2023 Nissan Z: The Retro Dance Partner You’re Looking For

2023 Nissan Z driving impressions article highlights:

  • The 2023 Nissan Z is faster than the 370Z, but it’s designed for the experience, not raw numbers
  • Although the automatic delivers better 0-60 times, the Z is best experienced with a stick
  • It’s not quite as sharp as the Supra, but the 2023 Z’s balance, feedback, and comfort make it a more enjoyable sports car on the street

At long last, the 370Z’s successor, the 2023 Nissan Z, is here. Well, it’s not quite on sale yet, but the new Z has landed on our shores. Naturally, expectations and worries for the latest heir to this sports car line are high. And comparisons to its predecessor are as inevitable and important as those to its rivals. But you don’t and shouldn’t look at the 2023 Z’s numbers to prove if it’s better or worse. What you should do, though, is drive it.

Yes, the new Nissan Z is faster than the old 370Z, but 0-60 times don’t matter

2023 Nissan Z
Engine3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6
Horsepower400 hp
Torque350 lb-ft
TransmissionsSix-speed manual
Nine-speed automatic
Curb weight3486-3602 lbs
Base price$39,990
$41,015 (with destination)

When Nissan officially revealed the 2023 Z, some were concerned about it using the 370Z’s platform. Not necessarily about the platform sharing itself, but about what it might represent—a half-hearted effort.

However, it turns out that only about 20% of the 370Z’s parts carry over unchanged to the new Z. And Nissan a bunch of changes to the platform to give its new, retro-style sports car a stiffer chassis, better ride, and sharper handling. Oh, and a new drivetrain to make it faster.

Technically, the 2023 Nissan Z’s powertrain isn’t that new. Under its hood is the same twin-turbo V6 Infiniti uses in its Red Sport models. Also, the standard (!) six-speed manual is from the 370Z, while Nissan also uses the no-cost nine-speed automatic in the Frontier and Titan trucks. But just like with the platform, there are more changes here than meets the eye.

For example, the manual has a new flywheel, linkage, and synchronizers. Plus, while standard rev-matching isn’t new, the no-lift shift function is. As for the automatic, it has new programming and a lightweight magnesium case. In addition, Nissan ditched the 370Z’s viscous limited-slip differential for a mechanical clutch-based one.

Yes, the 370Z weighs less than the 2023 Z. But thanks to the new engine and transmissions, as well as different tires, the new Z is definitely faster, The Drive reports. And that’s with the twin-turbo V6 squealing the tires in the first three gears.

Numbers, though, weren’t the 2023 Nissan Z design team’s targets.

What matters is how the 2023 Nissan Z dances—and it dances well

Nissan chose Hiroshi Tamura to lead the 2023 Z team. If his name doesn’t spark recognition, his pseudonym, ‘Mr. GT-R,’ might. Tamura is responsible for the current-gen GT-R, as well as the 370Z. He also famously owns an R32 Skyline GT-R that he dialed down from around 1000 hp to 600 because the tires couldn’t keep up. Tamura didn’t want low 0-60 times: he wanted to smile and enjoy his car.

That’s precisely what Tamura wanted from the 2023 Z, too. He wanted it to be “’a willing dance partner,’” Road & Track says, and “’to see the customers smile’” when they drove it. That’s why the stick is standard. And it’s why numbers shouldn’t be on your mind when you drive the new Z.  

Admittedly, the electric power steering could use more feedback, The Drive says. But it’s direct, delightfully heavy, and yards more accurate than the 370Z’s steering. Furthermore, the brakes are strong, with a healthy but not overly-grabby bite. And the new LSD behaves more predictably than the old one and doesn’t cause any rear-axle hop.

Also, the new monotube shocks, coupled with the chassis and suspension changes, balance ride and handling well, R&T reports. There’s some body roll, yes, but as in the Miata, it enhances the experience by letting the driver know exactly how the weight is shifting. Yet it never makes the Z feel sloppy but rather easy to balance and control, even at the limit of grip, R&T notes. It’s not the sharpest track car, mind you, especially on the stock tires. But it’s definitely a fun road car.

If you do want fun, R&T recommends skipping the automatic. Sure, it’s louder, faster in a straight line, and comes standard with launch control. But it’s simply too slow for spirited driving, even if you use the paddle shifters. In contrast, the manual’s hefty shift action, relatively light clutch, and satisfyingly notchy gates make it the enthusiast choice. And it’s better than the 370Z’s shifter, R&T adds.

It’s retro in the best way possible

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There is something the 2023 Nissan Z carries over from the 370Z that’s welcome, though, and that’s engine response. “The new Z just doesn’t feel turbocharged,” The Drive gushes, that’s how linearly the V6 responds to your right foot. Its power just swells smoothly with a big growl, enhanced by the manual’s no-lift shift feature. And yeah, it’s faster, but more importantly, it’s faster in a way that feels old-school. That was part of the 370Z’s charm.

Do you know what else is charming? The Z’s interior. If you’re over six feet tall, it might be a bit cramped, R&T claims, and track junkies might want more seat bolstering. But for driving on the street, it’s more than fine. And though there are modern touches like the 12.3” TFT display and available 9” touchscreen, Nissan has kept the analog ones, too, including physical audio knobs and those sweet triple dashboard-mounted gauges.

But arguably the greatest throwback feature in the 2023 Nissan Z’s interior is its steering wheel. It’s the same size, shape, circumference, and diameter as the R32 Skyline GT-R’s steering wheel. That’s not just because Tamura owns one, though. Rather, he noticed that no one ever swapped out the R32’s stock wheel, R&T explains. Remember that Built by Legends R32, the one modified by some of Japan’s greatest tuners? Although it’s covered in leather and Alcantara, it has the factory steering wheel.

Plus, there’s the 2023 Nissan Z’s retro-inspired exterior. It’s basically a Z Car Greatest Hits compilation, and it celebrates that heritage well. Oh, and if think the grille’s too big, it’s because it’s functional, The Drive explains. The new engine needs an intercooler, bigger radiator, extra oil cooler, and on automatic cars, a transmission oil cooler.

Is the 2023 Nissan Z worth buying over other sports cars?

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With a base price of just under $40K, the 2023 Nissan Z is cheaper than the cheapest Toyota Supra. Furthermore, only the six-cylinder Supras will offer optional manual transmissions, and they ‘only’ have 382 hp. Admittedly, the Supra 3.0 is a smaller, lighter sports car than the Z, and handles like it had one too many Red Bulls, The Drive notes. Also, it’s more expensive than the Z, though it does have adaptive shocks.

However, the 2023 Z doesn’t need adaptive shocks or the twitchiest reflexes to be fun. I mean, not everyone is into breakdancing; some prefer to tango. And the new Z is more than willing to do that with you. This isn’t a half-baked attempt to cash in on heritage: it’s a legitimate heir to the lineage.

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