2023 Nissan Z: First Drive

David S.
By David S. Wallens
May 17, 2022 | Nissan, Z-car, Nissan Z | Posted in Features | Never miss an article

Photography by David S. Wallens unless otherwise credited

The new Nissan Z has a clutch pedal, something you won’t find in any modern Ferrari, Lamborghini or even Corvette.

Nissan also offers a nine-speed automatic–it seemed quicker during our informal, uninstrumented testing–but traditionalists can go old-school.

The Z’s main vibe, in fact, is its familiarity. By today’s standards, it offers a light, airy cockpit. The driver doesn’t feel bolted to the floor, and the windowsills don’t sit too high.

[Good taste returns: Peter Brock driver the new Nissan Z | Column]

The A-pillars aren’t as thin as those from the ’70s, but they’re not nearly as thick as they used to be.

The dash layout, although modern, still feels familiar without being painfully retro. The main display, for example, is just a simple, digital affair, while three auxiliary gauges, a Z-car hallmark since day one, top the dashboard.

The steering wheel, we’re told, shares dimensions with the one found in the GT-R. We didn’t take measurements, but we’d call the wheel meaty and appropriate for this kind of car.

Likewise, the shifter feels smooth and precise. Nissan has greatly improved the feel of its switches and controls over the years, and the Z’s have a more upmarket feel. The same goes for the touchpoints–things like the armrest. Those details may not make a car faster, but they matter when you’re doing the daily grind.

The seats also felt properly bolstered. They’re not silly like the ones in the old Juke Nismo, but they don’t let you slide around.

One more throwback: a real parking brake lever instead of the all-too-common button of today.

You can also get in and out of the Z without hitting your head. While the Z interior feels roomier, the car itself seems tidier–perhaps because it’s easier to get a sense for all four corners.

On track–sadly, we took just a few laps around Las Vegas Motor Speedway–we found the Z comfortable and tractable. Like a Miata, it could be willed through the wiggly parts. And it didn’t feel big, like a GT-R.

While the car’s 400 horsepower made short work of the straights, the Z didn’t feel nervous or uncomposed. The chassis remained stable all the way through the turns, from braking to turn-in to track-out.

It felt lighter on its feet than previous iterations of the Z. Call it closer to a beefed-up BRZ than any recent Mustang or Camaro.

The rev matching works, too.

The Z has plenty of brakes. Our test cars were fitted with pads suited for track use, and while we smelled some brakes, the pedal didn’t get soft and the pads never seemed to fade. We need to take one to The FIRM for a proper track analysis, but the initial laps were promising.

We spent some time with the automatic-equipped car as well, taking it a short track session as well as some acceleration runs. According to the speedometer–yes, not quite official–the automatic delivered quicker acceleration. Plus, the launch control really worked as promised, with the car squatting and running away with just a hint of wheelspin.

On track, the automatic seemed just a touch laggy, even with the paddle shifters. It’s just not quite a twin-clutch.

We spent time with the manual-equipped Z on the streets, and that box works there as well. The clutch isn’t too heavy, and Nissan gave us a good, precise shifter.

The car itself felt very comfortable on the street, and we’re going to credit much of that to outward visibility. Unlike with recent Z-cars, over-the-shoulder visibility is much improved. Those quarter windows aren’t huge, but there’s no longer as big a fear that a semi is hiding in your blind spot.

The result: The new Z just feels familiar and capable. We’re looking forward to spending more time with it.

The 2023 Nissan Z is expected to arrive at dealerships "in Summer 2022," with a starting MSRP of $39,990.

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yupididit GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/16/22 12:46 a.m.

How did it sound? 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/16/22 3:53 a.m.

In reply to yupididit :

Not the loudest but you could hear something going on. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/16/22 3:53 a.m.
Erikl New Reader
5/16/22 7:10 a.m.

Cant wait to read about a full FIRM test.  FWIW the chart above shows 2 piston front brakes, pic seems to show 4 piston fronts?  

Will be nice if it does not brake upgrade for 20 min track day sessions.  

I am nervous that they have not released curb weight....I get its hard to make a modern car light and affordable..


calteg SuperDork
5/16/22 8:26 a.m.

I believe it's 200lbs heavier than the 370z, which itself wasn't a featherweight. Such is the state of the modern sports car

gearheadE30 Dork
5/16/22 8:27 a.m.

That rear 3/4 view - big fan of what they did with that, and happy to hear it feels more like an embiggened BRZ than a smaller Camaro.

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/16/22 8:31 a.m.

Nissan had a yellow one on display at Carlisle last weekend, along with a room full of Z cars from various years by attendees.  Definitely looks good - better than the 350 or 370. 

Yeah... that 4211 lbs GVWR doesn't bode well for the dry curb weight. My WAG is somewhere in the 3500 range, give or take. 

I like it... do I like it enough to drop over $50K on one?  Eh... probably not.

racerfink UltraDork
5/16/22 9:24 a.m.

Watched a Hagerty video of it getting walked by a Mach 1 and the BMW Supra in the quarter.  More boulevard cruiser (yet again) than it's competitors.

ProDarwin MegaDork
5/16/22 9:40 a.m.
Erikl said:

Cant wait to read about a full FIRM test.  FWIW the chart above shows 2 piston front brakes, pic seems to show 4 piston fronts?  


The "sport" base has the 2 piston fronts.  The higher spec have the 4 piston fronts, like the pic. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
5/16/22 11:06 a.m.

Sounds like a real winner. Nissan seems to have listened to enthusiasts and offered a car that people want! And I love how it looks, inside and out. Looking forward to seeing these out on the streets!

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