2023 Nissan Z: First Drive

David S.
By David S. Wallens
May 17, 2022 | Nissan, Z-car, Nissan Z | Posted in Features | Never miss an article

Photography by David S. Wallens unless otherwise credited

The new Nissan Z has a clutch pedal, something you won’t find in any modern Ferrari, Lamborghini or even Corvette.

Nissan also offers a nine-speed automatic–it seemed quicker during our informal, uninstrumented testing–but traditionalists can go old-school.


The Z’s main vibe, in fact, is its familiarity. By today’s standards, it offers a light, airy cockpit. The driver doesn’t feel bolted to the floor, and the windowsills don’t sit too high.

[Good taste returns: Peter Brock driver the new Nissan Z | Column]

The A-pillars aren’t as thin as those from the ’70s, but they’re not nearly as thick as they used to be.

The dash layout, although modern, still feels familiar without being painfully retro. The main display, for example, is just a simple, digital affair, while three auxiliary gauges, a Z-car hallmark since day one, top the dashboard.

The steering wheel, we’re told, shares dimensions with the one found in the GT-R. We didn’t take measurements, but we’d call the wheel meaty and appropriate for this kind of car.

Likewise, the shifter feels smooth and precise. Nissan has greatly improved the feel of its switches and controls over the years, and the Z’s have a more upmarket feel. The same goes for the touchpoints–things like the armrest. Those details may not make a car faster, but they matter when you’re doing the daily grind.

The seats also felt properly bolstered. They’re not silly like the ones in the old Juke Nismo, but they don’t let you slide around.

One more throwback: a real parking brake lever instead of the all-too-common button of today.

You can also get in and out of the Z without hitting your head. While the Z interior feels roomier, the car itself seems tidier–perhaps because it’s easier to get a sense for all four corners.

On track–sadly, we took just a few laps around Las Vegas Motor Speedway–we found the Z comfortable and tractable. Like a Miata, it could be willed through the wiggly parts. And it didn’t feel big, like a GT-R.

While the car’s 400 horsepower made short work of the straights, the Z didn’t feel nervous or uncomposed. The chassis remained stable all the way through the turns, from braking to turn-in to track-out.

It felt lighter on its feet than previous iterations of the Z. Call it closer to a beefed-up BRZ than any recent Mustang or Camaro.

The rev matching works, too.

The Z has plenty of brakes. Our test cars were fitted with pads suited for track use, and while we smelled some brakes, the pedal didn’t get soft and the pads never seemed to fade. We need to take one to The FIRM for a proper track analysis, but the initial laps were promising.

We spent some time with the automatic-equipped car as well, taking it a short track session as well as some acceleration runs. According to the speedometer–yes, not quite official–the automatic delivered quicker acceleration. Plus, the launch control really worked as promised, with the car squatting and running away with just a hint of wheelspin.

On track, the automatic seemed just a touch laggy, even with the paddle shifters. It’s just not quite a twin-clutch.

We spent time with the manual-equipped Z on the streets, and that box works there as well. The clutch isn’t too heavy, and Nissan gave us a good, precise shifter.

The car itself felt very comfortable on the street, and we’re going to credit much of that to outward visibility. Unlike with recent Z-cars, over-the-shoulder visibility is much improved. Those quarter windows aren’t huge, but there’s no longer as big a fear that a semi is hiding in your blind spot.

The result: The new Z just feels familiar and capable. We’re looking forward to spending more time with it.

The 2023 Nissan Z is expected to arrive at dealerships "in Summer 2022," with a starting MSRP of $39,990.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Nissan, Z-car and Nissan Z articles.
Comments
View comments on the GRM forums
yupididit
yupididit GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/16/22 12:46 a.m.

How did it sound? 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/16/22 3:53 a.m.

In reply to yupididit :

Not the loudest but you could hear something going on. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/16/22 3:53 a.m.
Erikl
Erikl New Reader
5/16/22 7:10 a.m.

Cant wait to read about a full FIRM test.  FWIW the chart above shows 2 piston front brakes, pic seems to show 4 piston fronts?  

Will be nice if it does not brake upgrade for 20 min track day sessions.  

I am nervous that they have not released curb weight....I get its hard to make a modern car light and affordable..

 

calteg
calteg SuperDork
5/16/22 8:26 a.m.

I believe it's 200lbs heavier than the 370z, which itself wasn't a featherweight. Such is the state of the modern sports car

gearheadE30
gearheadE30 Dork
5/16/22 8:27 a.m.

That rear 3/4 view - big fan of what they did with that, and happy to hear it feels more like an embiggened BRZ than a smaller Camaro.

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/16/22 8:31 a.m.

Nissan had a yellow one on display at Carlisle last weekend, along with a room full of Z cars from various years by attendees.  Definitely looks good - better than the 350 or 370. 

Yeah... that 4211 lbs GVWR doesn't bode well for the dry curb weight. My WAG is somewhere in the 3500 range, give or take. 

I like it... do I like it enough to drop over $50K on one?  Eh... probably not.

racerfink
racerfink UltraDork
5/16/22 9:24 a.m.

Watched a Hagerty video of it getting walked by a Mach 1 and the BMW Supra in the quarter.  More boulevard cruiser (yet again) than it's competitors.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
5/16/22 9:40 a.m.
Erikl said:

Cant wait to read about a full FIRM test.  FWIW the chart above shows 2 piston front brakes, pic seems to show 4 piston fronts?  

 

The "sport" base has the 2 piston fronts.  The higher spec have the 4 piston fronts, like the pic. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
5/16/22 11:06 a.m.

Sounds like a real winner. Nissan seems to have listened to enthusiasts and offered a car that people want! And I love how it looks, inside and out. Looking forward to seeing these out on the streets!

Leadfoot
Leadfoot Dork
5/16/22 11:47 a.m.

I think the curb weight of the test car is given indirectly in the pictures. 4211 GVWR minus 450 lb max weight of people and cargo from the tire pressure label equals 3761 lb.  Probably with all fluids and fuel. 
 

Assuming that this is close enought to final production that all these labels are correct. 

Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/16/22 12:36 p.m.
racerfink said:

Watched a Hagerty video of it getting walked by a Mach 1 and the BMW Supra in the quarter.  More boulevard cruiser (yet again) than it's competitors.

Meh. Everything is stupid fast these days. There's no shame in losing to those cars. You're buying the experience, not the numbers.

Driven5
Driven5 UberDork
5/16/22 12:41 p.m.
racerfink said:

Watched a Hagerty video of it getting walked by a Mach 1 and the BMW Supra in the quarter.  More boulevard cruiser (yet again) than it's competitors.

How do you infer 'boulevard cruiser' out of a mere 0.2 second straight line difference on paper? Quarter mile times have zero to do with handling and feel... Which are the real measures of a sports car.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
5/16/22 12:47 p.m.

In reply to Tony Sestito :

I agree.

Being a lifelong Z fan my wife asked if I wanted to buy one. 

Yes, but is the availability of a base model stick shift version really happen?

Furious_E (Forum Supporter)
Furious_E (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
5/16/22 12:49 p.m.
Ian F (Forum Supporter) said:

Nissan had a yellow one on display at Carlisle last weekend, along with a room full of Z cars from various years by attendees.  Definitely looks good - better than the 350 or 370. 

Yeah... that 4211 lbs GVWR doesn't bode well for the dry curb weight. My WAG is somewhere in the 3500 range, give or take. 

I like it... do I like it enough to drop over $50K on one?  Eh... probably not.

I was scoping that car out as well on Friday and honestly I walked away a little underwhelmed. Did not think it looked nearly as good in person as in pics, like it's way too slab sided or something. Even the rear 3/4 angle that I loved initially seemed a little...I dunno...Mustang-y or something. It also seemed a lot bigger than I was expecting, like (subjectively) substantially larger than the outgoing car, but that may have just been a matter of perception, having just been ogling the old Z cars across the room immediately prior. The interior does look really good though. 

All that being said, I'm still glad Nissan is building a next gen Z, and with a manual no less. Hope they sell a crap ton of them. 

bmw88rider
bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UberDork
5/16/22 1:03 p.m.

In reply to Driven5 :

Agreed and it was all out of the hole due to the factory tire choice. You can see it fighting the traction control most of the way. If on the same rubber, even they said it would a wash. 

DirtyBird222
DirtyBird222 PowerDork
5/16/22 3:38 p.m.
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) said:
racerfink said:

Watched a Hagerty video of it getting walked by a Mach 1 and the BMW Supra in the quarter.  More boulevard cruiser (yet again) than it's competitors.

Meh. Everything is stupid fast these days. There's no shame in losing to those cars. You're buying the experience, not the numbers.

You are 100% correct. Who cares if it gets walked by those cars in the 1/4. If you like it better than the Supra then go for it. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
5/16/22 7:51 p.m.
yupididit said:

How did it sound? 

Yes this is the main thing all car reviewers seem to forget.  30 seconds of silence while rowing the gears is totally appreciated by the audience.  Sure sponsors and ad writers won't get it, but we are the customer.  Without the vroom vroom noises, tire squeals, and sincere responses while driving it feels like a really long car ad.  This is why the original Top Gear was and still is the best. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/17/22 9:18 a.m.

In reply to Driven5 :

I'd also second that emotion. My Miata, by 0-60 standards, is really, really slow. But, oh, it's so fun. 

DaleCarter
DaleCarter GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/18/22 12:48 p.m.

In reply to racerfink :

I like to roast a straight line as much as anyone, but 1/4 mile times are one of the least important measures for a good road car. A Mach 1 starts at $54,000. 

Apples and oranges.

DaleCarter
DaleCarter GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/18/22 12:50 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I love it when the "0-60" crowd has to point my Miata by on a track :-)

DaleCarter
DaleCarter GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/18/22 1:28 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I love it when the "0-60" crowd has to point my Miata by on a track :-)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/19/22 10:32 a.m.

In reply to DaleCarter :

Hey, a slow 0-60 times means that you get to enjoy the experience longer, right?

Our Preferred Partners
CGf6LLrGmA61F5oCWduC1WamVV7DeJ4YlLicD7Q3AG7403o0cPDUGWF1qVafKXOa