As an initial product of 1960s design, the 1970 Datsun (now Nissan) 240Z kicked off a cult following of Japanese Grand Touring sports coupes. The world fell in love with the balance of price, fun, and reliability compared to the relatively low bar set by British sports cars of the time. Over the years, Nissan has continued to run with this formula, and this rich history has culminated in today’s 2023 Nissan Z Performance.
While just about all of the sheetmetal on the outside is new, the 2023 Z still rides on the Front Midship (FM) Platform that underpinned the 2003 model – yes, it’s from two decades prior, but as far as platforms go, the FM was one of the best upon its release, and it’s aged comparatively well. It’s still a two-seat, rear-wheel drive coupe that is essentially the epitome of the modern sports car and this week, Daddy’s Digest got a chance to try one out.
2023 Nissan Z: It’s a Looker
First and foremost, there isn’t really a bad angle on this car. While the overall proportions look similar to the previous Z, improvements have been made to every single little detail visible to the beholder and has transformed the 2023 Nissan Z into one of the, if not the best looking new cars on the road today. It manages to pay homage to the Z32 300ZX (1990 to 1996 in North America) with its taillights, while also respecting the original S30 (from 1970 to 1978). During its week of testing, it got plenty of attention and thumbs up while on the road. Sexy, sexy, sexy.
The interior of the 2023 Nissan Z Performance is a little more plain, which has more evolutionary changes than its predecessor. It’s all fairly standard Nissan – that is, it looks and works pretty well but could use a little improvement in fine details and ergonomics. There’s a large digital gauge cluster, and there is a centre gauge pod that shows turbocharger boost pressure, turbo speed, and battery voltage. The seats are well bolstered and feature power adjustments located towards the centre console – an oddity amongst other cars, but the same with the older 350 and 370Z.
The big change for 2023 is under the hood: a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine is similar to what we’ve seen over the last few years in the Infiniti Q50 and Q60, and in the Z’s case, it pumps out 400 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 350 pound-feet of torque between 1,600 and 5,600 RPM – redline is 6,800 RPM. With the 3.0-litre displacement, there’s some missed opportunity to call this thing the 300ZX!
On our test car, the turbo V6 is coupled to a six-speed manual transmission that features automatic rev-matching. The shifter was a bit notchy and not the smoothest to operate, but for those looking for a sports car experience, the 2023 Z delivers it in droves. There was a bit of rev hang in between gears during upshifts – that is, the revs take longer to drop than would be expected due to engine and throttle calibration requirements (likely due to emissions). The result is reduced refinement and smoothness when driving around town under light load.
While the numbers look good on paper, the 2023 Nissan Z is more than just a pretty face. When pushing hard, the powertrain hustles from idle to redline and does well both before and after the turbocharger spools up. It lets out a smooth but slightly warbly exhaust note that we’ve become accustomed to on Z cars for the last twenty years – Nissan got this part right for sure.
Recently, we also got a chance to take a different Performance trim car with a nine-speed automatic around the Driver Development Track at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport), and it’s a similar story there. The transmission performs well when pushing closer to the car’s limit, but is a little less refined when taking it easy.
Ride and Handling
As a Grand Touring machine, the 2023 Nissan Z performs pretty well. Grip levels are quite high, and the 19-inch Rays Engineering forged wheels and Bridgestone Potenza S007 tire (255 section width up front, 275 wide in the rear) tires do their best to keep the Z planted. It has a tendency to stay neutral – no understeer unless you enter into a corner way too hot, and no oversteer unless you ask for it with weight transfer or copious use of the throttle pedal.
Even with its good performance, the suspension is tuned pretty softly – that is, there should be no problem driving the 2023 Z around as a daily driver. While road and wind noise is a bit up there, ride comfort is perfect for long road trips and imperfect roads should not be a concern – consider it to be a closer ride and handling balance to the Ford Mustang GT more than anything. Additionally, with a shift to electric power steering, there is a bit of a reduction of road feel compared to the previous-generation 370Z, but it’s still weighted nicely.
This section will be short and sweet: with two seats, you are not getting a rear-facing child seat into a 2023 Nissan Z – there simply isn’t a safe way to do it. For older children, the Z’s owner’s manual states that forward-facing child seats can be used if the front passenger seat is adjusted to the rearmost position, and the automatic locking retractor (ALR) mode is used to install the seat; there is a top tether in the rear cargo area. For children big enough to sit in booster seats (high back or low back), the passenger seat should also be adjusted to the rearmost position, and the ALR mode is not to be used.
2023 Nissan Z: Bottom Line
When comparing the 2023 Nissan Z Performance to its archrival, the 2023 Toyota GR Supra is $68,640 and measures pretty closely on paper. In practice, the GR Supra features a better powertrain (derived from BMW) with its inline six and ZF 8HP eight-speed automatic, and also more precise handling and refinement. Ride quality is firmer, making it a little less ideal for pothole-ridden commutes.
While it starts at a base price of $46,498 for the Sport trim with a six-speed manual, the 2023 Nissan Z Performance trim is $58,498 and steps things up with the automatic rev-matching, a mechanical limited-slip differential, Akebono performance brakes, and red calipers. All trims include Nissan’s driver safety assist suite. Automatic versions are $47,998 and $59,998, respectively. In general, we would say the Supra is worth the extra money, but that doesn’t make the Z a bad buy if that’s what your budget allows. It’s a fantastic effort by Nissan that stays true to its roots, and it’s hard to ask for anything more than that.