The 2023 Nissan Z might just be the last pure sports car from Japan

Front engined, rear-wheel-drive. Twin turbos. Manual transmission. It’s everything fans of Japanese sports cars have been demanding for years. The Miata and 86 are too underpowered? The Z has 400 horses. Subaru BRZ needs a turbo? The Z has two of ’em. Supra doesn’t come in a manual? The Z has six speeds. Mazda needs to build an RX-9? The Z, despite all odds, actually exists. You might have just watched the launch of the last pure FR, internal-combustion, stick-shift Japanese sports car in history.

First things first, it’s finally what we’ve been calling it all along, the Z. There’s no more numeric designation tied to engine displacement in the name. That’s because the naturally aspirated 3.7-liter VQ37VHR V6 has been replaced with the 3.0-liter VR30DDTT twin-turbo V6 from the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. It would have seemed like a step backwards to drop the name back to 300Z, and linking it to horsepower would limit, say, a NISMO version from gaining more power.

Confirmed with 400 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 350 lb-ft under a broad torque curve that stretches from 1,600 to 5,600 rpm, the engine change was pretty much expected. It’s not the first time Nissan has teased a Z with that motor, either. The Infiniti’s electronic variable valve timing on the intake side carries over, along with small-diameter turbos. As such, Nissan promises very good throttle response, something that’s been lacking on many modern cars.

Some might decry the parts-bin choice, but it’s from a very good parts bin. The engine has proved itself impressive and has strong aftermarket potential, it’s just been shackled in the wrong car. Freed from its luxury car reins and mated to a 6-speed manual, it should put a lot of smiles on new owners’ faces. Nissan estimates a 15 percent improvement in 0-60 times, which puts it in the low 4-second range, same as a V8 Mustang GT.

Speaking of that manual, it puts the power down through an Exedy high-performance clutch and a carbon-fiber composite driveshaft; stuff that used to be in the Gran Turismo tuning menu is now factory standard. There’s even a launch assist control system to ensure takeoffs are smooth. The 370Z’s pioneering rev-match downshifts carry over on some models as well. Of course, there’s a automatic if you don’t want to row your own, a new 9-speed automatic that can be optioned with aluminum paddle-shifters like those in the GT-R.

Styling-wise, it looks just as striking as the concept, a blend of heritage and modernity, with very little that didn’t make it into production. The grille appears to have a little chrome applied so the front intake doesn’t look as large. It looks a bit like a Star Road Z in blue. Or a certain Wangan runner that comes out at Midnight.

Hard points seem to match those of the 370Z, but Nissan says there’s been changes under the sheetmetal as well. They claim to have upped the body rigidity and tinkered with the suspension geometry. The new front aluminum double-wishbones, for instance, sport increased caster angle for better straight-line stability. Nissan says the rear multi-link has also been reconfigured but hasn’t disclosed details. New larger-diameter monotube dampers can be found at each wheel.

Nissan will offer the Z in two trim levels, Sport and Performance, both of which get the firecracking engine, thankfully. The latter also receives a sport-tuned exhaust, clutch-type LSD, and larger brakes (red 4-pot aluminum calipers over 14.0 x 1.26-inch discs in front, 2-pot aluminum over 13.8 x 0.79 discs at the rear, as opposed to the Sport’s 2-pot cast-iron calipers over 12.6 x 1.10 inchers in front, cast-iron single-piston calipers over 12.1 x 0.63 rotors at the rear).

Likewise, Performance trims get snazzy wheels in the form of Rays forged alloys, 19×9.5J in front, 19x10J out back wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza S007 high performance tires. That’s one size larger than the Sport’s 18x9J wheels in Yokohama Advan Sport high performance tires. We don’t know curb weight yet — we predict something around 3,400-3,500 pounds — but Nissan says cornering g-forces have gone up by 13 percent.

Performance models can be further visually identified by front chin and rear spoilers and leather throughout the interior. There’s also some stuff that we wouldn’t necessarily need but comes with the higher grade nonetheless, like power seats, a larger infotainment screen, and a better audio system.

The cabin has been thoroughly modernized and is where the new Z truly differentiates itself from its predecessor. While many of us probably don’t care about niceties like a digital instrument display with an enhanced map mode, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, or blind spot and lane departure warnings, such conveniences have kept average car buyers away from the Z.

These features will appeal to most customers and bring the Z back to the current age,  and we can all agree more Zs on the street would be a Good Thing. Similarly, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, intelligent cruise control, and rear cross traffic alert help the Z become less of a dinosaur in the marketplace.

Those of us who drive older cars are used to having our phones sub in for all our in-car entertainment and navigation needs. As such, we do appreciate that Bluetooth is now standard (the last 370Z we drove in 2019 didn’t even have it) along with USB and USB-C charging outlets.

Nissan COO Ashwani Gupta summed it up when he said, “[The Z] is Nissan’s passion wrapped up on four wheels. The new Z retains its authenticity as a pure sports car to keep you connected to the road while bringing in the latest modern technologies to make sure the car can help keep you connected to your life.”

The Z will come in a wide palette of colors. Three are monotones: Black Diamond Metallic, Rosewood Metallic, and perennial Nissan favorite Gun Metallic. The other six must be paired with a Super Black roof: Brilliant Silver, Boulder Gray, Passion Red, Everest White Pearl, the Wangan Midnight-evoking Seiran Blue, or the Z Proto’s Ikazuchi Yellow. Ikazuchi means “thunder” in Japanese, while seiran means “mountain vapor,” conjuring up images of early morning touge runs.

Nissan will offer three interior color options as well, Black, Red and an 80s color we’re glad to see make a comeback, Blue. Additionally, Nissan is planning a run of Proto Spec launch editions, which will feature yellow brake calipers, yellow accents and stitching throughout the interior, and an exclusive shift knob. Only 240 will be built for the U.S.

It took a long road to get here. We first laid eyes on the 370Z in the fall of 2008, a few months shy of 13 years ago. That delay, however, may work in the new Z’s advantage. It’s forced Nissan to listen to enthusiasts making themselves very vocal over the last decade, and focus on what’s important — turbo power, manual transmission — while adding some inevitable tech to appease the masses. The next Z may be a hybrid, or electric, if there is one at all. We won’t be able to make a final call on the new Z until we get behind the wheel, but right now this looks like a promising send-off for the age of internal combustion sports cars.

Additional Images:

Images courtesy of Nissan.

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13 Responses to The 2023 Nissan Z might just be the last pure sports car from Japan

  1. Ellis says:

    It looks GREAT in blue and were it not for that STUPID accelerator pedal I’d be all over it. But I really can’t stand those organ pedals. Hopefully Toyota hangs the gas pedal in the new 86 like it should be…

    Not a fan of the name either. Sorry to sound like a hater (I promise I’m not) but how stupid does it sound when someone asks what you drive and you say “a Z!”…well which one???

    It’s a good looking car and there are going to be many happy owners out there. I won’t be one of them but that’s fine.

  2. Monte Strong says:

    Great article, Ben, and awesome pictures.

  3. 88TSI_Rob says:

    Thanks for the write-up and congrats to Nissan for continuing with the Z car.

    I may be a mistaken, but I feel like the production car looks more like the current 370Z than the Proto Z. I will have to go back and look, but the Proto Z seemed a little lower and longer with possibly a lower beltline. Not sure if that’s true or if the yellow helped mask some of the mass.

    I was hoping they were going to hit that rumored $37-38k price, but for $40k it’s still a decent value.

  4. Cobaltfire says:

    So they actually went ahead and ditched the front struts for wishbones up front? I’m excited!

    This is a far better ICE send-off for a storied nameplate than what Toyota did with the Supra.

  5. RX626 says:

    A great car.
    This is probably the last purely internal combustion engine Z-car, and also the last stick shift Z-car.
    In a time of great change in the automotive environment, Nissan has played its best swan song for the last pure Z.

    I love the specs and visuals of this car. It is one of the best new models of Nissan or even Japanese cars in recent years.
    And there’s one more great thing to add to them.
    It is that they kept the model of this car as “Z34” instead of “Z35”.
    This has serious implications in the Japanese market. In Japan, newer models will soon be required to be equipped with more advanced safety features.
    That’s great in terms of safety, but at the cost of losing the purity of a sports car.
    However, this car is a “Z34” on the paperwork. In other words, it is treated as the same model as the Z34/370Z that debuted in 2008.
    As such, it is exempted from the mandatory installation of equipment such as automatic braking.
    This may seem a bit unfair, but as a gearhead, it is a welcome “cheat”.

    The new Z is a really great sports car.
    I hope this car will be loved by many people.

  6. MikeRL411 says:

    Obviously geared for its real market, export. Note the left hand drive setup. Japan and Britan have no real road system [or enthusiats?] for this car.

    • Alan-T says:

      You seriously believe that Great Britain and Japan “have no real road system for this car”? What a bizarre thing to write.

    • smartalec says:

      You have clearly never been to Japan if you think there are no Z enthusiasts there. Also don’t forget about Australia and NZ

  7. Alan says:

    But Toyota couldn’t do it alone. Please. I haven’t wanted to cheer for Nissan like this for a long time, way to go guys. Might be the last new car I ever buy.

  8. pete240z says:

    It looks good to me – I’m thinking a white car with a red interior. That might match my 1966 Datsun 1600 that also had that paint/interior scheme.

  9. mel says:

    Very nice car. Excellent value.
    Our market doesn’t get it …sadly. For 40.000 dollar I can buy an entry level Qashqai (Rogue Sport) from Nissan.

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