Performance of the 2023 Nissan Z is insufficient

To keep up with the pack leaders, the best Z in recent memory needs better tires and more clever dampers.

Can we give plate tectonics a round of applause? The numerous fantastic driving roads that are woven throughout the valleys and along the mountain ridges that surround the vast Los Angeles basin are ultimately the result of this unstoppable geologic process. It's the ideal location to test a brand-new sports car, like the 2023 Nissan Z, and it's convenient that our West Coast testing facilities are located on the opposite side of the range. The ideal commute for members of the West Coast test crew is a trip to the track.

The Z's well-executed heritage styling and raging 400-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 engine borrowed from the Infiniti Q50/60 Red Sport caught our full attention during our brief initial encounter with it at the launch event. However, the driving routes were more scenic than difficult, and the track exercise was far too condensed and regimented. This is why we are in this turnout high above Los Angeles, stretching our legs and taking notes after a challenging session while smelling the warm brakes.

While we are standing there, a 370Z driven by a couple pulls into the overlook. When they see the Z, they wheel to a nearby location. The man's enthusiasm is all but uncontrollable. "Oh, man. Is that a brand-new 400Z?" Yes, we respond, not bothering to mention that the engine is a turbocharged 3.0 liter V-6 rather than a 4.0 liter naturally aspirated one and that a third iteration of the 300ZX wasn't in the cards. "What's up? It must be superior to my car, right? "He suggests as he gives the Z an admiring glance. We reply, "Yeah." "The engine in particular is much nicer than the 370Z."

That much is undoubtedly accurate. The 370Z cannot compare to the new Z. However, that car's debut was approximately 14 years ago—calendar checked. The new Z should outperform a 370Z. When asked to perform sports car maneuvers on roads of our choosing, the 2023 Nissan Z Performance was put to the test to see if Nissan had gone as far as it could have. Fault lines were already beginning to show up on that note.

The fact that the Z is an evolution of the 370Z rather than a total redesign has a lot to do with this. With the exception of a few extra pieces that were welded on to increase torsional stiffness by a rather meager 11%, the two share a similar wheelbase, overall width, and roof height. The control arm front and multilink rear suspensions haven't changed all that much; the only incremental bolt-on improvements are a redesigned upper control arm for added caster and monotube dampers rather than twin-tube units. When compared to the last 370Z we tested, the new engine and its layered strata of coolers (engine, AC, oil, transmission, and intercooler) add 180 pounds (3507 vs. 3327 pounds), with the front axle's burden increasing by 1%. (56 versus 55).

The Z Performance appears coordinated and willing up to about six tenths. The chassis feels reasonably coordinated as it arcs through bends, and the new electric power steering is linear and predictable enough. Because of reprofiled detents, the shifter action is significantly lighter and more manageable than the 370Z's, and it snaps into place easily when used with a loose grip and an open hand. The brakes feel secure beneath your feet and are simple to modulate. Even though the pedals are ideally situated for heel-toe footwork, the SynchroRev Match feature excels if you are still learning the moves.

However, the Z does not react in kind as a sports car should when the pace and intensity are increased. If the corners are uneven, as they frequently are in a fault zone, the damping begins to feel insufficient when pushed hard and the suspension bounds excessively vertically. The Bridgestone S007 B-Silent summer tires quickly demonstrate they don't produce modern levels of sports-car stick, as evidenced by their 0.93-g reading on our skidpad, as understeer begins to develop as the Z's nose weight shifts to the front. The brakes uphold their end of the bargain in terms of fade resistance and feel, but the tires only allow the Z to stop from 70 mph in 166 feet and from 100 mph in an unimpressive 331 feet. Both performances are better than those of the 370Z mentioned earlier (0.89 g and 180 feet), but they are not at all class-leading.

With the exception of a slight hint of turbo lag that tends to appear after exercising extra caution on the run-in to the kinds of blind corners you rarely encounter on a racetrack, the engine feels strong and willing on the open road and maintains that feeling if you push harder. However, a Pathfinder always sounds more motivating, and when urgency forces you to make deliberate shift inputs, the shifter becomes more rubbery and less satisfying. The bigger shock, however, comes at the track, where its 13.0-second quarter-mile at 111 mph and 4.5-second time for 60 mph are disappointing. Yes, these numbers are better than the old 370Z, but with 68 more horsepower, 80 pound-feet of torque, and no-lift-shift launch control, there should be more improvement than just a 0.4-second time improvement to 60 mph and a half-second time improvement in the quarter.

Those figures weren't generated by accident either. Our Z required more key-up restarts and cooling passes than usual to maintain proper operation. It turns out that this engine's 400 horsepower rating calls for 93 octane, but the regional fuel in the Western United States is 91 octane. The engine-control unit of this vehicle may not have had the final production software because it was a pre-production sample. Nissan lent us a different vehicle to test in Michigan on 93 octane, and its performance increased from 4.1 seconds to 12.6 seconds for the quarter-mile at 115 mph. However, prior 370Z results showed little difference between 91 and 93, indicating that either our California test car actually had some pre-production teething problems, or this new turbocharged engine is more octane sensitive than the outgoing naturally aspirated one. We will follow up with Z production cars once they are available, that much is certain.

The new Z's interior features an attractive cockpit design and physical accommodations that are very similar to those of the 370Z, including the same amounts of head-, leg-, and hip room. Now that the steering wheel telescopes, creating a comfortable driving position is made simpler. With the exception of new padding, the seat is also largely unchanged. Since the power-seat fore/aft switch is located on the transmission-tunnel side, it is as stupid as ever, especially if your significant other is considerably shorter than you. We wish they had done more here, to be honest. After using the new reconfigurable instrument panel for a while, we are even more impressed with how user-friendly both the dual-dial Normal and central-tach Sport layouts are. The touchscreen and physical controls of the infotainment system work well together. However, the carryover climate control dials, which are located below, are obscured by shadow, which makes it harder to read their small, illegible markings. Then there are the large, three-box sedan-inspired switches for the heated seats and trunk, which appear to have come straight from an Altima parts bin.

The only option for the Z Performance, which starts at $51,015, is paint. There are only a few options available beyond the two-tone Passion Red metallic shade on ours, which costs $1695. Due to the paint, illuminated door-sill scratch panels, and $400 for floor mats, our test sample came in at $53,610. We decided to stick with the six-speed manual transmission even though the new nine-speed automatic would have had no financial impact. like one would.

On paper and at first glance, it seems like an appealing idea, but the 2023 Nissan Z isn't the affordable world-beating Z-car it once was. Budget does appear to be the key phrase here, but in this instance it refers to Nissan management, who clearly did not allot enough of one to significantly disrupt the segment. The new Z needs better tires and more sophisticated multimode dampers, and there is too much 370Z in it already. We were hoping for a seismic shift, not this.



  • Base/As Tested: $51,015/$53,610
  • Options: Passion Red premium two-tone paint, $1695; Illuminated kick plates, $500; floor mats, $400


  • twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
  • Displacement: 183 in3, 2997 cm3
  • Power: 400 hp @ 6400 rpm
  • Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm


6-speed manual


  • Suspension, F/R: control arms/multilink
  • Brakes, F/R: 14.0-in vented disc/13.8-in vented disc
  • Tires: Bridgestone S007 B-Silent
  • F: 255/40R-19 96W
  • R: 275/35R-19 96W


  • Wheelbase: 100.4 in
  • Length: 172.4 in
  • Width: 72.6 in
  • Height: 51.8 in
  • Passenger Volume: 52 ft3
  • Trunk Volume: 7 ft3
  • Curb Weight: 3507 lb

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