Unless you’ve been living in a yurt in Outer Mongolia, or maybe Okeechobee, you’ll know that Nissan did the unthinkable a year ago.
It re-introduced its iconic two-seater coupe, the fabled Z-car, and in the process, made a whole bunch of sportscar lovers happier than a 12-year-old with a front-row ticket to a Taylor Swift concert.
They hit all the right buttons. Pricing from $41,000 for a base model – though good luck in finding one – and lots of cool, retro design cues from the original 240Z circa. 1969.
And the best part; a new, muscley 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 packing 400 horseys under the hood, coupled to a six-speed stick shift or nine-speed automatic.
Call it Zee-licious.
I finally managed to get my hands on one – a $51,015 2023 Z Performance – for a fun-filled week, and came away feeling I’d gone back to the future.
Just look at the thing. This bundle of driving joy pays homage to the original 240Z with that squared-off grille, original Z logo in the roof pillar, the mile-long hood, swoopy roofline and sliced-off rear end. Those new LED taillights are pure 300ZX.
Another carryover, though this one is intended more to save a few Yen than be retro, is the chassis. It’s essentially the same one used in the last-generation model, the 370Z, that sold from 2009 to 2020.
Not the best solution, but certainly a cost-effective one. And with lots of stiffening, bracing and general upgrading, it’s still well up to the job of giving the Z on-rails cornering and agile and balanced handling.
The big news, however, is that engine under the hood. It’s the same twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 found in Infiniti’s Red Sport 400 family, and it’s a sweetheart.
Eager to rev, with lots of mid-range grunt for swift passing or catapulting out of on-ramps, it can also thrust the Z from standstill to 60 in a speedy 4.4 seconds.
One complaint; whereas the V6 in the two Infinitis sounds sonorous and Pavarotti-rich, it’s a non-event in the Z, having as much aural character as the V6 in a Nissan Maxima. Rev it to the red line, and it sounds wheezy and strained.
No love-letters, from me, either for the Z’s six-speed manual transmission. The action is crisp and rifle-bolt precise, and on a snaking North Georgia mountain road, it would no doubt be a blast.
But seven times out of 10, going from fourth to fifth would balk, and the clutch has a laguid, overly-long action. Driving in stop-start, rush-hour traffic on I-275 is about as much fun as a visit to the proctologist.
Me, I’d pick the nine-speed automatic, even though it might sound a sacrilege to dyed-in-the-wool sports car fans. It’s a no-cost option, it has paddles for manual shifting, and it also gives a faster 0-to-60 time.
Away from the traffic, the Z’s electric-assist steering feels laser precise, the grip from its 19-inch rubber at each corner is terrific, while its four-wheel, ventilated disc brakes feel like they can stop time.
And the Z’s cabin is a great place to feel at one with the car. Those body-hugging bucket seats have plenty of adjustment to get just the right driving position, and that thick-rimmed wheel feels great to grip.
Nice to see a few old Z reminders too, like the three hooded dials on the top of the dash. But the red seat inserts – blue is also an option – are a must to break up the sea of depressing black plastic and vinyl.
While the Z’s base price is a hard-to-beat $41,015, consider spending another $10,000 and you get the Performance Package option that adds bigger brakes, a limited-slip differential,19-inch forged alloys, and leather seats. It’s worth it.
While this latest Z is not the class leader here – Toyota’s latest Supra, BMW’s mighty M2 and even Ford’s newest Mustang GT feel fresher, faster and more dynamic – we’re just happy the new Z is back.