No car has tested the maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” like the Nissan 370Z. The two-seater sports car had one of the longest production runs of any vehicle in recent memory. It was unveiled at the end of 2008 and has not ceased since with only minor updates. Even in old age, the 370Z wasn’t a bad car, but Nissan had to keep pace with modern technology to keep one of its most sacred nameplates from perishing.
Unveiled today in New York and on sale in the United States in the spring of 2022, the Nissan Z 2023 (the number prefix has been discontinued) inherits a heritage that dates back more than 50 years. The new Z is the successor of not only the 370Z, but also the Datsun 240Z, which became an instant classic when it was unveiled in the Big Apple in 1969.
Over the decades and half-dozen generations of cars that followed, the letter Z has become a symbol of affordable performance for car enthusiasts. Nissan has rubbed shoulders with this goodwill for over a decade now, even as the auto industry has experienced a technological revolution. So now that a new Nissan is finally here, will it be worth the wait?
For its first new Z in over a decade, Nissan has chosen to look back. The 2023 Z is a remix of styling cues from various past Z models. Previewed by the Z Proto concept car unveiled last year, the overall shape is a throwback to the Datsun 240Z, while the LED headlights have two semicircles, specifically referencing the 1970s-only Japanese 240ZG. LED rear lights take things a few decades forward, taking inspiration from the Z32-generation Nissan 300ZX of the 1990s.
However, the changes are only superficial. The Nissan Z 2023 uses a modified version of the older 370Z body. You can tell by the shape of the quarter windows, which are unchanged from the previous generation car, as well as by the specifications. The 2023 Z is a bit longer than the 370Z, but the width and height are unchanged, along with the 100.4-inch wheelbase. Both cars also have identical headroom and legroom, according to Nissan.
Still, the two-seater interior of the new Z should be a nicer place than that of the old car, mainly because, unlike the old cabin, it was designed around modern technological features. For example, the 370Z’s steering wheel controls seemed like an afterthought, but Nissan says the 2023 Z’s “deep-dish” steering wheel will improve that. The new car also gets seats designed with lessons learned from the Nissan GT-R, the automaker’s performance flagship. Fabric upholstery will be standard, with leather optional.
The Nissan 370Z was a great car for passionate driving enthusiasts, but not for tech enthusiasts. The 2023 Z aims to improve on that with a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen, 12.3-inch digital dashboard, and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto connectivity. These are big improvements, considering that the 370Z didn’t even come with a touchscreen as standard equipment.
The switch from the base Z Sport model to the Z Performance will also offer a 9.0-inch touchscreen, navigation and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
Unlike the 370Z, all 2023 Z models also get a decent range of standard driving aids, including automatic emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), blind spot monitoring, vehicle warning Lane departure, rear cross traffic alert, automatic high beams and forward collision warning.
Big changes have also been made under the hood. The old naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V6 engine was replaced by a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6. This is the same engine used in the Infiniti Q60 coupe and the Q50 sedan, from the luxury brand Nissan. It’s also a bit of a throwback to the Z32 Nissan 300ZX, which was also offered with a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine.
It’s a smaller engine than before, but the twin turbos allow it to generate 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, compared to 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet. of the outgoing 370Z. As a result, Nissan says the 2023 Z will beat the outgoing model’s zero to 60 mph time by 15 percent.
Like all previous generations, the 2023 Z is rear-wheel drive because of the handling benefits it offers. It also continues with a six-speed manual transmission and Nissan’s SynchroRev Match feature. Introduced on the previous generation 370Z, it automatically activates the throttle to make gear changes smoother. Alternatively, you can get a nine-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and launch control.
Nissan claims to have beefed up the bodywork, which, along with wider front tires, allows for a 13% improvement in g-forces when cornering, according to the company. However, Nissan did not quote a curb weight for the new model, and we are very curious to see if it has gained weight. The extra horsepower of the new Z might compensate for the increase in horsepower, but the lighter a car, the better it feels around the corners.
Nissan has yet to release pricing information, saying only that the 2023 Z will be available in Sport and Performance flavors, as well as a special edition Proto Spec. Limited to just 240 units, it will feature styling features inspired by the Z Proto concept, including yellow brake calipers and 19-inch bronze Rays wheels.
While it’s unclear how they will compare in terms of price, it seems likely that the Z will compete with the Toyota Supra, another two-seater Japanese sports car with a heritage nameplate. The Z and Supra have traditionally been seen as rivals, but they haven’t been on sale in the United States at the same time since the 1990s.
Like the last Supra, the 2023 Nissan Z will also be a midsize sports car. It is bigger and more powerful than the Mazda MX-5 Miata or Subaru BRZ / Toyota GR 86 twins, but not quite on the same level as the Porsche Cayman or the Chevrolet Corvette.
However, the biggest test may be convincing tech-savvy car buyers, who may have viewed the Z as a has-been, to try this new model.