances for the brand new Z. “Fairly frankly, sorry, no,” he informed me. “It’s not such an enormous which means for me […] My understanding is, 90 p.c of [sports car buyers] don’t resolve on 0-60 or lap time. The very best precedence was styling, design. Folks love to speak about time assault, observe days. That’s the picture. Are you going to do observe days each weekend?” For that uncommon purchaser, Tamura says, the base-model Z is the only option, because you’ll be swapping a bunch of components anyway. “My philosophy for the road automobile is highway consolation, good restrict dealing with,” he says. “And when you get on a canyon highway, it’s best to really feel some good driving pleasure.”
Proper, then. To the roads!
Nissan laid out a drive route from Las Vegas Motor Speedway as much as the customer’s heart at Lake Mead, a 90-minute spherical journey that darted out of Vegas’s sprawl and shortly turned precisely the sort of highway Tamura was speaking about: a quick, clean two-lane with numerous sweeping curves and minimal visitors.
I want you to consider me right here: The brand new Z doesn’t really feel 150-plus kilos heavier than the 370Z. It’s gentle on its toes. There’s a tiny smidge of physique roll, simply sufficient to present you an correct sense of velocity. The suspension settles instantly in a nook. It’s poised, assured. The steering — electrical, not like the 370Z’s hydro increase — is fast and exact. The automobile bounds right into a flip, sharp and predictable.
A lot of work went into reaching this. The springs are firmer (to deal with the additional weight, nearly all of which is from the brand new twin-turbo engine) however the dampers are softer. The brand new Z makes use of monotube shock absorbers, which cut back friction and provides a extra refined response. Engineers added some constructive caster angle to the entrance finish, which makes the Z really feel secure and planted at excessive speeds and, concurrently, makes it extra wanting to rotate in a nook when you’re actually hauling it. Over tough pavement, the journey is compliant and the physique motions are completely managed. It’s not a cushioned grand tourer, it’s a sports activities automobile that doesn’t punish you.
The dual-turbo V6 is what makes this really feel like a unique machine from the 370Z. The outdated sports activities automobile was charming, however a bit truckish; that burly 3.7-liter was by no means wanting to rev. The brand new engine pulls exhausting all the way in which to its 6,800-rpm redline. From the motive force’s seat, it has a pleasant, if muted, growl, reaching to a delightfully high-pitched observe at redline. Within the guide, you may barely hear the engine once you’re cruising over 50 mph; within the computerized, you get a little bit extra noise throughout the rev vary, for classy regulatory causes. Most increase is 15 psi, a peak that, in response to the gauge on prime of the dashboard, comes round 5,500 rpm. From 4,000 rpm to the gasoline cutoff is the place this engine shines, with sharp throttle response and primarily zero lag. Nissan claims 400 hp at 6,400 rpm and 350 lb-ft of torque from 1,600 to five,200 rpm — primarily equivalent to what this engine makes in Infiniti’s Crimson Sport fashions, however the engine feels extra linear right here than it does within the Infinitis, with sharper responses.
On the highway, the 9-speed computerized is … fairly good. In Sport mode, it’s completely satisfied to maintain the tachometer at a gentle boil, however guide upshifts are only a shade slower than paddle-shift rivals, and the automobile straight-up denies aggressive downshifts extra typically than I’d like. Unusually, the auto field’s gears appear extra broadly spaced than different efficiency automatics. The six-speed guide solves all of those issues. Like most turbo engines, there’s a little bit little bit of rev-hang on quick upshifts, however the turbos keep in increase, and it’s simple to drive quick and clean.
Nissan has not given out a 0-60 time for both the guide or computerized Z; on the media occasion, I had no option to time it myself. I requested Tamura, and his reply was characteristically coy. “I don’t know,” he mentioned with a smile. “If Supra is 4 seconds, we’re in all probability 4 seconds. We’re heavier than them, with barely larger energy. So I believe it needs to be nearly the identical.” (Automotive and Driver examined a six-cylinder Supra at 3.7 seconds to 60.)
Right here’s what I can inform you: At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nissan arrange a mini drag strip on a straight, flat part of the large oval, with each guide and computerized Zs out there to check. The 9-speed computerized spins the tires by way of first gear, rips them free in second, and chirps into third. Within the guide, your greatest launch comes with loads of wheelspin. The Efficiency bundle brings a clutch-type limited-slip differential, in addition to Launch mode, regardless of which gearbox you select. Within the guide, Launch mode lets you choose an automatically-held launch rpm; it additionally permits for no-lift upshifts, the ECU dropping revs between gears for smoother upshifts. As with most fashionable efficiency automobiles, the automated feels faster to 60 mph, however the guide is far more enjoyable getting there.
The Z likes to gentle up its tires. Within the guide, from a roll, as quickly as you hit 4,000 rpm in first gear, you’re leaving stripes. In second, a tough whack of throttle at principally any engine velocity will smoke ‘em. A Nissan engineer quietly confirmed to me that the steadiness management by no means totally turns off, however traction management goes away with a single push of the button on the sprint. With traction off, it’s sort of exhausting to get going shortly with out hazing the rear tires — and more durable nonetheless to keep away from the temptation to roast them in all places, on a regular basis. The brake pedal isn’t overly agency, however it’s progressive and predictable, simple to modulate mid-corner.
The Z’s inside is, no joke, an insane enchancment over the 370Z’s. It needed to be — that automobile was virtually the final brand-new automobile you possibly can purchase and not using a touchscreen. The brand new dashboard has a type of confounded glass rectangles, however it’s neatly laid out and inside simple attain. Even higher, the HVAC and stereo controls are nonetheless dealt with by bodily buttons and knobs. There may be additionally, lastly, a second cupholder, one thing 370Z homeowners might solely dream of — although you must slide the middle console lid again to disclose it. The seating place is principally unchanged from the 370Z, which is nice and unhealthy: The automobile affords loads of room for taller heads, longer legs, and broader shoulders and elbows, however you continue to sit barely crooked, the steering wheel about an inch to the precise of the seat’s centerline. There’s a brand new digital instrument panel, and it is likely to be my favourite within the enterprise, just because it’s buried so deep in its binnacle, the solar can by no means wash it out.
You already know what else? With the seat adjusted the place I prefer it, I might flip my head to the left and get an unobstructed view by way of the window. I’m six-foot-nothing, and once I look left in a Supra, most of what I see is headliner.
Which brings me to the Supra. Man, that factor. Fast? Little doubt about it (and the Supra feels faster than the Z, although we’ll have to attend for precise numbers to show it). Grippy? Completely. The six-cylinder Supra dives right into a nook with an eagerness that may take you abruptly. It’s twitchy, and switchy: the brakes are grabby, exhausting to modulate; the steering is fast however completely useless in your fingers. It’s undeniably quick round a observe, however getting there feels rote quite than playful. On a freshly-surfaced backroad, a Supra generates gobs of tempo; throw in any sort of imperfect pavement, and the Toyota’s stiff suspension turns into punishing. It’s quick, however actually not clean. It appears like somebody took a reliable grand tourer and tuned it to really feel “sporty” to normies. Hmm.
Then you must stay with the factor. The Supra makes it exhausting to see something that’s not useless forward, whether or not it’s by way of the home windows or the mirrors. And it’s not possible to drive with the home windows down.
I’d take the brand new Nissan Z over the Toyota Supra every single day of the week. The Z is simply extra nice to stay with. It’s simpler to drive easily, gradual or quick. It’s extra highly effective. It provides you extra suggestions once you’re hauling it and fewer harshness regardless of the way you’re driving. A no-option Z Sport provides you 400 hp for $39,990; the most cost effective new Supra is $3,500 costlier, and you then’re caught with a mooing four-cylinder and an computerized. The Z Efficiency provides $10,000 and offers you the limited-slip differential, larger brakes, 19-inch RAYS wheels with Bridgestone Potenza S007 tires, energy leather-based seats, a premium stereo with an even bigger touchscreen, and a rear spoiler (this was the mannequin I drove). That’s nonetheless cheaper than the roughly $52,000 you’ll spend on a Supra 3.0, which gained’t be out there with a six-speed guide for an additional a number of months.
The brand new Z is conventional in one of the best sense. It’s a real sports activities automobile: Engine up entrance, two seats and a stick shift within the center, drive wheels out again. It’s not a track-obsessed, numbers-over-everything machine, however a very powerful numbers — 400 hp and a $40,000 price ticket — are a lot spectacular. It’s a delight on again roads, and completely livable once you’re in your option to that favourite curvy squiggle of pavement. It’s a revamped 370Z that’s greater than the sum of its components.
The solar is setting on internal-combustion sports activities automobiles. Once we look again on this period, we gained’t bear in mind the Nurburgring lap instances, the tenth-of-a-second-quicker 0-60s, the incremental horsepower wars. We’ll bear in mind the automobiles that moved us and moved with us. Those that requested us to bounce.
We’ll bear in mind automobiles like this Nissan Z.
The 2023 Nissan Z Sport begins at $39,990; the Z Efficiency begins at $49,990, and the Z Proto Spec is $52,990. All costs exclude $1,025 vacation spot and dealing with price. Nissan says the Z will go on sale in Summer time 2022, which displays some sudden manufacturing delays.