First drive: 2023 Nissan Z is smooth perfection
The mantra "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" carries with it the ideal that thoughtful application is superior to brute force. Hurrying through means making mistakes. The 2023 Nissan Z is an embodiment of this philosophy from its inception, and it’s paid off.
Nissan took a while getting a new Z to market. The outgoing 370Z, the sixth generation for the sports car, was introduced in 2009. Its replacement, 14 years later, was a long time coming – but that time was a good thing. This may be the most perfect Z car yet.
When it was first introduced, the new Z was clearly a hit just from looks alone. Enthusiasts and some newcomers alike love the look of the 2023 Z, with its smooth lines and callbacks to previous-gen models in headlamps, tail lamps, and body shaping. Yet this is a purely modern Z car with a comfortable interior, smart list of technologies, and balance of daily driving and sports running. Now that we’ve been behind the wheel, we see a lot of "slow is smooth" being applied to its design. On the road, that "smooth is fast" delivers.
The new Nissan Z will enter showrooms later this year. Its price of entry will be about US$40,000, and that figure applies to either the six-speed manual transmission or the nine-speed automatic. That’s right, there is no cost difference between transmission choices. And all Z cars will include the 400-horsepower (298 kW) 3.0-liter V6. Delivering 350 pound-feet (474.5) of torque, that engine might sound familiar. It’s the same engine that powers the Infiniti Q50 and Q60 Red Sport 400 models. And it’s a perfect choice for this car.
During a nice, sunny day in Boulder, Colorado, we drove both the standard and automatic versions of the 2023 Nissan Z in the Performance package. The Performance model adds some interior conveniences, a mechanical limited-slip rear differential, and launch control. The Z Performance will run around $51,000 and a special version of it, the Z Proto (of which only 240 will be made), will run about $54,000. Interestingly, there are no options packages for the new Z. You get what’s with the packaging and then choose an interior and exterior color combination.
The 2023 Z has much in common with its 370Z predecessor, including the same wheelbase, width, and height. It’s a little longer, however, to accommodate the new engine and its heat exchangers. The new Z’s nose evokes the 240Z in appearance. Much of the car’s platforming is also in common with the 370Z, though modified to be a bit lighter and a lot smarter. This results in the more streamlined look of the new Z, and its subtle calls to previous-generation Z cars – especially the 270Z, which its looks draw from heavily.
While driving the car, we noted that the 2023 Z gets its maximum torque at only 1,600 rpm, but doesn’t pull max hp until nearing the redline at 6,400 rpm. But those numbers are far better than the outgoing 370Z’s returns. The new engine does add about 150 lb (68 kg) to the weight of the car versus the previous-gen, but that extra 80 lb-ft and 68 horses make up for that and then some.
What’s better, the new engine has a distinct lack of turbo lag. Integrated exhaust manifolds push the turbos right up against the block, and built-in speed sensors in those turbochargers link to wastegate control for full control of the impellers’ speeds. An added recirculation circuit keeps those turbos spinning while coasting, as well.
All of this means that acceleration is smooth and quick, and the transmissions match that with excellent gear shifts and smooth power delivery to the rear wheels. The manual transmission, we noted, has smooth gates and a well-tuned, easy-to-engage clutch that keeps the pace well. Rev matching and other electronic helpers do a lot towards making it simple and engaging to use.
With all of this, however, it’s worth noting that the 2023 Nissan Z is not, in fact, a race car. It is a roadster: a smooth-going, well-tuned performance machine meant for driving engagement both on the daily and during weekend jaunts. Our drive from Boulder took us through the canyon to Nederland – a town best known for its "Frozen Dead Guy Days" festival in the spring. That canyon drive and the subsequent twists and elevation changes showcased the Z’s beautiful balance and low driver demand. We carried on a conversation while driving, with the Z allowing us to do so without feeling compelled to pull back to the task of driving. And when we did want to engage fully with the drive, the car was happy to oblige. That excellent balance of engagement and ease is what truly defines this car.
Nissan seems to have hit a spot only rarely found in automotive today. A place where slow makes smooth and smooth makes fast. That’s the new Z in a nutshell.
Product Page: 2023 Nissan Z