Oolander. Godilla. The Lost City of. All movie titles immeasurably helped with the addition of the letter Z, but this character's importance isn't limited to the realm of films. Nissan's newest interpretation of its two-seat sports car is thankfully keeping the letter, but it does lose the numerical designation that typically accompanies it. No 400Z nomenclature here — the seventh-generation coupe is simply known as the 2023 Nissan Z.
2023 Nissan Z
The Nissan Z is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that develops 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque — a healthy increase from the 370Z's maximum of 350 hp and 276 lb-ft. We've already sampled this engine in the Infiniti Q50 coupe and Q60 Red Sport 400 sedan and, quite frankly, the powertrain is the best part of those vehicles.
Purists will rejoice at the rear-wheel-drive layout and the return of a six-speed manual transmission. Manual-equipped Performance models come with a rev-matching feature so you'll always hit the right mark when downshifting. It also comes with launch control if you opt for the upper Performance trim. Launch control comes on all Zs equipped with the available nine-speed automatic.
On the base Sport trim, you get 18-inch wheels wrapped in Yokohama Advan Sport tires. Opt for the Performance grade and Nissan replaces them with lightweight forged 19-inch wheels courtesy of Rays. These are shod in Bridgestone Potenza S007 tires.
We traveled to Las Vegas for our initial drive in the new Nissan Z. We started at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on an shortened dragstrip to safely evaluate its acceleration. It feels strong and pulls hard in the lower gears. We made a few acceleration runs in the Performance model with the nine-speed automatic transmission, as well as the base Sport model with a six-speed manual. The Performance model benefits from launch control, which automatically adjusts the car's throttle and traction settings to achieve optimum acceleration for maximum performance. The Sport model with the manual transmission is trickier to get off the line as quickly since it doesn't have launch control or a mechanical limited-slip rear differential, which optimizes traction.
Nissan hadn't released any estimates regarding the Z's acceleration at the time of our review. The Infiniti Red Sports we tested previously managed to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in around 5 seconds flat, and so it stands to reason that the lighter Z will be quicker still. Nissan says a manual-equipped Z weighs in at around 3,500 pounds, which is about 100 pounds more than a six-cylinder-equipped Toyota GR Supra.
Next up was a modified 1.8-mile road course to explore the Z's handling limits. The Performance model with the manual transmission is certainly the choice for drivers seeking maximum engagement. The manual's gear ratios are well spaced to keep the engine speed revved high and the Z itself is well balanced for track driving. Downshifts are helped by automatic rev matching, which "blips" the throttle between gears for the smoothest transition. More traditional drivers prefer to blip the throttle themselves, and we're pleased to report that with automatic rev matching disabled, the new Z allows you to execute a classic heel-toe downshift as well as any other stick-shift car. This was something that was difficult with the older 370Z.
At racetrack speeds, the Z instills confidence and allows the driver to gradually increase aggression. It's easy to induce some rear wheelspin with a little provocation of the throttle, and when those tires release their grip and the rear end begins to drift, it's progressive, gentle and easy to control. The upgraded Performance trim brakes exhibit no loss of performance over several laps and are similarly easy to control.
Overall, the new Z is a fun, balanced and approachable car to drive to its handling limit. It's easier to find and live on that limit with the Z than a V8-powered Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. Those cars might be capable of quicker lap times around a track, but if you're looking for all-around driving satisfaction, this is a worthy track car.
Our initial Z drive included some public roads to assess how it drives under normal conditions. The ride quality is pleasant for a sports car, with moderate and large bumps smoothed over by its suspension that seems more compliant than its predecessor. The small coupe feels well anchored to the pavement without any unnecessary harshness.
Our drive routes didn't allow for long-distance stints, so we can't judge how the seats will feel on a road trip, but they are supportive when you're having fun on a curvy road. The seat controls take some searching for, however, and the seats themselves appear to be slightly reworked from the last generation.
The new Z's cabin is also quieter than before in many ways. The old mechanical gear whine from behind the seats has been silenced, but road noise remains prominent enough for us to think it may be a problem for drivers who are less willing to sacrifice performance for comfort.
More impressively, the Z is much easier to drive smoothly. With the manual transmission, it takes little effort to acclimate to the clutch in order to execute smooth getaways, and some of the heaviness in the steering has been lightened. Altogether, it's a better day-to-day commuter than before.
The new Z gets a thorough refreshening on the inside, though some old elements remain. The new dash features a large infotainment touchscreen that runs more modern software. There's also a slick new digital instrument panel that does a good job of relaying critical information at a quick glance. Below the central display are three climate control dials similar to those in the 370Z. It's an old-school design, but their ease of use is refreshing compared to some newer and more complicated on-screen climate controls. Other carryovers include most other switches and buttons as well as the interior door handles.
The cabin is on the snug side for average-size adults, which means taller and larger drivers might be at the limit for space. Materials quality is improved in some spots, particularly on the dashboard, but the hard plastics used on the center console are rather disappointing since it's a surface that gets regular contact. Considering the $40,000 starting price, it's perhaps a little less disappointing, but we expected better from the more expensive Performance trim.
This isn't the car to buy if you're looking for a full slate of advanced driver-assist features or cutting-edge tech. But you do get the typical items found in most vehicles today, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.
Upgrade to the Z Performance and you'll get a larger 9-inch touchscreen (an inch larger than the Sport model's screen) plus wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay. The Performance model also includes a Wi-Fi hotspot, onboard navigation and an eight-speaker Bose audio system.
Cargo capacity has some hits and misses, which is understandable since it looks identical to the last-generation Z. Published capacity is a paltry 6.9 cubic feet, but the space isn't as restrictive as that number suggests. The rear hatch opens wide, but the space is shallow if you opt for the available cargo cover. Without the cover, larger objects should fit under the glass of the closed hatch, but they will obstruct your rearward view. The cargo floor is also interrupted by two large plastic suspension component covers, further limiting what you might want to haul.
In the cabin, you have some small cupholders, door pockets and a center armrest bin. There's also a rubberized tray to keep your phone secured and a pair of shallow bins behind the seats. For a two-seat sports car, this is appropriate, but many other cars provide better storage and cargo space.
The 2023 Nissan Z will come in three trim levels: Sport, Performance and the limited-edition Proto Spec. Highlight features include:
Starts you off with:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- LED headlights
- Proximity keyless entry and push-button ignition
- Digital instrument panel
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror
- Automatic climate control
- Eight-way manual driver's seat
- Four-way manual passenger seat
- Cloth upholstery
- 8-inch touchscreen
- USB-A and USB-C ports
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility
- Satellite radio
- Six-speaker audio system
There's also a full complement of safety systems, including:
- Forward collision mitigation (warns you of an impending collision and applies the brakes in certain scenarios)
- Lane departure warning (alerts you if the vehicle begins to drift out of its lane)
- Blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert (warns you if a vehicle is in your blind spot during a lane change or while in reverse)
- Front and rear parking sensors (alert you to obstacles that may not be visible in front of or behind the vehicle when parking)
- Adaptive cruise control (maintains a driver-set distance between the Nissan and the car in front)
Upgrading to the Z Performance adds:
- 19-inch forged Rays wheels
- Larger brakes
- Rear spoiler
- Mechanical limited-slip differential (enhances traction for better acceleration)
- Performance exhaust
- Heated mirrors
- Upgraded paddle shifters (automatic only)
- Power-adjustable and heated seats
- Leather upholstery with faux suede inserts
- 9-inch touchscreen
- Wireless Apple CarPlay functionality
- Integrated navigation system
- Eight-speaker Bose audio system
- Wi-Fi hotspot
This exclusive model is limited to 240 units in the U.S. It builds on top of the Performance trim with:
- Bronze-colored 19-inch Rays wheels
- Unique shifter
- Faux suede door trim
- Yellow interior accents and stitching
The 2023 Nissan Z may not be all-new, but it is very much improved. It's entertaining to drive on a track or winding road and is easier to drive than before. Performance is also much stronger, though not as strong as its primary rivals for the money. It's a worthy send-off to the era of gasoline-powered Z sports cars and has us hoping to see an electrified version in the future.