2022 Chicago Auto Show: 2023 Nissan Z Shapes up All Sporty

2023 Nissan Z auto show first glance article highlights:

  • I sat in and looked over the 2023 Nissan Z at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show
  • While a sports car’s proof comes from the drive, the 2023 Z has the style, quality, and features of a solid example
  • The 2023 Z’s dealer debut is only a few months away

It’s been a long time coming, but Nissan is giving several of its vehicles significant shake-ups. The Frontier, for example, just got redesigned. Sports car enthusiasts, though, are likely eying their calendars impatiently over something else: the 2023 Nissan Z. So far, no one outside of Nissan has driven the 370Z’s successor, so its sports-car chops remain untested. But sitting in the driver’s seat at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show, it’s clear that the 2023 Z at least has the looks and vibes down pat.

Nissan has a different 2023 Z at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show

The front 3/4 view of a gray 2023 Nissan Z at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show
2023 Nissan Z front 3/4 | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

To be clear, Nissan has already shown off several 2023 Z builds. First, it introduced the Z Proto Concept, which also appeared at the 2021 Chicago Auto Show. A few months later, it released the production version and most of its specs. And at the end of 2021, Nissan revealed the Z GT500 race car.

The 2023 Z Nissan brought to the 2022 Chicago Auto Show isn’t any of these, though. It’s also not the yellow Proto Spec version that echoes the Proto Concept. Rather, it’s a gray Z that may or may not be the same one renowned automotive photographer Larry Chen recently snapped. And based on its Bridgestone Potenza tires, it’s a Z Performance, the sportier trim.

Sadly, no one can drive the Z at CAS, so I couldn’t recreate the acceleration display one WRX STI owner recently witnessed. But I was able to get some seat time to poke, prod, and well, sit in the upcoming sports car. And the initial impressions indicate that the new Z is designed to intrigue sports car fans.  

Inside, the 2023 Nissan Z is shaping up to be a sweet sports car

Nissan says the 2023 Z starts at roughly $40K, though it hasn’t released a concrete starting price yet. And looking at the interior and known specs, that price is bang on the money (pun sadly intended). None of the plastic or leather feels cheap, the shifter’s movements feel solid, and the center touchscreen is well-integrated into the dash.

Speaking of the screen, Nissan hasn’t made it the only way of controlling the 2023 Z’s HVAC or infotainment features. The sports car still has physical dials for the A/C and heat, which further underline its vintage-inspired design. And it has physical volume and tuning knobs, as well as an actual button for the automatic downshift rev-matching.

Plus, in another nod to Z history, the 2023 car has three dashboard-mounted dials. From left to right, they show boost pressure, turbocharger speed, and battery voltage. While boost gauges are common on turbocharged cars—my Abarth has one—the second gauge is rather rare. However, it’s a useful performance metric, as it indicates how hard the turbos are working to make boost, CarBibles explains.

Regardless, they’re perhaps my favorite interior design touches, next to the metal bar that runs behind the seats. I’m not sure if that’s a strut-tower brace, racing harness attachment point, or simply a visual element, but it’s real metal, not plastic. And it’s the only thing separating the cabin from the cargo space. Some might not appreciate the lack of a separate trunk, but it does make it easier to grab your stuff. Admittedly, it’s not a deep cargo area, and the under-floor space is mostly filled by the Bose audio equipment. Still, it’s more than decent for a sports car.

In addition to performance features like a limited-slip differential and sportier suspension, the 2023 Z Performance also comes standard with heated leather seats. While I can’t comment on their long-distance comfort, they do grip and hold you in place well, though not excessively so. And the bolsters aren’t so extreme that they’ll make it difficult to get in or out.

The exterior is retro done right

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One downside of the 2023 Z’s interior is the thick C-pillar, which creates a noticeable blind spot. Luckily, the rear window is large enough to partially compensate for this, as are the side mirrors. The standard blind-spot monitoring should help, too.

However, that blind spot is the price you pay for getting a retro-style sports car like this. And it’s worth it. Even iconic designer Chip Foose’s hypothetical re-think sketches mostly just rearrange its proportions. No, the 2023 Z isn’t a carbon copy of the Datsun 240Z, but that wouldn’t be possible with modern safety standards. It does, though, arguably show a stronger family resemblance than the 370Z.

Hopefully, the new Z drives just as good as it looks.

When can people finally buy the new 2023 Nissan Z?

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As of this writing, Nissan hasn’t released a specific release date for the new Z beyond ‘spring 2022.’ Theoretically, that means the retro sports car is only a few months away. At which point, we’ll be able to determine if its handling and speed match its design.

But from what the 2022 Chicago Auto Show showed me, the signs are promising.

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