That is why it is one of the most special vehicles that are – thankfully – still around.
A Victory & Reseda preview of the 2023 Nissan Z
When you’re six years old, you become fascinated with anything.
For me, it was the automobile. They were fascinating machines designed to transport you anywhere you want to go.
Yes, I was a bit naïve back then…
Among the fascinating machines that entranced this six-year-old chubby boy was the original 1970 Datsun 240Z. The long hood and fastback roofline ticked plenty of boxes for me.
Of course, I was schooled in some of the facts about this milestone sports coupe for Nissan. The in-line six had an overhead camshaft design which threw you back into your seat at full throttle. The handling set-up was extraordinary for the era. It was just what the world needed – something akin to the Jaguar E-Type, but at a more affordable price point.
This was one of the many stories that revolve around the Z. There are plenty of cars that yield stories about family members, friends, and neighbors who had one. That is why it is one of the most special vehicles that are – thankfully – still around.
In comes a new chapter. The 2023 Nissan Z – not 400Z, but simply Z – arrives full of heritage, modern touches and technology, and a cargo area all full of promises.
It all starts with a familiar shape. The shape that evokes the original 240Z. There has been some modernization to the shape. The "coke-bottle" haunches have been flattened out. The chrome bumper is gone, leaving the squared-off grille shape exposed. It is exposed to enable more air intake into the engine compartment. The set-back headlamps are now an integrated LED unit with the driving lights reminding us of that design feature of 52 years before.
The Z is also full of plot twists. The rear end may remind you of the third- and fourth-generation models with its horizontal taillight arrangement. However, the roofline remains true to the Zs of the 1970s and 1980s with its fastback shape and hatchback opening.
Design-wise, the exterior looks the part. It is distinctively a Z. Unmistakably evoking its own legend for today’s enthusiast.
As a person standing over six-feet tall, I am always concerned about my entry and exit into a sports coupe. Will my head clear the roof line? Or, will I incur another dent on my skull? The good news is that the 2023 Z offers me ease of entry and exit. No brushing of my head on the door opening or playing limbo to get comfortable inside.
Once inside, you will expect the new Z to stay true to its two-seat roots. It does so comfortably in a well-bolstered and supportive seat. They will lock you in when you handle the turns on the most challenging of roads. I settled into a seat that does not induce any fatigue and offered the right amount of headroom and enable the driver to not get cramped when doing pedal work.
The instrumentation is also a great example of the fusion of classic and modern elements. The three circular gauges on top of the center stack reminded me of older Zs. There is a real handbrake, for those of us who remember how to use one.
With these classic elements come the modern ones. There is the fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster that is responsive and easy to reference. The nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system is the latest one from Nissan. My tester had the eight-speaker Bose audio system with Active Noise Cancelling. The sound from this system was wonderful. It offers smartphone integration either through a USB-A or USB-C port.
If you select the automatic transmission, you get the shift-by-wire selector found on the newest Nissan models. I would prefer an actual shifter, but you do get paddle shifters for when you need to blip the gears to go with the main selector.
That leads to the driveline. It is still rear-wheel drive – as God intended all sports coupes to be. However, power comes from a 400-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. While you will say that it is the same motor found on top-specification Infiniti Q50 and Q60 models, this engine does give the Z a distinctive performance personality. It comes from having a lighter curb weight – about 3,600 pounds – to draw out the most out of this engine.
Unlike its Infiniti cousin, you have the choice of either a six-speed manual gearbox or a nine-speed automatic transmission. I drove the automatic. The shifts are quick and responsive to the throttle. I love the noise that comes from those big dual exhaust tips. That alone encourages you to get on the accelerator pedal and make some memories.
And, memories were made in the new Z. Having never stepped out of Harry Reid (formerly and still known as McCarran) Airport, I never expected anything as amazing as the roads we were treated to inside the Lake Mead National Recreational Area. We’re talking curvy roads, some elevation changes, and a landscape that simply blew my mind.
While driving through this backdrop, I was inspired to achieve these memories. The Z had an equal part to allow me to achieve them. Simply put, it came down to its driving dynamics that encompass the entire experience.
The ride quality is firm. You cannot get around that. The firmness is forgivable as it wants to get the best out of the handling package in the Performance model I drove. The cornering is good overall and quick reflexes managing evasive maneuvers like a champ. May I add that the grip from the Performance model’s 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza tires were simply on point.
All of this is enhanced when you flip the drive mode switch to Sport mode. You can certainly feel it at the steering wheel. It has a heavier feel, which means more control. It also means better on-center feel. Yet, the steering system exhibited a tight turning radius in both Sport and Standard modes.
As for the brakes, they work pretty well. The pedal feel is solid and offers good response down to the wheels. The result is solid stops in normal and panic situations.
The big headline for the 2023 Nissan Z is the price. It starts from $39,995 for a Sport model with a choice of a manual or automatic transmission. You can choose your transmission for no additional cost. There will be two primary trim levels – Sport and the Performance. To start things off, Nissan will sell 240 units of the Proto Spec edition model that will feature some unique trim – including bronze/gold alloy wheels.
In fact, our sample came with a sticker price of $53,210.
For the Z owners and enthusiasts that read this website, I need to get this out of the way. If you’re looking for comparisons between previous generation Zs and this new one, I suggest you look elsewhere. There are a lot of impressions being published today and I can bet you will find several of them reaching back generations of Zs to state their case for or against it.
Which brings me to a simple summation about the 2023 Nissan Z…this car is pretty damn good. I say this in consideration of the history this car had since the fall of 1969. This generation of the Z has reached back to its roots and created something that will become one of the most desirable cars in the years to come. The new Z will not disappoint you.
In fact, it captured my heart. I do love this new Z. It is what I imagined it to be.
That six-year-old kid has grown up to appreciate what he witnessed back in 1970. Some 52 years later, this experienced automotive journalist/content creator and Managing Editor of a cultural/community lifestyle magazine has a deeper appreciation for the accomplishment that Nissan achieved in the 2023 Z.
I would buy this. Would you?
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle, Travel, and Logistics provided by Nissan North America
All photos by Randy Stern