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2023 Nissan Z Review | Best cars 2022

2023 Nissan Z Review |  Best cars 2022

The takeaway: When Datsun released the 240Z in 1969, it redefined what a sports car could be in the United States. That car had a lot of power, could navigate corners well without folding itself and was quite affordable. Now called just the “Z”, the 2023 iteration is a clear tribute to the final 240Z. Obviously, the design department went deep into the historic cookie jar to create a beautiful eclectic aesthetic. From the driver’s seat, it’s a much better package than the previous 370Z, which was in dire need of improvement.

  • The new VR30DDTT engine sounds very nice in the cabin, an upgrade over the typically lackluster soundtrack.
  • The new rack and pinion electronic power steering system is much smoother and more communicative than the previous hydraulic assist.
  • The new 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbocharged engine is powerful and delivers 400 horsepower to the rear wheels.

    Specifications:

    • Base Price: $39,990 ($49,990 as tested)
    • Engine: Twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6
    • HP: 400 hp (68 hp more than 370Z)
    • Torque: 350 lb-ft (80 lb-ft over 370Z)
    • 0-60 Time: 4.1 seconds
    • Transmission: 9-speed automatic (6-speed manual is also available)
    • Drive: Rear-wheel drive

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      What’s in a name

      Nissan

      The story of the Z started in 1969 with the Datsun 240Z, also known as Fairlady Z. In its early days, Nissan put Nissan on the map, selling more than 1 million units in the United States in just ten years. To provide some perspective, it would take the Corvette 25 years to sell the same number of vehicles. In America, the Fairlady Z would become the 240 Z, with the numbers referring to the displacement of 2.4 liters and the Z a reference to the last letter (or word in this case) of sports cars. The original name “Fairlady” Z came from the musical My Fair Lady, starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.

      When Nissan unveiled its Z Proto in 2020, it rocked the internet. It was clear that the Japanese automaker wanted to pay tribute to earlier Z vehicles, especially the 240Z and 300ZX. We had seen and seen pictures in real life at both the LA and New York Auto Shows. Now we have to drive it.

      For 2023, the Z will be available in three flavors: Sport, Performance and Proto spec. Prices are rising rapidly from $39,990 to $49,990 to $52,990 respectively. During the first driving program, we spent most of our time behind the wheel of performance-spec cars. In terms of improvements over the stock model, these get bigger wheels, performance brakes and a clutch-type limited slip differential for extra traction.

      Behind the wheel

      2023 nissan z in use

      Nissan

      Nissan was very proud to announce that the 2022 Z offers 400 horsepower for less than $40,000. Under the hood, it uses the same VR30DDTT twin-turbocharged engine as the Infiniti Q50 and Q60. Even if it’s a VR series engine, it’s not a direct carryover from the Nissan GTR, which uses the 3.8-litre VR38DETT. Anyway, 400 horses is more than enough with just rear-wheel drive; luckily the gas allocation is excellent. The vehicle was super intuitive whether I was pushing the limits on the track or smooth on the road. This remained so with both the nine-speed automatic and the six-speed manual.

      Of the two, I can safely say that I preferred the manual transmission, especially when I was speeding. Rowing through the gears was buttery smooth and I never missed a shift. I was much more disappointed with the nine-speed automatic, which is a slower single-clutch slushmatic rather than a sharp and fast dual-clutch gearbox – a bit of an odd decision in the current climate. My disappointment was mainly because I knew that Nissan can do so much better.

      2023 nissan z in use

      Nissan

      2023 nissan z in use

      Nissan

      With performance-spec testers starting at $49,990, that puts them in direct competition with other sports cars like the BMW M240i, Ford Mustang GT350 and even a base model Porsche 718 Cayman. In this day and age when most buyers are likely to prefer an automatic transmission over a manual transmission, a dual clutch transmission is almost a staple in this segment.

      There’s no hiding that the latest Z uses the same chassis as the 370Z. However, it has been breathed in by Nissan’s engineers, now with more structural rigidity. The added stiffness was very noticeable around the outfield race track outside Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the vehicle remained planted through some of the more demanding high and medium speed sections of the track. That said, I’m glad the suspension remained soft and supple throughout the ride that followed. Sure, this isn’t a Rolls Royce, but the Z is perfectly usable for everyday driving.

      A sleek new design with nods to its heritage

      2023 nissan z in use

      Nissan

      I was immediately sold from the moment I saw the new Z. When I walk around on the outside, it’s clear it goes back to the original 240Z. And the latest model isn’t a jumbled tribute. Think of it more like a remaster of the greatest hits.

      The new light package, starting at the front, is definitely a return to the Fairlady Z with its convex headlights. Nissan has done a fantastic job capturing the profile in its LED daytime running lights. Another rather controversial aspect of the front that is making a comeback is the square grille at the front. But personally I think it looks great. While it’s a direct transfer from the original, it also serves a purpose. Fitting a new twin-turbo engine under the hood required much higher cooling requirements, delivered by the larger grille.

      Hiroshi Tamura, Nissan’s head of product planning, described the exterior of the 2023 Z as fresh and sleek, with an appearance that reflects respect for its heritage. From a side profile, the Z’s silhouette is almost indistinguishable from that of the original car. It shares the same long hood and short deck lid – the area above the trunk – that made the 240Z one of the most beautiful cars of its time.

      If the taillights give you a 90s deja vu, your reaction is not unfounded. The rear was heavily inspired by the 90s 300ZX taillights. The black plastic flanking the brake lights really accentuates how flat the rear is compared to the rest of the car. Oh yes, the Performance pack also gives you that tastefully designed ducktail spoiler.

      Sleek and light interior

      2023 nissan z in use

      Nissan

      The cockpit of the Z is a mix of good and bad, with a few things worth noting. During their presentation, Nissan spoke long and hard about the importance of good driving ergonomics; music to my ears as I am very OCD about my riding position. So let’s start with the good news.

      The interior is a really nice place to sit and a big upgrade over the previous 370Z. Fortunately, Nissan did not fall into conflict with the current movement in the car space to remove all physical knobs and buttons from the cabin. The Z retains well-thought-out controls for the infotainment system and air conditioning. Every knob and knob all had a nice catch, confirming the adjustments I was making. The touchscreen infotainment system was also super responsive and very intuitively laid out.

      2023 nissan z in use

      Nissan

      2023 nissan z in use

      Nissan

      I commend Nissan for how easy it was to adjust the steering wheel and seat. The steering wheel works just like any other telescopic wheel I’ve used since getting my driver’s license. The seat was also the same story with buttons on the left to adjust the angle of the seat bottom and toggle switches on the right to adjust the backrest.

      The interior, however, was cramped – surprisingly enough for someone like me at six feet tall. I must have had an inch of headroom at best. During the track portion of the press ride where helmet wearing was required, I had to wedge my head under the roof to even fit in the car. Even without a brain bucket, I still felt a little squeezed in the cockpit.

      The verdict

      2023 nissan z in use

      Nissan

      If nothing else, I think the Z looks absolutely amazing. Nissan had showcased previous versions of the Z (including the 240Z), which allowed us to compare them – and it’s clear where the inspiration came from. Design will always be controversial, but Nissan’s latest high-performance sports car looks inherently modern without straying from its roots.

      As for the way it rides, it’s noticeably better than the 370Z it’s based on. Of course it sits atop an evolution of the same chassis, but Nissan has left no stone unturned in the pursuit of more performance. The countless upgrades lead to a finished product that feels nice to drive, but I wouldn’t call it an absolute widow maker. If you compare the Z to other sports cars with similar prices, you will be disappointed. However, looking at it through the lens of Japanese sports cars will make you fall in love.

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      Matt Crisara
      Matt Crisara is a native Texan with an unbridled passion for cars and motorsports, both abroad and domestically, and as Autos Editor for Popular Mechanics, he writes the bulk of automotive digital and print coverage.

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