2023 Nissan Z Review

2023 Nissan Z - A near perfect blend of retro and modern style.


An icon has been reborn over at Nissan and I think they did just about everything right with this one. The Nissan Z has deep roots dating back to 1969 when the original Z was first sold in Japan as the Nissan Fairlady Z. When it came to the US, it was marketed as the Datsun 240Z and has since seen seven generations with various name iterations. The most recent version was the sixth generation 370Z which was introduced in 2009 and carried on until 2020 when the new Z Proto concept was revealed. The new Z has no numbers attached to its name like previous generations and is now available at dealers... if you can find one.

The Z is available in two primary trims: Sport and Performance. All models come with a 3.0L Twin Turbo V6 that pairs with either a 9-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. It's good for a total of 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque and is rear wheel drive.  Prices start at $40,990 for the Sport models and climb to $50,990 for the Performance model or $53,990+ for the limited-edition Z Proto Spec. Competition includes vehicles such as the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Toyota GR Supra. I spent a week in a manual transmission Z Performance model and here's what stood out...

Exterior Styling (+)
The Z officially takes the crown of the car that has turned the most heads and unsolicited comments in my three years of driving press cars. I could not get in this car without getting a thumbs up on the road, having random conversations at the store, or witnessing people busting out their phones to snap a quick picture. At one point I took it to a car show filled with exotic supercars such as Lamborghinis, McLarens, and Porsches.... And the Z was still every bit as popular.

In my opinion, Nissan did a great job of blending Z heritage design cues into this fresh and modern new sports car.  It carries on with a traditionally long hood and short decklid creating a profile that is reminiscent of the first-generation Z. The roofline flows from the nose to the squared off rear to create that distinct profile. Up front it incorporates LED headlights that have two half-circles to mimic the initial round design of the 240Z of the 1970s. And around back, the rear combination lights incorporate modern LED lighting that feels like an updated version of the Z32 300ZX from the 90s (a car that was iconic when I was a teen). Performance models add a rear spoiler and 19" wheels for an extra touch of sportiness. Another small detail worth mentioning is the door handle design which opens towards the edge of the door in the shape of C. No matter the angle, this car looks stunning with good proportions all around.

Color Palette (+)
What good is a flashy design without a fun color palette? The new Z is available in three monotone exterior colors - Black Diamond Metallic, Gun Metallic and Rosewood Metallic. The new Z is also offered with a two-tone exterior, including six colors combined with a Super Black roof: Brilliant Silver, Boulder Gray, new Seiran Blue, new Ikazuchi Yellow, Passion Red TriCoat and Everest White Pearl TriCoat. My time spent in an Ikazuchi Yellow model surely brought even more attention to it.

Wheels (+)
Either 18" or 19" wheels are available on the Z. Sport models come with dark-painted aluminum-alloys wrapped in Yokohama high performance P245/45R18 tires. Performance models come standard with black 19" RAYS super lightweight forged aluminum alloys wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza high performance tires (P255/40/19 in the front and P275/35R19 in the back). Optional are bronze-colored alloys if you want that Z Proto Concept look.

Performance (+)
The Z's new 3.0L twin turbo V6 packs a punch that will get it from 0-60 in around 4.3 seconds that is around 1 second faster than the previous generation. Drivers have the choice of manual transmission or an automatic on all models. The manual transmission shifts smoothly and is quite engaging to drive. The shifter has short throws as it glides through the gears which you'll want to do to maintain that power as it grows with the RPMs. The sweet spot is right around 3,500 - 3,700 RPMs when the Z feels to be at its highest potential for a spirited drive. This car was grin-inducing on the highway shifting up and down through the gears passing traffic.

The Z is exclusively rear-wheel drive which may not be ideal in Chicagoland winters, but it handled with confidence on dry pavement. Steering is precise and it corners well with just enough body lean to keep the tires grounded at higher speeds. It is well-balanced and feels lighter than it is (3,539 pounds). The suspension is smooth for everyday use and tends to be on the softer side, making this a great car for a weekend drive. Road noise is also kept to a minimum for an overall improvement to the Z's refinement. The Z also has responsive braking thanks to 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes. Larger sport brakes with red-painted calipers are standard on Performance models. Bottom line, it's an improvement over the prior 370Z and one of a few affordable sports cars being produced, and for that I am grateful to Nissan.

Fuel Economy (+/-)
When it arrived with a full 16.4-gallon tank, the Z offered a range of around 380 miles. The manual models are rated at 18/24/20 MPG city/highway/combined while the automatic is rated at 19/28/22 MPG city/highway/combined. These estimates are in line with its primary rivals, and it does require premium fuel. After a week of driving, I averaged 22.1 MPG.

Interior (+)
Hopping inside, you'll only find two seats in the Z and a cabin that caters to the driver. The door opening is larger than expected and was easier to get in and out of compared to the Toyota GR Supra. Materials are improved and the overall vibe is modern and sporty.  The center stack does feature some harder plastics which feel cheap compared to the rest of the interior.  Two stacked cup holders are in front of the gear selector/shifter and there's a small space behind it for your mobile device (not a wireless charger).

The new steering wheel is easy to grip and is fully adjustable up, down, and telescopically.  The center stack takes inspiration from other generations before it, with three analog pod gauges on the instrument panel, an 8 or 9-inch touchscreen audio display in the center and climate control switches near the shifter. Behind the steering wheel is a 12.3" customizable digital gauge cluster with three display modes available that include Normal, Enhanced, and Sport.  "Normal" mode offers a sporty feel with the center area for navigation, audio and vehicle information. "Enhanced" mode pushes the tachometer and speedometer to the edges of the display, giving more space in the center for a larger navigation map and information to be displayed. "Sport" mode prioritizes the tachometer in the center with shift-up light at the top for shift information in the driver's field of view. The Sport mode also allows for a boost gauge or G meter to be displayed.

Technology (+/-)
While the Z's primary focus is on being a performance sports car, the technology is also current enough. Sport models get an 8" infotainment touchscreen while the Performance models have 9" touchscreens. Both integrate seamlessly with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto but do require a cord connection and there is no wireless charging tray for your mobile device. Nissan's infotainment system is user-friendly and easy to navigate. It continues to offer dials and buttons for climate and audio controls without much fuss. Also available is a Wi-Fi hotspot, 8-speaker Bose audio system, NissanConnect services and navigation. It isn't an overly techy car, but that allows you to focus on driving rather than how to tune the radio.

Seating (+)
The Z offers an impressive amount of space for a two-seat sports car. It was easier to get in and out of than the Supra and offers sufficient head and legroom. The seats are comfortable, supportive and utilize design insights from the GT-R's development to enhance its hold and fit.

The Z Sport offers black woven cloth seats with an 8-way manual driver's seat and 4-way manual passenger seat. The Z Performance adds leather-appointed seating surfaces, 4-way power driver's seat with manual lifter, lumbar and thigh support, 4-way power passenger seat and heated seats. The seats are easy to adjust to find an ideal seating position for all sizes.  Nissan offers three different interior "environments" in black, red, and blue.

Cargo (+/-)
This is not a car that you buy for the cargo space, however, the Z does offer 6.9 cubic feet of trunk space. It's not much but seems appropriate. There are some small plastic ledges behind the seats for some extra storage of small items if needed.  The hatch is a manual hatch and Nissan does a nice job of hiding the release button within its emblem.

Safety (+/-)
All models include a range of standard driver assistance and safety technologies, including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, High Beam Assist and Intelligent Forward Collision Warning. It covers all the basics without anything too extravagant.

Final Statement
As an enthusiast at heart, I loved my time in the Nissan Z.  It is attention-grabbing with its new design that harkens back to some iconic Z heritage. From the exterior LED lighting to the manual transmission with a hand brake, Nissan did a great job of blending the old with the new. The 6-speed manual transmission is buttery smooth and engaging. It's quick, nimble, and fun-to-drive. Despite its small size, the Z is easy to hop in and is adjustable inside to provide ample space for the driver and passenger. Tech provides all the basics without any fuss, allowing the driver to drive. Nissan took their time and executed the new Z well. It's priced right, looks good, and drives well!

First Impression Summary
Test Vehicle:
2023 Nissan Z Performance
Exterior Color: Ikazuchi Yellow
Interior Color: Black
Powertrain: 6-speed Manual
Options: Premium paint with two-tone ($1,295), Floor Mats ($400), Illuminated Kick Plate ($500), and Interior Accent Lighting ($445)
MSRP as tested: $53,655 (With Delivery/Destination)

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.