Review: 2023 Nissan Z



Words: Calvin Chan

Photography: Calvin Chan

Published: September 29, 2022

 



MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec - We’re in the renaissance of automobiles, with badges and monikers being resurrected from the grave in an effort to the stimulate the market: Supra, Bronco, Defender, and now Z. Nissan has produced over 1.8 million Z models over its lifespan, with 53,000 of those coming to Canada. Embued with retro-modern design cues, we think this new seventh-generation Z pays the right amount of respect to its predecessors like the 240Z and 300Z. We’re not terribly sold on the front end - we think the square grill looks too basic and incomplete, but the rear design is striking, distinctive, and is the money-shot angle from our eyes. The interior pays homage to its DNA too with the analog dashboard gauges that display the boost pressure, turbo RPMs, and battery voltage.

 

 

But the looks only tell half the story, because the spec sheet is eye-opening. Starting price under $50,000, rear-wheel drive, manual transmission, and 400 horsepower - iff that’s not enough to convince you for a test drive, I dont know what will, and will surely make those shopping for a Volkswagen Golf R, Toyota Supra, MINI John Cooper Works, or Ford Mustang GT think twice.

 

 

Unlike the outgoing 370Z, the new Z is now loaded with a twin-turbocharged engine, a 3.0-litre unit that’s also found in the familial Infiniti Q60 Red Sport. It delivers 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque through a choice of a 6-speed manual or a new 9-speed automatic, which replaces the old 7-speed automatic. The Z is rear-wheel drive only but there’s more to it than just power. Nissan has used the same platform as the 370Z but has increased torsional rigidity by 10%, increased the tire width up front for more grip, increased the caster angles for better steering feel, and the monotube shock absorbers have been replaced by a twin-tube design for a more fluid response from the suspension and better absorption of impacts.

 

We had the chance to explore the serpentine roads around Mont-Tremblant, as well as a few wet laps around Circuit Mont-Tremblant located deep in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec, to get acquiainted with the new Z. Every model we drove was the Performance trim, and we hopped back and forth between the automatic and manual transmissions.

 

 

In the Infiniti applications, we’ve constantly praised this engine for its smooth and polished power delivery, and it’s no different here. The 68 hp and 80 lb-ft increase over the 370Z means you drive it very differently than before. You don’t need to work as hard to get the Z up to unholy speeds, with maximum torque coming as early as 1,600 rpm. Turbo lag is minimal, it revs quickly, and you no longer need to wring out the RPMs to get every ounce of acceleration. 400 horses is the perfect amount for these twisty back roads, and it absolutely pummels and eats up the straights. Before you know it, you’re already at the next corner. It’s a peach of an engine. In truth, the Z feels like a mini GT-R with its effortless straight line speed, and strong brakes that reel it all back.

 

Not to mention, the exhaust in the Z sounds fantastic. It’s not the raw and mechanical soundtrack of a GT-R, or the somewhat subdued howl of a Q60, but it’s much more audibly engaging and lively. There’s actual grunt from its vocals, the intake noise is loud and distinctive, and revving it up unveils a high-pitched bark that’s more unique than a Supra or Golf R.

 

 

We started off with the Z loaded up with the 9-speed automatic transmission, which costs $1,500 more than the manual but is a great companion for those who prefer a more relaxed drive without all the extra footwork. The automatic takes advantage of the V6’s torquey powerband by always keeping the needle in the meat of it, but upshifts are sluggish, especially when manually rowing via the paddle shfiters. You have to shift a second before you actually want the gearbox to shift, so if you’re aiming for the 7,000 rpm redline, you want to engage the paddle around 6,500 rpm for it to match up. It annoyingly rev hangs too, making it even more difficult to nail it down. On the other hand, downshifts are crispy, quick, and are followed by an aggressive howl from the exhaust. Overall, it’s not as smooth as the 8-speed ZF in the Supra or the dual-clutch in the Golf R, and you do lose a bit of driver engagement and involvement when compared to the manual.

 

 

The 6-speed manual is the box you tick if you’re after everything the Z has on tap. The gearbox is similar to the outgoing 370Z model, but it’s been upgraded to handle the extra torque. The gear shifter still violently vibrates at idle, shaking the cobwebs off your fingers, and it still feels notchy and vague when rowing through the shifter gates - at times we mistakenly took 2nd for 4th. Once in slot though, it’s solid, but you really have to purposefully punch it through. Nissan also installed an upshift indicator like they have on race cars, so you can shift right on the money. It’s one of the few instances where we felt we shifted faster than in the automatic variant.

 

 

We can confirm that the best part of the Z is the engine, but the suspension and ride quality is a close second. The Z is balanced and compliant enough to dance on broken roads without becoming unsettled. The roads around Mont-Tremblant weren’t the smoothest, far from it in fact with bumps and potholes littered about and constantly scraping the undercarriage fo the Z, but it handled vertical oscillations brilliantly and lost little confidence in recreational blasts at speed.

 

 

The sky threw down a torrential downpour mid-way through our drive too, allowing us to really see what the Bridgestone Potenza tires and the Z’s newfound mechanical grip could muster, and we were impressed by its road-handling abilities and road compliance. It stayed stable and planted, even in the wet. Of course, adding some throttle mid-corner would let the tail eagerly swing out, and we found the traction control too intrusive for our liking, bogging the engine down violently when it noticed the tail stepping out too much, but turning the TC off solved that issue, and really let this rear-driven platform shine. Think of it like a GR86 but with more power, and slightly number steering, and where outstanding power and performance meets reassuring sure-footedness.

 

 

We were given a few laps around Circuit Mont-Tremblant in a lead-follow formation, but the pace car was slow and erred on the side of caution due to the greasy surface from the previous day’s Nissan Sentra Cup Race and the poor rainy conditions. So we avoided the slippery curbs like the plague but we weren’t given the opportunity to experience the Z when fully lit up. Maybe next time. But what we could report from our few introductory laps was that the Z showed real track potential. It could use slightly stiffer dampers to reduce some of its body roll and better control its weight transfer during higher speed corners, but we’re sure a NISMO version will take care of that.

 


Again, the biggest news here is the price. Starting at $46,498 for the Sport model with the manual transmission, it’s one of the best bargains in the performance car realm. The standard 400 hp should be enough to convince most buyers to pull the trigger, but then again if raw horsepower was all people cared about, then we would all be driving Dodge SRTs wouldn’t we? Luckily, the new Z offers more substance, and isn’t a sports car that needs to be tracked to appreciate the depth of its capabilities. From its compliant ride, sleek new interior, and crispy manual gearbox, we think we’re in a new golden age of the Z.

 


Photo Gallery:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Specifications:

Model: 2023 Nissan Z Performance

Paint Type: Izakuchi Yellow
Base Price: $59,998

Price as Tested: $60,948
Wheelbase(mm): 2,550
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,380 / 1,845 / 1,315
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 400 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 1,600 - 5,600 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD

Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 12.3 / 8.6 / 10.6

Tires: Bridgestone Potenza; 255/40WR19 front; 275/35WR19 rear

 



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