The Nissan Z Brings Back Datsun- Hide Yo Supra, Hide Yo Wallet

Nissan just hit Toyota where it hurts: right in the nostalgia. The new Nissan Z debuted in New York last night, and its sights are set on the Toyota Supra in every metric. From power to price, to performance, you can bet we’re about to witness a JDM battle we haven’t seen since I was in diapers. Moreover, this new “halo car” signals a tonal shift for Nissan, which desperately needs to revive the brand.

Row your own under $40,000

The yellow-accented interior of the new Z coupe, with manual transmission
I’m already picking out new shift knobs in my mind | Nissan

By now I’m sure you’ve heard. The Nissan Z is back. Rather, it’s finally been rebuilt. Frankly, the old model was, in many ways, the last of an old breed. Or maybe we just thought the formula was gone. In fact, this, and the new Subaru/Toyota 86 signify something of a resurgence in the small 2+2 RWD sports car. I’m not mad.

You can read more on the specifics here (thanks Matthew), but the headlines are promising. The Nissan Z will have either a 9-speed auto or a good ol’ six-speed manual. Plus, there’s right around 400 hp for right around $40,000, per Nissan. Cheap (ish) speed indeed. However, I’d like to talk more about why we should be excited, rather than what there is to be excited about. More specifically, why the new Z looks so promising.

Why does the Z look better than before?

The new, very yellow, Z complete with bronze wheels from the factory
Say it with me: factory bronze wheels | Nissan

With that in mind, let’s talk about looks. First, there’s a lot of retro nods, from the old-school “Fairlady” badge to the front grille and headlights, to the proportions. And of course, those 300ZX inspired tail lights (below). So, let’s talk a little about the roof. Much like the Mustang Mach E, the Nissan Z uses a black roof to hide the height of the car. Our eyes are drawn lower down because of it. The Supra uses a similar trick with the blacked-out a-pillars and roofline.

Nissan was able to take away a lot of the visual weight of the old design in doing this, along with flattening out the hood. From the side, this trick works wonders. It’s also something the Supra can’t really pull off because of its BMW heart, with the motor right on the hood. And that is exactly why this, on the surface, holds more appeal than the Supra. The Nissan Z is a less diluted product. The Nissan FM chassis is decades old, but it’s all Nissan. And that’s something the JDM purists want.

Can the Nissan Z push the brand forward?

The new Nissan Z's "Fairlady Z" badge on the rear bumper
The taillights aren’t the only Z-throwback | Stanislav Kogiku via Getty Images

So, on paper, the Nissan Z is a real competitor to the Supra. Also, bronze wheels are always good. But Nissan needs more out of the Z. This is their halo car. The design and ethos that will carry the brand into the (likely electric) future. Because of that, which Nissan knows, this thing has got to be a banger of a sports car. Nissan has more to lose with the Z than Toyota ever did with the Supra. And who doesn’t love rooting for the underdog?

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