2023 Nissan Z

INDIANAPOLIS — Too many automakers have tried to update classic designs with a retro flair to put an amber light on their boring product line.  That’s not the case with the 2023 Nissan Z.  While design references the original 1970 Z, and the chassis dates to the last Z, absolutely nothing about the driving experience or technology within seems outdated.  It’s as if a little bit of Greg Brady blended with George Jetson and this is what we got.

Nissan’s designers had an epic challenge in updating such an icon car, but were clearly up to the challenge.  The design clearly reflects current style, but hearkens back with a wide grille, ovoid headlamps, long power bulge hood, and fastback roofline.  Wide taillamps echo the ‘90s.  Under the exotic wide fenders are 19-inch alloys.  Identifying with today are chin and deck spoilers, impossibly sculpted bodywork, lower sill extensions, and dual exhausts.  The aluminum doors, hood, and hatch look best painted Passion Red Tri-coat.

Greg would recognize the Z’s triple gauges in the center dash, three-spoke steering wheel, high console, and bucket seats.  He’d also put his sports gear beneath the hatch.  But, George would prefer the flatscreen gauges with G-meter, 9-inch infotainment screen with navigation, Bluetooth, and wireless Apple CarPlay.  Bose audio, ice cold automatic climate control, and heated seats would comfort both travelers.  Bright red dash, door, and seat trim add excitement.  Leather seats with sueded inserts grip bodies in corners and provide plenty of cushion for long days behind the thick leather-wrapped wheel.  Safety is new school with standard automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise.

The powertrain takes us back to the 1990s with a turbocharged V6, but the 3.0-liter unit in the Z sports twin turbos to generate a turbine-smooth 400 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque.  You can get a nine-speed automatic, but that’s just silly when the six-speed manual transmission is such a joy to shift.  Click-click and be gone!  Employ launch control and a limited slip differential to zap 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds.  Stay off the throttle for 19/28-MPG city/highway.

Put all of this in perspective.  The Z, with a V6, delivers horsepower and performance on-par with the vaunted Corvette ZR-1 from the ‘90s.  And, it can achieve 28-MPG when cruising comfortably on the highway.  Impressive, but the retuned chassis with mono tube shocks, re-engineered suspension geometry, and precisely tuned electric power steering feels like it was engineered tomorrow with a compliant firmness that makes it both a joy to romp through the corners and soak up long stretches of highway.  Some may find the suspension a bit too soft, but I did not.  Not everybody needs to shake out their fillings en-route to work.

There’s the naïve youthfulness of Greg Brady and the evolved maturity of George Jetson – both bringing the best of their respective eras to the 2023 Z’s persona.  It’s a wholly modern car that just happens to have some affection for its predecessors. 

All that, and prices of just $39,990 - rising to $53,610 as-tested.  If you think that’s more Jetson’s than Brady, consider the 1990 Corvette ZR-1 cost an inflation-adjusted $129,432!  Competitors include the also impressive Toyota Supra, Subaru BR-Z, Mazda MX-5 Miata RT, Ford Mustang, and Chevrolet Camaro.

— Casey Williams - MyCarData