2023 Nissan Z
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First Drive: 2023 Nissan Z Review

The Nissan Z is as much an automotive icon as the GT-R is for the Japanese brand. In fact, the 240Z (the very first Z) and the Skyline GT-R were introduced in the late 1960s, showcasing Nissan's expertise in building sports cars for the road, but also for racing purposes around the world.

Unveiled last year, the seventh-generation of the model is destined to become the last of its kind – will the next one be fully electric? After more than 50 years on the market, the Z even abandoned its nomenclature referring to the displacement of its engine. It's also worth mentioning that the previous 370Z was discontinued a while back, when the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was only a few months in. 

Back for 2023 (the sports car is already available in dealerships across the country by the way) only one question remains: will the new Z succeed in seducing purists? Or is it too difficult a task in today’s market?

Lineup of Nissan's past Z cars at the Circuit Mont-Tremblant | Photo: Vincent Aubé 

Key Features:

  • A new 400-hp and 350 ft-lb twin-turbo 3.0L V6 engine borrowed from the Infiniti Q50/Q60 cars.
  • Two available transmissions: a base manual 6-speed unit and a new automatic 9-speed gearbox.
  • A mechanical clutch-type limited-slip differential only available on Performance grade and above (Proto spec).
  • A design inspired by two iconic Z models: the front and the silhouette are from the 240Z and the taillights point towards the 300ZX from the 90s.
  • A new Launch Control standard on A/T equipped cars and Performance grade M/T equipped cars.
  • Same platform as the 370Z, but the chassis is 10.8 % stiffer in torsional rigidity.
  • Front and rear spoilers only on Performance grade and above to reduce lift at high speed.
  • New Monotube shock absorbers.

Direct Competitors:

  • Chevrolet Camaro
  • Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
  • Ford Mustang
  • Porsche 718 Cayman
  • Toyota GR Supra

2023 Nissan Z Price in Canada: Sport, Performance and Proto Spec trims

Z Sport: entry-level model

The new Z starts at $46,498 in Sport trim with the manual transmission. The automatic option adds $1,500 to the equation, for a total of $47,998. 

2023 Nissan Z | Photo: Nissan 

The Sport trim comes with 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and running lights, front and rear sensors for parking assistance, a 12.3-inch digital gauge display, a smart key and start button, automatic climate control, an 8-inch center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and six speakers, six airbags, smart cruise control and an array of safety features.

Z Performance: built for the track

The Performance trim is much pricier at $58,498 with the manual transmission and $59,998 with the automatic. As its name suggests, this one is performance oriented. 

It includes 19-inch Rays wheels, a mechanical limited-slip differential, front and rear spoilers, performance brakes with red calipers, power and heated leather seats, aluminium pedals, a Bose audio system with eight speakers, Nissan Connect services and a wireless Internet connection.

Z Proto Spec: the special edition

The Proto Spec edition pays homage to the concept unveiled in 2020. Exclusively painted in Ikazuchi Yellow with a black roof, the Z Proto Spec gets a bronze finish on the Rays wheels, yellow calipers, limited badging and yellow details on the console and seats. 

However, you'll need to budget $64,248 for the manual transmission version and $65,748 for the automatic. Nissan hasn't revealed how many Proto Spec models will be available in Canada, but quantity will certainly be limited. 

While it's true that the Performance and Proto Spec versions are expensive compared to the Sport model, a quick look at the prices of the Toyota GR Supra, the Z’s closest competitor in terms of numbers, confirms that Nissan’s new sports car is a bargain compared to Toyota’s entry. 

2023 Nissan Z interior

2023 Nissan Z | Photo: Nissan 

For this seventh-generation, engineers found a way to (slightly) improve space to accommodate taller drivers. The other noteworthy feature is the new, updated dashboard. 

There are still hints of the old car here and there, but overall, the interior is nicer than before with an emphasis on connectivity with the touch screen in the middle and the one behind the steering wheel that even offers a unique display for the model. 

The steering wheel is inspired by the one found in the GT-R, a feature that also applies to the sports seats. The only issue with these seats is that they’re not the most comfortable in the segment. 

2023 Nissan Z | Photo: Nissan 

And since this launch involved a bit of track time on the Circuit Mont-Tremblant, north of Montreal, let’s just say that with a helmet, the cabin is quite snug! As for the trunk space behind the passengers, it’s similar to what was offered previously in the 370Z. Basically, two carry-on suitcases and two backpacks will fill up this portion of the car. 

Performance & drive impressions

Obviously, driving a Nissan Z on twisty roads is nothing like the usual daily commute in an average SUV. We left Montreal Airport in a hurry, trying to maximise our time on the beautiful backcountry roads of the Laurentides, north of Quebec’s metropole, on route for the Circuit Mont-Tremblant where the final race of the Nissan Sentra Cup championship was held. 

There, #220 Valérie Limoges became the first female race car driver to win a championship in Canadian motorsport history. Not a bad way to finish a day behind the wheel!

2023 Nissan Z | Photo: Nissan 

New V6 engine with manual transmission for the Nissan Z purists

The latest Z, in Performance grade, attracted a lot of attention during our drive where several thumbs up were lifted on our way to the famous circuit. The new drivetrain is a great improvement with lots of torque and almost no turbo lag, thanks to the recirculation valve, which allows for quicker throttle response. 

Some will argue that the new V6 is quieter than the previous normally aspirated engine, but in straight lines, this new powerhouse is quite convincing. The manual transmission is also great to play with, but don’t expect a precise lever like the one found in Porsches for example. 

The automatic equipped Z is the fastest car here, but even with the paddle shifters, it’s not as engaging which is why the manual Z is the one to get for purists.

Revised suspension, larger tires, and braking system from the outgoing 370Z Nismo

2023 Nissan Z | Photo: Nissan 

On the road, the Nissan Z improved in terms of comfort, as the car can now claim to be a true GT for longer trips. The revised suspension appears to be softer, while the handling is better, thanks to larger tires up front and the old braking system borrowed from the previous 370Z Nismo. Overall, the new and improved Z behaved quite well on our way to Mont-Tremblant.

Hitting the track in the new Z

Unfortunately, Mother nature had other plans during our planned track time. To say the least, it was pouring rain, and after a full day of racing the day before, the tarmac was extremely slippery, which meant that we couldn’t push very hard in the hairpins or even in the straights. 

Lucky for me, I was at the North American launch of the car in Las Vegas back in May where I discovered that the Nissan Z is a very good performer on the road – better than the 370Z, for that matter – but not firm enough for an intensive day at the track. A stiffer suspension would probably solve this issue.

Verdict: is the new Nissan Z worth it?

Clearly, the new Z is meant for people who enjoy driving. The car is engaging with the manual transmission, a little less with the auto and much faster than previously, but also much more expensive. 

2023 Nissan Z | Photo: Nissan 

Remember the base model of the 370Z at a base price of under $30,000? Well, the new entry price is more than $45,000, which shows how much the shortage crisis has affected the price of cars lately. For true drivers, the Performance grade is the one to get.

Then again, the new Z is a much better car than the 370Z introduced in 2009, more than a decade ago. The quality is there, so is the performance for everyday use, but for those demanding track days, this car needs some attention – unless Nissan is already at work on a new Z Nismo.

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