Preview: All-New 2023 Nissan Z Combines Classic Cues, Modern Performance

Redesigned sports car draws from its 50-year history for its striking lines

2023 Nissan Z Photo: Nissan

The all-new 2023 Nissan Z sports car draws elements and lines from its previous six generations, resulting in a design that is both fresh and immediately recognizable as a Z. It has the classic long, sloped hood and wide rear flanks that evoke the early versions of this storied nameplate, and numerous little details, like the taillights, that Nissan enthusiasts may recognize.

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There will be two core trims: Sport and Performance. Plus, there will be a limited-volume “Proto Spec” to serve as the launch edition, with added yellow accents inside and out.

Details are still a bit thin, but we know it will pack a 400-horsepower turbocharged V6 engine. And it will be available with a manual transmission—something not to be taken for granted these days.

The Z goes on sale in spring 2022. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

What it competes with: BMW Z4, Porsche 718 Cayman, Toyota Supra
What it looks like: Original and second-generation Z crossed with a Jaguar F-Type and our Gran Turismo fantasies.
Powertrains: 400-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbocharged twin-turbo V6 engine with 6-speed manual or 9-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel drive.
Price: $38,000-$50,000 (estimated)

2023 Nissan Z
Original Nissan 240Z with the 2023 Nissan Z

Photo: Nissan Photo: Nissan

CR’s Take

The new Z, which drops the numerical prefix, remains close to the mechanical formula honed over the last two generations, while drawing design inspiration from earlier versions. It looks evolutionary and more upscale than the outgoing 370Z. The heritage-focused design is a rolling celebration of the model’s 50-year history.

The current car has been around for a decade. It still shines as a capable car with sharp handling and muscular power, but it’s hampered by its nose-heavy feel. Still, it has been a delight to drive around our track. If the new car improves on the dynamics, it should be quite thrilling to drive.

But no matter how compelling the styling and driving dynamics may prove to be, the next Z is competing for a piece of the shrinking sports car market. Back in 2005, the Z sold more than 25,000 cars. Last year sales were less than one-tenth of that. And the new car will have to compete against the similar—and highly engaging—Toyota Supra, as well as the revitalized Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR86. Driving enthusiasts should applaud Nissan investing in this significant redesign at a time when automakers are competing for a dwindling market segment.

If the pricing stays within the realm of the 2020 370Z ($30,090-$47,190), it will have a price advantage over a comparable Supra ($43,090-$54,795), potentially priced thousands less, and more powerful, than the top 382-hp, 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbo version. We will learn pricing and more equipment specifics closer to the on sale date.

Needless to say, this is definitely a car we look forward to testing … vigorously.

2023 Nissan Z
Comparing the 2023 Z to the 1990-1996 Nissan 300ZX

Photo: Nissan Photo: Nissan

Outside

The Z looks larger and more ferocious than the 370Z. Although the Z has a similar height and width, and matching wheelbase, it is five inches longer, contributing to that sleek appearance. There appear to be minimal visual changes compared to the Z Proto concept car shown last year.

The front fascia is dominated by a simple, wide rectangular grille similar to the fifth-generation 350Z. It's such a stark contrast to the rest of the car that it's as if the designers lost their protractor and had to finish the styling with a carpenter’s square. The teardrop-shaped LED headlights are meant to be evocative of early Z cars with a clear lens cover. A slight hood bulge hints at the power beneath and is a nod to the original 1969 car.

A floating roof element connects with other current Nissan models, and it has a nice detail with a katanalike accent that follows the roof down the back glass. The broad rear fenders give the car a stance associated with rear-wheel drive cars, making it look ready to pounce. The taillights draw from the 1990-1996 300ZX. The Performance grade adds a rear spoiler.

There has been no mention of a convertible for this generation.

2023 Nissan Z

Photo: Nissan Photo: Nissan

Inside

The intimate two-person cockpit features a large 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The dash truly wraps around the occupants, with vents positioned on the doors by the release handles. The row of instruments above the center dash give the car a modified feel right from the factory, with numerous ways to monitor the turbo boost, oil temperature, and other vitals—another cue from the original 240Z.

There are two infotainment screens available: 8-inch and 9-inch. Each has standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, Bluetooth, and SiriusXM radio. The larger screen on the Premium trim includes navigation, WiFi, and a Bose audio system.

Below the central infotainment screen are three conventional dials for adjusting the climate control system.

The seats draw from the famed GT-R sports car. The Sport trim comes with manually adjustable cloth seats, and the Performance trim upgrades to leather surfaces with power controls and heat.

Three interior colors are offered: black, red, and blue. Body color accents throughout grant the cabin a sporty appearance.

2023 Nissan Z

Photo: Nissan Photo: Nissan

What Drives It

The new Z has a 400-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbocharged twin-turbo V6, marking a significant increase over the previous 370Z’s 332 horsepower (or 350 hp for the 370Z NISMO).

That fiery powerplant can be paired with a choice of six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to allow the driver to select the gears. Performance models gain a mechanical limited slip differential at the rear. And yes, premium fuel is recommended.

Safety and Driver Assistance Systems

Nissan is keeping it simple by making the available active safety features standard on all trims. This includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, and rear cross traffic alert.

2023 Nissan Z

Photo: Nissan Photo: Nissan


Jeff S. Bartlett

A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).