2023 Nissan Z Performance Review

The Best Z yet


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: The most attractive modern Z car in some time, easy to drive and comfortable, gutsy twin-turbo V6, manual transmission.
Negatives: Some cheap interior materials, not as thrilling or as sharp to drive as the GR Supra 3.0.
Bottom Line: The new Z is a fantastic new addition to the rear-wheel drive sports car segment, and it finally looks stunning. Although it's not as engaging or as sharp as the Supra, it is a very enjoyable enthusiast's ride. You just have to get past some of the interior quality issues.
The long-awaited return of the Z car is finally here, and boy is it a looker. Drawing from the Datsun 240Z and the Nissan 300 ZX, the new Z is equal parts modern and vintage, and it might just be the most compelling Z yet. It loses the strangeness and roughness of the 350Z and the 370Z and turns a corner in terms of refinement and performance. The 2023 Z in all trims gets a 400-hp twin-turbocharged V6 engine mated to a six-speed manual or a nine-speed automatic. It's another rarity in the rear-wheel-drive, manual transmission sports car segment, and we're happy it's here. We drove it in Performance trim with an automatic transmission for a week. We cover it in detail in our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

8.8

 

The Z's engine is smooth and potent with 400 horses at the ready. It moves quickly, but it's not as responsive at lower rpms. Once revs climb, however, the engine is a beast. It also feels communicative and corners and steers remarkably well. Too bad our tester didn't have the 6-speed manual transmission.

Ride Quality: The ride is firm but decently dampened. It never felt harsh or uncomfortable.

Acceleration: Acceleration off the line isn't as immediate as we would've hoped, at least it doesn't feel that way. 60 mph arrives in 4.3 seconds in the automatic (4.5 in the manual). It's almost a second behind the GR Supra 3.0, which has 18 fewer horses but is 200 pounds lighter.

Braking: The Z's brakes are its Achilles heel. They're vague, a tad mushy, and lack the proper feel for a sports car. This is unacceptable.

Steering: Steering is a bit dead on center, but it has substantial heft and good precision. We had no problem threading the needle in traffic or hitting apexes.

Handling: The Z corners well, but it lacks the body control of the Supra. There is slight body lean that prevents it from feeling truly planted.

Technology

7

 

Although Nissan has updated its mediocre infotainment system into something better but still not excellent. The only truly excellent system in the sports car segment at this price point is the BMW M240i. We do, however, really like the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that provides ample data in Sport mode.

Infotainment System: The 9-inch screen looks fine, but it's not especially responsive or easy to navigate. Its placement in the center stack could be a little bit higher so as to render viewing easier while driving quickly.

Controls: For the most part, controls are good. The HVAC knobs are easy to use while driving but are a bit cheap for a $50k+ car. The shift knob is weird because of its low profile and shape. This car deserves more.

Styling

9.7

 

The Z's strongest suit is its appearance. The fact that Nissan designers were able to meld two past Z cars into a modern, evocative version that looks better than any mainstream sports car out there today. It's not as busy as the Supra, more classically handsome than the BMW M240i, and more refined than the GR86. It's just stunning.

Front: The 240Z is apparent in the hood and the distinct headlights, and the creases and shapes are perfect. The large grated grille might be polarizing, but we quite like it.

Rear: The 300Z comes through in the taillights beautifully. The twin round tailpipes and the small ducktail spoiler add to the stunning and unique back end. We love it even more than the front fascia.

Profile: The short front and rear overhangs, the muscular body, and the steeply raked roofline give it a pouncing look that's aggressive and handsome.

Cabin: We thought the cabin would look and feel even better in person than it did in photos. We were disappointed by some of the cheap interior plastics. The hoop-style interior door handles look and feel like Dollar Store portable cupholders.

Comfort

7.3

 

There aren't many sports cars that are truly comfortable. The Z is decent but not great. It's a driver's car, for sure, and the seats work well, but the seating position and the visibility are just ok.

Front Seats: Good bolstering and cushioning are aided by the nice perforated suede inserts.

Rear Seats: Not applicable.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Sound dampening is good, and the Z is pretty quiet at highway speeds. There were no interior quality issues.

Visibility: Visibility past the long hood is good, but the rear and rear side views are compromised by thick pillars. It's not surprising for a sports car, and it's actually better than the Supra's.

Climate: The climate control system is just ok. The vents in the door are oddly placed, and the thin center vents could use more airflow capability.

Safety

7

 

There's a decent amount of standard safety equipment, but the Z has not been safety tested yet by the IIHS or the NHTSA.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: The Z comes with forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights and a rearview camera.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

5.6

 

There's not much you can expect from a sports car, and the Z is right smack in the middle of that. The cabin is sparse in terms of reachable and usable small storage spaces, and the hatchback does not open up to a ton of space.

Storage Space: The cabin has small spaces like the cupholders, the armrest, and the door pockets. The only decently sized space is the cubby at the base of the center stack.

Cargo Room: There's a scant 6.9 cubic feet of cargo space between the rear wheel wells. That's small than the Supra's 10.2 cubes but a hair more than the GR86's 6.1 cubes.

Fuel Economy

8

 

We drove the Z pretty hard in sport mode for most of our review, which means our efficiency should've been less than great. We were surprised by how well it did.

Observed: 19.2 mpg

Distance Driven: 183 miles.

Audio

8.6

 

The premium Bose system comes standard on the Performance trim, and it's a good one. It's not one of the best premium systems we've listened to (the Chevy Corvette's is the tops), but the sound delivery is clear and full.



Final Thoughts

We wanted to love the Z more than we did, but it mostly delivers in terms of driving fun. We wish the performance would've been more visceral like the GR Supra 3.0, and the brakes are just not up to snuff. It is perhaps the most attractive mainstream sports car made today, and it stands as the best Z made to date.
Shopping for a used
Nissan Z?