2023 Nissan Z: Rebirth of the legend
The 2023 Nissan Z is the most retro performance car since the 2005 Mustang, which supercharged sales of the original Pony Car with throwback stying. But in fact, the new Z is more retro than the reinvented Mustang, which was modeled on a late 1960's fastback model, not the original notchback first introduced in 1964. The 2023 Nissan is much closer to the original 1969 hatchback sports car that captured the imaginations of fans worldwide.
For starters, aside from stricter bumper standards and the need for advanced infotainment systems, the 2023 Z looks remarkably like the original version. The exterior lines recapture the fastback look of the 1969 model, with respectful touches like a slightly raised hood bulge and small nonfunctional rear windows. The fact Nissan retained the original two seat styling instead of a 2+2 layout helps enormously. Inside the Z remains snug, with the trademark row of gauges across the top of the dash and manual air conditioning controls underneath.
There are significant differences, however, with the most important being the engine. The original 240 Z was powered by a 2.4-liter inline six with twin Hitachi SU-type carburetors. Anyone who owns one appreciates the simplicity of the design, including the larger and slightly more powerful displacement versions in the 260 Z and 280 Z. But the 1969 version only produced 151 horsepower and that's not going to cut it these days. The new Z is driven by a twin turbocharged 4.0-liter V6 that generates 400 horsepower, enough for genuine contemporary sports car performance while still being easy to drive around town.
The new Z is also available with a six-speed manual transmission. That might not seems surprising, given that it's a sports car, but they are a vanishing breed, Just ask owners of the new mid-engine Corvette. Better than that, the first four gears seems designed for around town and suburban driving, while 5th and 6th have wider spacings and seem reserved for freeway speeds.
Our 2023 Nissan was an absolute joy to drive. Fast and responsive, it made every trip an adventure. From the inches-off-the-ground seating to the snap-your-neck-back manual shifts, it delivered as promised. The torque curve was so broad it could be driven easily through crowded city streets. And, surprisingly, the suspension didn't beat me up on the poorly maintained streets in the Portland neighborhood where I live while still delivering impressive cornering when pressed. That's the difference between weekend entertainment and a daily driver.
The 2023 Z comes in three trim levels starting at around $40,000 and topping out at about $55,000. That is a very reasonable price for the performance once, especially considering that Nissan's other sports car, the GT-R, starts at around $113,000.
So did Nissan succeed is reviving the Z? The answer is enthusiastic yes, although I've enjoyed driving numerous versions over the years. Like them, the new model is a little hard to get in and out of for anyone born before the first version. But once you're buckled in, get ready for a trip down memory lane — or your fight trip if you've never enjoyed a back-to-basics sport car before.
The all-new Z is the last thing I expected, a genuine retro performance car that improves on the last generation while embracing its heritage. Run don't walk to your nearest Nissan dealer to get yours.
2023 Nissan Z
Base price: $39,990
Price as tested: $53,210
Style: Sports car
Engine: Twin turbocharged 4.0-liter V6 (400 hp, 530 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
EPA fuel economy: 18/25
Length: 172.4 inches
Weight: 3507 pounds
Final assembly point: Kaminokawa, Tochigi, Japan
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