Why are we so disappointed with the new Nissan Z? | 2023 Nissan Z track test

By J.G. Pasterjak
Sep 1, 2022 | Nissan, Z-car, Review, Dyno, Nissan Z, Z-Car Garage, Track Test

Photography by David S. Wallens; lead by Chris Tropea

If this were a fully rounded review of the new 2023 Nissan Z, we would tell you about how great it is on the road, the generous views out the windows, and the body that evokes every generation of Z-car up to today.

But this is a track review, so we have to start off with a word we’re not excited to use to describe the new Z. That word is disappointment.

On paper, our Nissan Z test car is the one you want. It’s a Performance model, which means it comes with the 19-inch Rays wheels, the mechanical limited-slip, the big brakes. It even has the six-speed manual transmission.

At $53,210 and 400 horsepower, this Z seems more aligned with the Toyota Supra than other comparative coupes, like the Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ.

With a full tank of gas, our Nissan Z Performance weighs 3274 pounds. 

To see how these cars compare where it counts, we took the new Nissan Z to the Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park, GRM’s official test track. It was a warm, sunny day–the usual there.

Our initial track impressions of the Nissan Z: It’s good up until about 80% of its capability. It’s got solid steering feel, excellent sightlines and a pretty flexible powerband. You can see where you want to go and easily get the car there.

One thing the Nissan Z does very, very well: trail-braking down toward the apex. The brakes on this car are very good, very powerful and very responsive.

They help haul the car down into the corner while providing confidence-inspiring feedback, even with ABS intervention. In slower and medium-speed corners, the Nissan Z delivers the braking confidence you need to dive as deeply as you want.

But once the speeds increase, that confidence starts to erode. The Nissan Z becomes nervous and just doesn’t feel as fully locked down as a car in this class should be.

We think the biggest issue with the Z is a severely under-sprung chassis. This allows weight to transfer very, very slowly, meaning the chassis takes a while to take a set in the corners.

That’s usually not such a big deal, though, because a good set of tires will allow you to feel that weight transfer so you can let it take a set and just sort of wait.

The problem is that the Nissan Z’s throttle just isn’t a good partner here. The throttle has this very logarithmic application where it delivers a lot of power in the last few percent of pedal motion.

As a result, particularly at the exit of medium-speed and even slow corners, you’re waiting forever for the chassis to take a set as weight transfers backward while you’re also trying to throttle out of the corner.

You really have to match the timing between the chassis finally taking a set and the engine delivering the forward thrust. So there’s this moment when the rear is finally taking a set, you’re finally applying full throttle, and you’re getting way more engine than you want–way more engine than the chassis can handle.

Now you’re trying to fight the rear end from breaking away, and there’s this unfortunate lack of balance between the throttle and the chassis.

While the setup feels confident in slower, heavily loaded turns, there’s an overall nervousness and imprecision when trail-braking into higher-speed entries. Other cars–the Supra, the BRZ, the latest Civic Si–simply feel more confident here.

At the limit on track, the Nissan Z delivers a bit of a white-knuckle ride. At least, it felt that way as delivered from the factory–the same way we test other new cars.

What does the data show? The data traces for the Nissan Z and the latest Subaru BRZ nearly overlap. Look for video analysis soon.

The lap times are close, too: 1:23.16 for the automatic-equipped, current-edition Subaru BRZ and 1:23.44 for our Nissan Z test car.

Blue: Nissan Z; Red: Subaru BRZ

The latest Supra? It ran a 1:19.59 and felt confident doing so.

Blue: Nissan Z; Red: Toyota Supra

The speed traces clearly show the Nissan Z’s lazy acceleration–about on par with the BRZ and much slower than the Supra.

Was our car’s slowness partly due to a power deficiency? To find out, we strapped it to BSI Racing’s Dynojet. Our best figures: 353 horsepower and 360 lb.-ft. of torque. Once you factor in driveline loss, those pulls seem in the ballpark for an engine rated at 400 horsepower.

But why did Z Car Garage get 379 horsepower out of its dyno test? It could be the correction factor (SAE at BSI Racing versus standard at Z Car Garage) or the dyno itself. The results of our three back-to-back runs, though, were consistent.

This doesn’t mean the Nissan Z is a failure, but we’re eager to see how much more speed the aftermarket can unlock.

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Captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
Captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/31/22 1:59 p.m.

Being BRZ fast as opposed to Supra fast is quite surprising. Now I want to see the 4 cylinder turbo Supra lapped as a comparing. 

gearheadE30 Dork
8/31/22 2:09 p.m.

not just BRZ-fast, but automatic BRZ fast. Very surprising.

Weren't the acceleration numbers for the automatic dramatically better than the manual, like way more than what you would expect? Makes me wonder if there's some torque limiting going on during actual driving that doesn't show up on the dyno. I know the BRZ has a weight advantage and it's generally agreed that the supras are pretty underrated, but this still doesn't make sense to me.

Hopefully the soggy suspension can be easily fixed in the aftermarket, along with the nonlinear throttle...

Run_Away GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/31/22 2:12 p.m.

Surprising results for sure.

Is the new BRZ/FRS that good? It'd be interesting to see a comparison with a 370Z and a 2.0L FRS/BRZ 

Cedricn New Reader
8/31/22 2:22 p.m.

In throttle house track test it was about 0.5s slower than the manual GR86. Though the dead steering and high weight would be a bigger issue for me. But we won't get any over here anyway, and only very few GR86s, sad times.

I really need to subscribe again to GRM, I wish they could sort out my problems with renewal :/

Nicole Suddard
Nicole Suddard GRM+ Memberand Marketing Coordinator
8/31/22 2:25 p.m.

In reply to Cedricn :

Send me a message with your info and what problems you're encountering and I'll see what I can do.

WonkoTheSane GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
8/31/22 2:41 p.m.

Well, that's disappointing.. Nothing the aftermarket can't sort out, but really seems like the sort of thing an OEM would have taken care of before shipping it :(

I noticed one little typo, on the line about braking, "They help haul the car down into the corner while providing confidence-inspiring feedback, even if with ABS intervention. "

racerfink UberDork
8/31/22 2:54 p.m.

Do you have a lap time for a 1SS 1LE at The FIRM?

Toyspyder New Reader
8/31/22 3:16 p.m.

In reply to WonkoTheSane :

What about the typo where they call the BRZ a Supra BRZ?


Toyspyder New Reader
8/31/22 3:21 p.m.

I think this is pretty typical of NIssan in general. Their "sports" cars have tended more towards GT than sports since the 300ZX days. I have owned a couple iterations of the Z car and the latter ones have been relatively heavy and softly sprung which is nice for a boulevard cruiser but not so good for a track car or a canyon carver. It is encouraging to hear the brakes are good. I would think that the aftermarket will address the spring/shocks and throttle issue in short order and the car will shine.

z31maniac MegaDork
8/31/22 3:22 p.m.

Because it's basically $55k car on a 20-year old chassis, with a 10-year old engine, that turns out to be LESS than the sum of its parts. 

In reply to Run_Away:

Yes, the new 2.4 seems to be very underrated from the factory.

The old 2.0 rate at 200 or 205, tended to dyno around 160-165whp. The new 2.4 rated at 228 seems to be dynoing 210-215whp. 40-45whp difference with a much larger midrange. In a car that's only about 60lbs heavier. 

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