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At Last: The 2023 Nissan Z Performance

2023 Nissan Z Performance front 3/4 view

Man, it's been a long time. Forty years since a Nissan Z had a shape like this.

2023 Nissan Z Performance rear 3/4 view

Fifteen months since the big car sites and magazines had their "first drives" of the 2023 Nissan Z...some of which were lukewarm at best.

I think my fellow automotive journalists, who dock the Z points for not being as fierce and track-focused as its logical competitor, the Toyota GR Supra 3.0, are missing the point. The Z's mission is not the same as the Supra.

The Z is a Grand Tourer.

2023 Nissan Z Performance hood up

2023 Nissan Z Performance engine

Let's get the tech stuff out of the way first. That's a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. 400 horsepower, 350 lb-ft of torque. Because our tester was the Nissan Z Performance, it comes with a six-speed manual transmission, an EXEDY high-performance clutch, aluminum double wishbone front and multi-link rear sport-tuned suspension, speed-sensitive power steering, front and rear stabilizer bard, a two-point front strut tower brace---that piece of metal running horizontally across the engine above---a mechanical limited-slip differential, rev matching, four-wheel power-assisted performance vented disc brakes with red calipers and 19-inch RAYS dark-painted super lightweight forged alloy wheels on 255/40R19 front and 275/35R19 rear tires.

Zero to 60 happens in 4.3 seconds, which is exactly what the six-speed Supra GR 3.0 does it in. EPA fuel economy estimate: 20 mpg combined city/highway. The Supra's is 21.

Route from Folsom, CA to Ukiah CA
(courtesy Google Maps)

I had the good fortune of having the new Z the same weekend that there was a family gathering in Ukiah, California. 162 miles from our house, with a good chunk on winding two-lanes. And that's where I discovered that the Z is a totally different machine from the Supra. In the Z, there's speed and grip and----no drama. Yeah, you can get in there and wring it out of you want to, but where the Z excels is in being faster than it feels. It's difficult if not impossible to choose the wrong gear---the engine is there, waiting for the press of your right foot on the pedal. The handling is precise, the feedback is good---it just doesn't transmit it through your spine. Honestly (and I have the reviews to prove I love the Supra), I think the Z is a better choice for more drivers.

2023 Nissan Z Performance rear hatch open

2023 Nissan Z Performance front seats

2023 Nissan Z Performance front seat detail

2023 Nissan Z Performance instrument panel

There are nods to the original Z inside as well---the round HVAC knobs---the three auxiliary gauges atop the dash.

More important is the room----the Z has epic legroom, which is to be expected from a two-seater that doesn't have to accommodate humans in a second row. But it also has a remarkable amount of headroom, which, combined with that vast windshield, makes the cockpit feel more spacious still.

I did that drive---Folsom to Ukiah and back---in the space of a little over 24 hours, and unlike many performance cars, I was still fresh when I parked it. This is a car I could drive the 400 miles to Los Angeles and enjoy it. I'm not sure I could say that about the Supra.

The base price of the 2023 Nissan Z Performance is $51,015. Pretty much everything is standard at that price---a solid suite of active safety features, four-way power heated driver's and passenger's seats, leather-appointed seating surfaces with performance synthetic suede inserts, a premium leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic temperature control, a nine-inch touchscreen (exactly the right size, by the way---clear and readable but not out of scale to the cockpit), with an eight-speaker Bose audio system with active noise cancellation, side sill, rear and front chin spoilers and dual exhaust with finisher.

2023 Nissan Z steering wheel and gauge cluster

2023 Nissan Z center console

2023 Nissan Z center stack

The only extra-cost options were the paint---the two-tone blue with black roof is $1,295, but I like it better than any of the three no-cost colors (black, gray and a dark red), an illuminated kick plate ($500) and a floor mat package (floor mats, trunk mat, cargo net, a first aid kit and a branded portfolio for the owner's manual) for $400.

Bottom line of the window sticker reads $53,655.

2023 Nissan Z Performance front view

2023 Nissan Z rear view

If we have to compare the Z and the Toyota GR Supra 3.0, I'll do it this way. The as-tested price of the Z is $4,710 less than the as-tested price of the 2023 Supra I reviewed in January. And in my book, the Z is more livable as a daily driver and an infinitely better choice for long-distance driving. Sure, some people can afford to have a $50,000-$60,000 toy for track days. But we've gotten way off track if that's the metric instead of everyday use. Again, I love the Supra, but I'd buy the Z.


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