It’s not every day you get to sit in a sports car prototype of next year’s model, so when the phone rang, my calendar cleared up in a hurry. And not just any “next year’s model” either, but the seventh iteration of a Japanese legend that revolutionized the American sports car market: the Z car.
A Brief History of the Z Car
Introduced in America in October of 1969, the 1970 Datsun 240Z was an immediate success, combining solid performance with a dash of European design. U.S. sales numbers show approximately 45,000 sold in the first two years alone.
Known as the “Fairlady” in Japan, the long-nosed two-seater featured a 2.0L SOHC straight-six engine producing 130 hp, while its American counterpart was rated a bit higher at 151 hp.
As you probably remember, the 240Z became the 260Z, then the 280Z, followed by the 300ZX, and so on. Like other sports car lineages, features were added, engine size grew—and for some, its original nimble DNA was getting diluted over time.
But over half a century later, it’s apparent that Nissan is back on target to deliver the original Datsun Z formula in a modern guise. Meet the 2023 Nissan Z.
Key Specs & Features of the 2023 Nissan Z
At the heart of any sports car is its drive-train, and here we find a twin-turbocharged V6 that Nissan has been perfecting for decades. Four hundred horsepower is routed through a 6-speed manual gearbox before being sent aft to a mechanical limited-slip differential.
With 19” forged alloy wheels at all four corners, traction and handling are precise for this modern-day warrior. And no, that wasn’t a typo; it is available with a “manual” transmission for those few left on Earth who know how to work a 3-pedal cluster. Alternatively, a 9-speed automatic is also available.
Sitting behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel, you’re immediately reminded of the original 240Z and its three bumps on the dash to accommodate center-mounted gauges, similar to what we have all come to drool over in vintage Ferraris and Jags.
In addition to voltage and turbo boost, I’m surprised to see a “turbo speed” gauge showing how fast your turbos are spinning. Going from 50,000 RPM to 250,000 RPM, I can only imagine a few of these Z cars will end up in a ditch as their drivers are mesmerized by these numbers!
Of course, there are the modern creature comforts we have all grown addicted to, like a 9” touch-screen and sound by Bose. For me, though, the highlight had to be the feel of the seats, which let you know you’re in a sports car and not the back seat of the Bentley.
They feel superb and beg you to try them on a windy mountain road. I even looked around their edges as if I was going to see a Recaro tag sticking out somewhere; they feel that good.
Final Thoughts (for Now) on the 2023 Nissan Z
Without a doubt, Nissan has distilled the “sport” in this new 2023 Z, leaving no room for debate that the forthcoming Z might be “all show and little go.” A modern-day Samurai that incorporates touches of a storied past, it’s a formula that will yield success for both Nissan and its lucky owners. The previous 370Z model sold out long ago—but I predict this new Z will be just as popular, if not more.