The first drive of the 2023 Nissan Z

Enlarge / Nissan makes a big nod to its heritage while injecting a much-needed dose of modernity into its rear-wheel-drive sports coupe. But is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the best in the segment?

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The Z badge has a certain reverence in the world of Japanese interpretation. Aside from a one-year hiatus in 2001, Nissan’s two-seater has been in continuous production since 1969, and the formula established by the original 240Z is still in place more than half a century later: striking proportions, driver-focused design and a flat-six. cylinders that sends power to the rear wheels.

For decades, the Z was locked in a rivalry with the Toyota Supra for sports car supremacy, but in 2002, Toyota decided to pull the plug on its sports coupe. Perhaps due in part to the absence of its natural fighting partner, the outgoing 370Z, which originally made its debut in 2008, had really started to show its age in recent years, but any notion that Nissan could afford to resting on its laurels was laid to rest in 2019 when the Supra rejoined the fray.

Instead of collaborating with another OEM to build its new sports car (as Toyota did with BMW to develop the new Supra), the Z is entirely a Nissan product, and that has inherent benefits, as well as some notable drawbacks. But as we discovered while hunting apexes at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway road course, cornering the twisty desert track near Nevada’s Lake Mead, and cruising through Sin City, thankfully, Z’s fundamentals still remain intact.

Remastering a classic

Interest in vintage Japanese performance cars has skyrocketed over the past decade, a trend that Nissan clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed. The new Z’s design obviously draws inspiration from first- and second-generation cars, incorporating the long curvaceous nose and short deck design of those machines, while other elements like the LED taillights, reminiscent of the 300ZX of the 1990s. 1990. , take cues from the entire history of the model.

The addition of turbochargers means the new Z needs a lot more cooling.
Enlarge / The addition of turbochargers means the new Z needs a lot more cooling.

Nissan

Under the hood is a new 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 making 400 hp (300 kW) and 350 lb-ft (475 Nm), with improvements of 68 hp (50 kW) and 80 lb-ft (109 Nm) over the 3.7 L Naturally aspirated V6 in 370Z. According to Hiroshi Tamura, the Z’s chief product specialist, the beefed-up engine requires significantly more airflow to keep it and all of its associated coolers properly fueled, hence the large grille that accomplishes that goal while remaining consistent with styling. retro.

The new power plant is paired with a six-speed manual transmission as standard, and models with Performance trims get overrideable automatic rev matching as well as a no-lift upshift function (along with a host of other improvements). A nine-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters is also available as a no-cost option.

The new car is underpinned by the same architecture as the 370Z, a platform that actually dates back to the launch of the 350Z two decades ago, but was significantly modified for Z service. Nissan notes a 23.9 percent increase in the body stiffness and a 10.8 percent increase in torsional stiffness over the 370Z, both of which translate to better steering response and overall handling. The suspension geometry has also been revised to dial in a higher turning angle for better steering feel, and that should bring some comfort to those who may be dismayed to discover the Z uses a new electronically assisted steering rack instead. of the 370Z hydraulic unit. Stiffer springs, retuned front and rear stabilizer bars and new monotube shock absorbers are also part of the mix, the latter of which offers quicker damping force response than the twin-tube units used in the outgoing car.

The cabin has also been heavily redesigned, with a new 12.3-inch customizable digital gauge cluster, an optional 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a new three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel that they do a lot to significantly streamline procedures. In keeping with the retro theme, Nissan wisely chose to keep the analog gauge module on top of the dash. It’s a styling cue that harkens back to the original 240Z; here the three gauges measure the turbocharger’s boost pressure, the speed of the turbocharger’s turbine, and the number of volts being generated by the vehicle’s electrical system. Although some of the switches and a few other trade-offs are carried over from the 370Z, it’s a big step forward that makes the interior feel technologically contemporary and stylistically in tune with the exterior.

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