2023 Nissan Z Review:Driving Impressions

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | May 15, 2022

Introduction

Sports cars are a tough sell in a world gung-ho for SUVs. But to a traditional driving enthusiast, there is nothing better than a car purpose-built for having fun. The redesigned 2023 Nissan Z is precisely that kind of automobile, the seventh-generation iteration of a sports car that first put the automaker on Americans' radar in 1970.

That original 240Z looked great and drove better. Over the years, it gained weight and got bigger—a consequence of aging that afflicts cars as much as it does human beings. At about 3,500 pounds, the new 2023 Nissan Z isn't light, but its retro-modern design looks great. And based on a day spent driving the new Z car in Las Vegas, it drives better than the 370Z that came before it.

Nissan could have killed the Z. Instead, a passionate cadre of designers and engineers built a business case for a new one—albeit still based on the sixth-gen Z34 platform and architecture. The result is a parts-bin exercise that nevertheless looks and performs like an all-new vehicle.

For more details, read our preview of the 2023 Nissan Z. For prices and driving impressions, read on.

2023 Nissan Z Price and Release Date

Nissan offers the new 2023 Z in two trim levels: Sport and Performance. The Sport is priced from $39,990, while the Performance costs $49,990. The destination charge runs an additional $1,025.

Additionally, a Nissan Z Proto Spec launch edition is available. Limited to a production run of 240 vehicles, it costs $52,990, plus destination. Based on the Z Performance, the new Proto Spec features exclusive bronze wheels and comes only in a searing Ikazuchi Yellow paint color with matching interior accents and stitching.

A 6-speed manual transmission is standard in all Zs, but you can get a 9-speed automatic as a no-charge upgrade. Several of the Z's paint colors cost extra, though.

As for the Nissan Z release date, it's a moving target. The automaker initially planned the car for the 2022 model year, then pushed the arrival in showrooms to spring 2022. Now, Nissan says the car will go on sale in the summer of 2022. But that could change.

Independent Expert Opinion: Design, Comfort, and Utility

2023 Nissan Z Performance Red Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Nissan drew heavily from the first-, fourth-, and sixth-generation Z cars for this new design. In front, the headlights, grille, and hood recall the original 240Z, while the car's tail takes inspiration from the legendary 1990-1996 300ZX model. In profile, you can clearly see the previous-generation 370Z (and the 350Z of the Aughts).

To my eye, the result is appealing, especially when the car has the matte-black 19-inch forged aluminum wheels and staggered-width tires that come standard with Performance trim. The color chart is appealing, too, and you can get the interior decked out in black, red, or blue.

As is true with the exterior styling, the interior design mixes new and old. Digital instrumentation and a modern infotainment screen dominate, and new seats add comfort. Look closely, though, and you'll spot similarities between the new 2023 Z and the old 370Z. The most obvious are the door latch releases, outboard air vents, some switchgear, and elements of the center console. As is customary, three analog gauges reside atop the Z's dashboard.

Thanks to the new screens and an automatic climate control system, Nissan reduced the Z's visual clutter by eliminating many of the buttons and knobs. Fortunately, though, it kept stereo volume and tuning knobs as well as traditional climate functions, so these adjustments are easy to make while driving.

After a couple of hours and more than 100 miles in the saddle, I remained comfortable in the Z Performance's leather-wrapped, 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat. Ducking to enter and exit is necessary, but if you raise the seat, the car isn't as challenging to get into or out of as you might expect. You get heated front seats with Performance trim, but you can't get ventilated ones.

Storage in the new Z is sparse, but it's better than in the old 370Z. Nissan even adds a second cupholder under the sliding center armrest. Beneath the rear hatch, you'll find a trunk that can hold 6.9 cubic feet of cargo. That should be enough for a couple of roll-aboards and maybe a backpack or two.

Independent Expert Opinion: Infotainment, Technology, and Safety

2023 Nissan Z Performance Red Interior Front Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Every 2023 Nissan Z has a new 12.3-inch digital instrumentation cluster with three different themes from which to choose. It complements the standard 8-inch and available 9-inch touchscreen infotainment systems.

You get the 8-inch screen with the 2023 Nissan Z Sport. It includes Bluetooth, wired Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, and satellite radio. Music flows into the cabin through six speakers.

Choose the Z Performance or Z Proto Spec and the 9-inch screen is standard. It supplies access to NissanConnect Services, including a Wi-Fi hotspot, automatic collision notification, safe teen driving settings, remote engine starting with the automatic transmission, and more. This setup also provides a wireless version of Apple CarPlay, but if you use an Android device, you'll still need to connect via cable and the USB data port. Navigation is also standard with this infotainment system, as is an 8-speaker Bose premium audio system.

My Z Performance test car had the latter system. It is easy enough to use, but the voice-recognition technology isn't nearly as good as what your paired smartphone can offer. The navigation system proved its worth during testing in unfamiliar territory and supplies door-to-door directions via smartphone app when you have no choice but to park some distance from your final destination. Road noise overwhelms the Bose audio system, which supplies brassy highs and muddy lows with all settings in default mode.

Nissan has made the new Z easier to drive. Partly, this is due to what I perceive to be improved outward visibility. But also, this is because the car comes with a decent reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic warning. Reversing from parking spaces while flanked by towering SUVs will only be easier in the new Z.

Additionally, Nissan installs standard adaptive cruise control (with full-stop capability with the automatic transmission), forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning. The latter is a bit of a nuisance due to its beeping.

Independent Expert Opinion: Driving the 2023 Nissan Z

2023 Nissan Z Performance Blue Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For power, Nissan pilfers the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine found in the Infiniti Q50/Q60 Red Sport 400 models, tunes it for better responsiveness, and drops it into the 2023 Z's engine bay. The engine supplies thrilling acceleration with 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, the latter available from 1,600 rpm to 5,200 rpm.

A brief drive in a Z with the manual gearbox proved the standard transmission to be more refined and engaging than in the 370Z. It's also the best choice for maximum driver involvement. The available rev-matched shifting in the Z Performance and Z Proto Spec versions helps make a driver look and sound like a pro.

With that said, the new 9-speed automatic with Sport mode and paddle shifters impresses. As an aside, a Nissan spokesperson told me that if you want the fastest version of the new Z, you want the automatic.

You're also going to want the Performance or Proto Spec trim. These versions of the car come with launch control, a limited-slip rear differential, larger and stickier tires, bigger brakes, and a sport-tuned suspension. With the manual gearbox, you get rev-matched shifting, and when using launch control, you don't need to let up on the gas pedal when changing gears.

So, yeah, that's what the extra ten grand is paying for, plus leather seats and the upgraded infotainment and sound systems.

If you manage to keep the rear end planted, the new Z is downright fast. But it doesn't take much of a dip into the throttle to get the rear wheels a little loose. Remember: I drove the Z Performance with the limited-slip differential, and it felt greasy in first and second gears when accelerating hard. Imagine how squirrely the open-diff Z Sport must be.

Since the twin-turbo V6 is a different engine from the normally aspirated VQ-series V6 Nissan used in the 370Z, the new Z has a totally different sound. It's not as distinctive, but it does give the car a more refined note in keeping with the as-tested price.

Unfortunately, aside from sampling the Z's straight-line acceleration, there wasn't much opportunity to examine the car's other performance attributes, such as handling, steering, and braking capabilities. The roads Nissan selected for the drive had low speed limits, wide lanes, perfectly flat pavement, and properly banked curves. No fun.

I did attempt to simulate hard braking followed by sharp turn-in to see how balanced the Z is when entering a corner, but I didn't learn much other than the rack-mounted electric steering is much better than the steer-by-wire tech in the Infiniti twins.

Nothing on the route came close to taxing the brakes, either, so it remains unknown as to how well they hold up under repeated hard use. But I will say they're touchy in traffic.

Furthermore, it remains a mystery as to how the suspension manages the car's weight when you're tossing it around on an undulating mountain road. Is it choppy or compliant? Is there body roll or not? Does the car toss its weight around or stick like stink on a skunk?

Ah, but this gives me an excuse to drive the car again for a more in-depth report. And based on the driving I did in the new Z, that is an opportunity to which I shall look forward.

Except for the incessant road noise that filters into the Z's cabin. That gets old, and fast.

Independent Expert Opinion of the 2023 Nissan Z

Sports cars are all about the joy of driving, and I suspect there is plenty to enjoy about the new 2023 Nissan Z. I wish I could tell you definitively that it is worthy of your consideration, but until I get it out onto a proper road for a more thorough evaluation, that is a call I cannot make.

I can tell you that I like the new Z more than I liked the old Z. From its styling and interior design to its comfort and technology, the 2023 Nissan Z represents a significant improvement over the old 370Z. Furthermore, on a purely personal note, I like the Nissan Z more than its primary rival, the Toyota Supra.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with nearly 30 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. He has held editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, and others. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals including Autotrader, Capital One Auto Navigator, CarGurus, Kelley Blue Book, WardsAuto, and more.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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