Nissan faced numerous challenges over the last several years, impacting their lineup and leaving enthusiasts feeling neglected, especially when other Japanese carmakers have put out some of their best sports cars in that time. At long last, the 2023 Nissan Z Performance is finally here; it does many things right, but is it enough in such a competitive market?
Right off the bat, the new Z is stunning. Not everyone seems to be a fan of the front end, but from the side and rear, there is nothing subtle about it. The Z’s long-tilted windshield and sloping roofline is quite dynamic, while the rear arches add a sense of muscle. One of the more subtle changes is the placement of the Z logo, having been relocated from the front fenders on the 370Z, to the rear C-pillar on this newest one. The rear end is perhaps the best view of the new Z; the rear tail lights enclosed in gloss black trim are reminiscent of the iconic 300ZX, and the look is finished off by twin large exhaust pipes.
Our tester was finished in what Nissan calls Sieran Blue, complimented by a black roof. It’s a $950 option, but it’s money well spent. When the sun hits the blue paint just right, it looks deep, rich, and stunning.
However, step inside and you may be underwhelmed, especially compared to the current Toyota Supra. On the plus side, for those who prefer minimal technology, the Z’s interior feels functional and is devoid of unnecessary gimmicks or high-definition screens. Ergonomics have been slightly improved, although at this price point, ventilated seats would’ve been appreciated. The interior features physical buttons and knobs, and materials feel like an improvement over the 370Z.
But the eight-inch touchscreen display, available across all trims, could have been larger, particularly on this fully loaded Performance trim. The Bose sound system now boasts eight speakers, but sound quality is decent at best, although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are standard. On top of that, even as a two-seater, the Z feels tight; you do have a few storage pockets up front and somewhat of a parcel shelf behind the front seats, but the small cargo hold makes bigger grocery runs — the ones where you need to stock up on paper towels and cases of water — challenging.
The 2023 Z makes up for that with what’s under the hood. It uses the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine as the Infiniti Q50 and Q60 Red Sport models, putting out 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. It produces great power throughout the rev range and it’s a huge improvement over the previous Z’s normally aspirated V6, but it lacks the Supra’s smoothness and refinement. Fuel economy is rated at 13.4 L/100 kilometres in the city, 10 on the highway, and 11.9 combined. We averaged a rather high 13.1 L/100 km in mixed conditions, and premium fuel is required.
All Zs are rear-wheel-drive-only, and you can choose between a six-speed manual or a nine-speed automatic transmission. Equipped with the stick, expect a zero-to-100 km/h run around 4.7 seconds, while the automatic shaves off about two-tenths. Nissan upgraded the manual with new synchros, and the shifter feels better than before, but the clutch doesn’t allow for smooth transitions, no matter how much you try to finesse it.
For most enthusiasts, the Nissan Z’s suspension and chassis should be more than entertaining enough. Built on the same basic platform as its predecessor, the new Z strikes a good balance between daily-driving comfort and backroads-bombing on weekends, but competitors like the Supra and BMW M240i offer higher limits. The Chevrolet Camaro SS is another wildcard for similar money to the new Z, blending an excellent chassis with an entertaining V8.
Despite all the upgrades, the Nissan Z is no longer the value proposition it once was. The base Sport trim starts at $46,498, while our fully loaded Performance tester with the six-speed manual starts at over $60,000. Moving up to the Performance trim adds upgraded brakes, a limited-slip differential, 19-inch lightweight wheels, and many other goodies; it’s a lot more expensive than the 370Z and still cheaper than a comparable Supra, but the Supra is worth the few thousand more.
Some may view the Nissan Z’s reused platform as a disappointment, and a wholly new platform could’ve made this car that much better, but Nissan deserves kudos for making the most with what they had. The 2023 Nissan Z Performance looks great and the twin-turbo V6 is powerful, but it can’t quite hang with other sports cars around the same price point. Here’s hoping the upcoming Nismo Z makes up for that.