Generation Z: Nissan's sports icon reborn as a mid-priced driver's car

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

This time, it’s known simply as Z.

The seventh-generation Nissan Z, Japan’s sports car icon, is updated for the first time in more than a decade. As the simplified nomenclature suggests — the Z stripped of its numerical prefix for the first time — the sports car is returning to its spare, athletic roots.

2023 Nissan Z

With sleek looks, twin-turbo V-6 engine, optional stick shift, and rear-wheel-drive, the 2023 Z promises a mid-priced driver’s car for the Nissan lineup to go with the $100,000-plus GT-R supercar. The new car joins a refreshed lineup of Nissans — including the value-rich Rogue and Pathfinder SUVs — which have won raves for their own remakes in style and handling.

“Z is the pure expression of thrill. It is Nissan’s passion wrapped up on four wheels,” said CEO Ashwani Gupta ahead of the car’s debut on Nissan’s YouTube channel Tuesday. The Z was also unveiled live in New York City despite the cancellation of this week's New York Auto Show. “The new Z retains its authenticity as a pure sports car to keep you connected to the road while bringing in the latest modern technologies to make sure the car can help keep you connected to your life.”

The Z draws on an enthusiast fan base that has endured for more than 50 years — and has been desperate for a new toy to play with this decade. The Z will go on sale next spring and do battle against other sexy coupes like the Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 Roadster — but for thousands of dollars less.

Nissan says that the pricing will start around $40,000 — more than 10 grand less than a comparable, 6-cylinder Supra.

You’ll know Z by the retro, minimalist design — very much in keeping with the Z Proto prototype that Nissan showed off earlier this year: long hood, racy roofline, big headlights. It reclasses the classic 1976 280Z.

The 2023 Nissan Z evokes previous models of the Japanese automaker's iconic sports car.

"We found ourselves gravitating towards the sketches that touched the high points of certain decades while remaining true to our vision of the future," said global design chief Alfonso Albaisa, “Ultimately, we created a Z that travels between the decades while being completely modern."

The new Z is offered in six two-tone exteriors, including the searing, signature Ikazuchi Yellow. Other colors include Brilliant Silver, Boulder Gray, Seiran Blue, Passion Red TriCoat, and Everest White Pearl TriCoat. Monotone colors are also available: Black Diamond Metallic, Gun Metallic and Rosewood Metallic.

Where the Z’s Toyota/BMW rivals (they were co-developed in a joint program and option both 4-and-6 cylinder engines) sport an inline-6, the 2023 Z’s 400-horse mill is of the V-6 variety — its horsepower a significant bump in power over the sixth-gen 370Z’s rating of 332.

The Z achieves this power output with the addition of twin turbos while reducing displacement by more than half a liter. The standard, six-speed manual transmission remains, however — a siren call for enthusiasts who want a closer bond with the drivetrain.

In keeping with the rest of the new Z, the manual benefits from modern electronics, including a launch control system (the 9-speed auto option also has launch control in addition to steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters).

A stiffer body structure, double-wishbone front suspension, and new shock absorber design promise better handling over the aged, outgoing model. A Performance trim offers bigger brakes and a limited-slip differential for those who want to push the limits on track days. Sticky performance tires wrap around 18 or 19-inch wheels.

The interior shares the exterior's lean approach but is stuffed with modern tech that had been sorely missing from the gray-beard last-gen model.

An 8.0-inch touchscreen sits under three analog pod gauges. A standard, configurable, 12.3-inch digital screen behind the steering wheel is full of driver information. Normal, Enhanced and Sport drive modes change the display when selected. Interior material options include cloth, suede and leather seats.

The new Z offers three seat material choices and loads of standard tech, including adaptive cruise control and smartphone-app compatibility.

Like its SUV and sedan siblings, the base Z Sport model comes encrusted with standard tech including push-button start, adaptive cruise control, rear-view monitor, USB and USB-C ports, smartphone-app compatibility and more.

More goo-gaws are offered when customers upgrade to the Z Performance model. A Z Proto Spec launch edition is also offered — though limited to 240 units in the U.S. It gets yellow-colored brake calipers with Z logo, yellow interior accents, bronze 19-inch wheels, and an exclusive manual shift lever knob.

“Whether on an unexplored winding road or your daily commute, the Z brings a smile and awakens the senses,” said Gupta.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.