2023 Nissan Z First Drive Review: A Sports Car Icon Reborn


Things are pretty darn spiffy for Japanese sports car fans in 2022. The Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR 86 twins are in their second generation, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is the best it’s ever been, Acura is resurrecting the Integra, Honda is readying the next Civic Type R and Toyota is bringing a hot GR Corolla to the States. And now, after more than a decade of the 370Z soldiering on in showrooms, Nissan is finally rolling out a new 2023 Z with sweet styling, a host of performance improvements and a much-needed tech injection.

Retro style

While the 370Z had a more defined look than the 350Z it replaced, the 2023 Z goes a step further. Traditional sports car proportions remain with a long hood and short deck. Strong character lines, most notably on the hood and rear haunches, give the new Z a more buttoned-up appearance. The side view draws from the first-generation Z, while the taillights borrow from the 300ZX. The gaping mouth in the front may put some people off, but it is purposeful.

In the Z’s cabin, you’re met with a fresh layout, built from much nicer materials. The addition of a telescoping steering wheel should make the interior much more comfortable for drivers of all statures. There are nods to the Z’s past in here, too, with a trio of analog gauges atop the dash and a steering wheel with a small-diameter center. Eagle-eyed observers will pick up on some 370Z carryover bits like the door handles and climate controls, which is fine in an otherwise refreshing cabin.

What Nissan didn’t keep retro, thank goodness, is the Z’s tech menu. Infotainment is now handled by either an 8- or 9-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth. The bigger screen also includes embedded navigation, an eight-speaker Bose audio system and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Dying phones shouldn’t be an issue, either, with two USB (one Type-A, one Type-C) and two 12-volt ports in the cabin. There’s a customizable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, too.

On the safety front, every Z comes standard with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. This alone is a major upgrade, as the outgoing 370Z offered no modern safety tech whatsoever.

Boost gains

The Z’s power now comes from a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 borrowed from the Infiniti Red Sport 400 models. Remember that big open mug up front? It’s necessary to feed more air to the forced-induction engine and its additional oil coolers. Power is up in a big way, as the new engine makes 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, representing a substantial improvement of 68 hp and 80 lb-ft.

Routing power to the Z’s rear wheels is an updated six-speed manual transmission with available no-lift shifting, but buyers can also opt for a new nine-speed automatic with rev-matching downshifts and launch control. Nissan isn’t throwing around 0-to-60 times, but the automaker says the Z does the sprint 15% quicker than before, which would put it in the low-to-mid 4-second range with the manual. The extra thrust is clear when putting both the Z and its predecessor through pit-lane acceleration runs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With peak torque available from just 1,600 rpm, the Z’s midrange kick is almost immediately noticeable. A couple of runs in an automatic Z show me that launch control gets the coupe out of the hole at an efficient clip, too.

With gas prices being what they are, the Z shouldn’t send you running to fill up too often. The manual Z nets an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, while the automatic does a bit better at 19 city and 28 highway.

Sharper reflexes

The 2023 Z sits on a heavily reworked 370Z chassis that Nissan claims is roughly 80% new. It’s stiffer, with a revised suspension geometry, faster-reacting monotube shock absorbers, wider front tires, improved brakes, and new steering. Uplevel Performance models get a limited-slip differential, too. During my time around one of Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s infield road courses, I find the Z is quick to turn in for corners with some mild understeer. Mid-corner grip is respectable and communicative, letting me know when the 19-inch Bridgestone S007 tires are approaching the limit.

Fresh tech graces the Z’s cabin.


Power is robust, hustling the Z out of corners with its manual gearbox offering fluid shift action and an easy-to-work clutch. Pedals are set up nicely for heel-and-toe downshifts, and it’s made even better thanks to the 3.0-liter’s rapid throttle response. When I don’t want to dance on the pedals during downshifts, the manual’s rev-match system (standard on Performance trims) works brilliantly. Entering brake zones, the Performance trim’s four-piston front and two-piston rear brake calipers with optional Nismo brake pads will slow things down with confidence, and the suspension handles the front weight transfer nicely. I’ll need some more track time in the future to figure out if those brakes can stand up to longer outings, though.

On the street, the Z is compliant enough to be driven daily, smoothing out small-to-medium road hazards. I do miss the 370Z’s hydraulic steering and its instant off-center steering response, as the new electric unit is a little numb there, but the steering tightens up when more angle is dialed in. A throatier exhaust note at low revs is also on the wish list, although maybe not on your neighbor’s wish list. The sound does get meaner when you wind the engine up, though.

The new Z arrives in dealerships this summer.


The price of Z

The 2023 Nissan Z will hit dealers this summer, a small delay over its intended spring debut. It’ll start at $41,015, including $1,025 for destination, which will get you a base Sport model with either the manual or automatic transmission. Stepping up to the Performance trim adds goodies like bigger wheels, a limited-slip differential, upgraded brakes and aero bits, and it’s unsurprisingly a bit pricier at $51,015.

To celebrate the launch, Nissan will offer a limited-edition Proto Spec, as well, which adds bronze wheels, yellow brake calipers, exclusive leather seats, fancier door panels and special interior stitching. The Proto starts at $54,015 with only 240 examples destined for the US. Comparing the base Z to its closest competitor, the four-cylinder Toyota Supra, the Nissan undercuts its rival by a few thousand bucks.

The 2023 Nissan Z is mighty promising, with its potent 400-hp gas engine and solid driving dynamics. It’s a big improvement over what it replaces, and it has the potential to shake up the Japanese sports-car segment.

Editors’ note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of CNET’s staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.


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