The new 2023 Nissan Z Performance is one of those cars that made my heart flutter the minute the first Z Proto images were released in September of 2020. The automotive world could hardly believe that Nissan was bringing a new iteration of the Z to production and that the production car would closely resemble the concept Z Proto. Nissan kept their word, revealing a production Nissan Z that looks better than the concept.
Automotive enthusiasts welcomed this new Nissan Z into the world with open arms. The excitement quickly turned into speculation about how well the Z performed compared to the competition. Like in the 90s, Nissan has stiff competition from the Toyota Supra and other small compact sport coupes in 2022.
Nissan needed to come out swinging and make a car that paid homage to all the Zs of years past and also be an enthusiast car with wide appeal. Given pressures to keep costs down, could Nissan measure up with the Z?
Readers, I’m here to tell you that the 2023 Nissan Z exceeded every expectation I had for the Z and made me fall head over heels in love with it.
Performance and Handling
We need to address the elephant in the room early in this article. That is to say, the current Toyota GR Supra 3.0 is the faster car by every measurable performance metric over the new Nissan Z, but numbers don’t tell the entire story.
All Nissan Zs are powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that makes 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The Supra, by comparison, makes 382 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque. The Supra is also lighter by 125 pounds. Our particular tester had the no-charge optional 9-speed automatic gearbox, while a six-speed manual transmission is standard.
Despite having less power than the Z, the Supra is the faster car on the road and the track, but it lacks the emotional appeal of driving excitement that the Z provides.
Where the Supra lacks an emotional driving experience, the Nissan Z captures the driver’s heart and makes it sing. The Supra feels surgically precise and almost too clinical in spirited driving, whereas the Nissan Z engages the driver in its corner carving performance. The engine has a throaty, distinct Nissan noise that engages the auditory senses during every bit of the driving experience.
Throttle response is good, though the nine-speed transmission tends to want to hunt a bit when being driven around town casually. Though the six-speed manual is objectively slower than the 9-speed, the manual transmission will feel more decisive and engaging in the Z.
The Z Performance’s forged wheels wrapped in 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza S007s provided plenty of grip in the corners, and body lean was minimal. The electric-assist steering in the Z provides enough feedback to the driver that there’s always a complete sense of what the car is doing and where it’s going when doing quick cornering maneuvers. The Z Performance features a standard limited-slip differential, which helps keep the Z turning quickly.
There’s just no way to drive the Nissan Z and not smile. The car feels consistently connected to the driver in every sense, from sound to feedback. Nissan engineers have delivered on the Z’s performance car roots.
Interior and Exterior Retro Design
The 2023 Nissan Z is a retro-modern design done right. While the new Z shares the same proportions as the outgoing 370Z, the new Z looks fresh, trim, and sleek.
The front clip and roofline of the new Z pay homage to the 240Z, while the rear taillamps are very clearly a nod to the rear of the Z32 300ZX. The Japanese market 240ZG inspired the new Z’s half-circle headlamps.
The Z badging on the rear pillars also throwback to the Z emblem on the 240Z. The front grille is a tribute to the original 240Z grille.
On the inside of the Z, the three gauges on top of the dashboard are a throwback to the 240Z’s triple gauge setup.
Interior Comfort and Technology
The interior of the new Nissan Z is fresh but familiar compared to the outgoing 370Z. The center stack and triple gauge cluster is slightly angled toward the driver. The materials are soft-touch plastics and faux leather on the dash and throughout the console. The door cards are slight carryover parts with small changes in design versus the outgoing 370Z.
The infotainment system and instrument clusters are large high-resolution screens that are easy to read. The instrument cluster can be configured with different instrument displays and information elements that suit each driver’s needs. The data provided is useful for a performance-oriented car and features oil temperature, oil pressure, and differential temperature. The triple-stacked central gauge cluster shows turbo boost pressure, turbo RPM, and voltages.
The Z’s seats are supportive and comfortable, even for prolonged driving sessions.
Our Nissan Z tester came with a 9.0-inch infotainment display with navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Our tester was also equipped with the optional Bose sound system.
From a safety standpoint, the new Nissan Z comes with standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.
I had the opportunity to take the new Z to a couple of events, including a Cars and Coffee and a Porsche Club of America meet, and the reception was unanimously fantastic. Everyone loved the car. At the Porsche meet, many owners reminisced about past Z ownership at some point in their lives.
This should be unsurprising if you’ve made it to this point in the article. I adore the new Nissan Z in every way. I found myself walking out to the driveway and losing myself in thought and wonderment while looking at the car. I came home from driving the new Z with some Porsche friends with one of the biggest grins I’ve worn after a drive in ages.
The new Z might not be the fastest sports coupe on paper, but it is still a truly special car that captures the driver’s full attention every time. This car has the emotional and visceral appeal that cars like the Toyota Supra lack. I rarely get attached to cars in my time with them like I was to this Z. I was truly sad to see the Z go. Nissan should be proud of what they’ve built with the new Z.
Price-As-Tested: $53,610 including $1,025 destination charge.
Build Sheet (Note: This was a pre-production car):