The 2023 Z proves that Nissan still knows how to make great sports cars

Until Nissan revealed the Z Proto “concept” in September 2020, there was a great deal of uncertainty among Z enthusiasts and fans about whether the new model would ever arrive. Nissan has suffered financially for several years from declining sales and a variety of corporate political issues. Despite its 50-year heritage, the new Z wasn’t a lock to approve of. Despite all that, we’ve now driven the new seventh generation Z and can claim to be excellent.

Unlike all previous generations of Zs sold outside of Japan, this version has no numbers associated with the name, it’s simply a Z. Japanese customers will of course still get the Fairlady Z badge on their cars. Like the last two generations, the Z continues to be offered with only two seats, no-nonsense with small and completely unusable rear seats.

While the new Z retains the same basic architecture used on the 370Z since 2008, it has been meticulously improved. There’s a double wishbone suspension setup in the front corners, a multi-link design in the rear and of course engine torque that only goes to the rear wheels as it should be on all proper sports cars. Brake sizes are essentially the same as before as they are on the 100.4-inch wheelbase.

The biggest change is the design, which now dates back to the first generation of the ’70s Z more than any other shape in the past four decades. This is by no means an outdated design and looks totally fresh. But the proportions have the classic long hood, and the rear profile of the cabin. Compared to the 370Z, the effect is boosted by a longer nose that is part of a 5-inch longer body.

The LED headlights feature a pair of distinctive arched headlights that echo the refractory look of the 1970s-era light covers in Japan – Market 240ZG and give this new Z look distinct from anything else currently available. At the rear, the taillights subtly integrate the oval look of the ’90s 300ZX headlights. For those who know the history of the Z, these references are a nice touch without hitting you in the head with retro style. Compared to its more direct competitor, the Toyota Supra, the Z has a cleaner, more refined look, and is devoid of any extraneous details like fake vents.

The cockpit of the Z is a huge step up from the 370Z. The materials look noticeably more luxurious than before. The example I drove had a two-tone interior with black and blue matching the gorgeous Serian Blue exterior. The cabin is also available in red/black or all-black. The limited edition Z Proto Speck gets yellow interior accents that match the yellow exterior first seen on the Z Proto in 2020.

In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display with bright colors and a lot of contrast. To the left is the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment screen that, like other recent Nissan cars, has a much better quality than the dim, low-contrast screens Nissan has used for years. However, the infotainment interface is the same that Nissan has been using for the better part of a decade, and it certainly feels outdated compared to most other modern systems. It’s time for a redesign, and Nissan is expected to follow alliance partner Renault in adopting Android Automotive, although no timing has been set.

However, the Z isn’t about staring at the center screen, it’s about driving as ever. In this respect, the Z shines. Like all Zs since the 300ZX debuted in 1984, this engine is powered by a V6, in this case downsized from 3.7 to 3.0 liters. This is the same twin-turbocharged unit found in the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. With 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, that’s a huge improvement over the old engine’s 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet. In particular, the twin-turbo peaks at 1,600 rpm while the naturally aspirated unit had to spin to 5,200 to get maximum torque. The Z has slightly more power and slightly less torque than the Supra.

In a very pleasant surprise, Nissan offers the Z with a choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or a nine-speed automatic transmission. I’ve had my time driving with the manual gearbox, and while the automatic transmission will likely be a little quicker in acceleration, the stick remains remarkably attractive. It’s not necessarily the smoothest gearbox in the world, but at least Nissan has been offering it from day one, rather than forcing three-pedal enthusiasts to wait like Toyota did.

Although it shares the same basic architecture as the 370Z, this new Z makes up noticeably more on the road. The ride quality was surprisingly good on Michigan roads, and once I got off the highway to some country sidewalks, it really proved its worth.

The twin-turbo V6 proved to be responsive, especially when I was stuck behind someone pulling a pontoon boat to a local lake after the weather turned warm. By stepping back from sixth to fifth and placing the right pedal on the floor, the Z accelerated from another 50 mph to a much higher (but undisclosed) speed to execute the pass.

In a few laps around my favorite section of the curved road, the steering was accurate and the brakes were very easy to adjust. Driven by a twisty road that crisscrossed two wetlands, the Z felt perfectly balanced and never bogged down. The thrust out of each curve was gradually flowing in.

The instrument cluster display has a large tachometer in the middle flanked by smaller analog gauges on either side. Above the tach is a horizontal bar graph that goes from green to yellow to red as you approach the red line of 7000 rpm.

Since Michigan’s snow and ice melt, it means it’s officially road construction season and stop-and-go traffic can be a fact of life anytime on any road. For those situations where depressing the throttle becomes too much during basic navigation, the Z retains the SynchroRev matching system that first appeared in the 370Z. When the button in front and to the right of the transmission is pressed, every time the gearshift lever is shifted to a lower gear, the engine revs magically set to just the right speed for smooth interaction. I prefer not to use it when going through curves but I can definitely see the benefit in the traffic.

The new Z is a wonderfully attractive sports car to drive without pretentiousness to being something it is not. Strictly two seats, limited payload, and stunning looks. Pricing for the 2023 Z Sport with 18-inch wheels starts at just $41,015 including delivery. The Performance Z I drove with bigger brakes, 19-inch forged alloy wheels with Bridgestone Potenza S007 tires and a few other extra features comes out to $51,015. The two-tone paint on the model I drove adds another $1,295. There is also a limited edition Proto Spec launch that costs $54,015. Nissan may have had some difficulties in recent years, but they made it through with the new Z.

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#proves #Nissan #great #sports #cars

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