First Drive: The 2023 Nissan Z

The all new Nissan Z

by Michael Satterfield - 09/01/2022

Coming of age in the 90s meant that the pages of car magazines I was reading were filled with images of Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbos, Toyota Supras, and the Mazda RX-7 FD. While my friends and I would drive used Honda Civics, Nissan 240SX, and of course my amazing bright blue Peugeot 405, all outfitted with exhausts, lowering springs, and of course a massive tachometer with a shift light we all one day wanted to own some as exotic and special as a 300ZX. 

A few years later, I pulled up in my driveway after work to find my best friend Roman, grinning ear to ear and leaning on a black 300ZX Turbo. We took it for a drive and it really was really, really good, the bone stock 300ZX was legitimately fun to drive and a little more reliable than the Maserati BiTurbo Barnfind that I recently purchased. The 300ZX won Motor Trend's "Import Car of the Year" in 1990, Automobile Magazine called it the "Design of the Year" and  Road & Track named the 300ZX Turbo "One of the Ten Best Cars in the World." It has always been the car that I compare every other Z, the 350Z and 370Z were really good, but only felt really special if you were driving one of the NISMO or the final 50th Anniversary models, so needless to say I was excited to get behind the wheel of the latest Z car to see if it gives me that same special feeling.

Nissan Z at Car Meet

My first impression of the production Z is Nissan got the retro styling right, elements of the original 240Z and subsequent generations can be seen without being caricature-like. The interior is very handsomely styled, has the classic three gauge pod on the dash, overall good layout of controls, and is roomy and comfortable. The test car is the $54,015 Nissan Z Proto Spec, which is a lot considering the previous 370Z NISMO coupe topped out at $47,090. Shifting the price of a Z more in line with the Mustang Mach 1, Toyota Supra, and BMW Z4. 

Nissan Z interior

Taking the Z to a local car meet, it was quick to draw a crowd away from the McLaren 720S and Corvette C8, I let local enthusiasts sit in the car, popped the hood, and answered about million questions. The next day I would take it for a long drive down to Apex Auto Works in Alvin, Texas. On the back road, the Z is very good, responsive, and fun to drive, even with the paddle-shifted gearbox. With 400-horsepower on tap, this Z is a full second faster from 0-60 than the 300ZX Turbo was and half a second faster than the  370Z NISMO. 

Pushing it hard on in the corners and the new Z inspires confidence, but it still feels like it is tuned for commuting and not canyon carving. While it is good, it isn't as planted as other sportscars, I am certain that NISMO is working on a version that is more track-focused and will be far more engaging to drive. I arrive at the shop where the racers and race car builders were excited to check out the new Z, while they thought it was pretty, they were more interested in asking about when the racing version would be available in the USA, or at least a body in white. We talk about John Morton and the BRE Datsuns that made Nissan a legend in the motorsports world, but it was time to get to work on project cars for the day, as SEMA is just around the corner. 

Nissan Z at Apex Auto Works

Several hours later, I am back on the road to head home and I am going to take the long way, the Z just gets more fun to drive, it has plenty of room for some weekend bags for a getaway, and all the modern luxury and convenience that you would expect in a nearly $55,000 car. Incendetly that is about what the 300ZX Turbo would cost today adjusted for inflation, so maybe that is just the magic number for a really good sports car. While this might be the most expensive Z ever produced, compared to a comparably equipped GR Supra 3.0, the new Z Proto Spec is still nearly $4,000 cheaper and if you don't need the limited edition and special paint, the Z Performance spec is $7,000 less than the Toyota. 

After a week of driving the new Z, it sure feels special, like 300ZX special, will it be as timelessly cool as the 300ZX, I suppose we will have to check back in 30 years, but Nissan hit it out of the park with this one. Now if you can only find one to buy...