In a market full of SUVs and pickups, suddenly sports car fans have a reason to smile. Nissan is finally rolling out the seventh-generation Z car later this year. And after experiencing a long series of numerically escalating name changes, it is ready to call itself simply “Z.”
After its debut in 1969 by the brand then known as Datsun, the curiously dubbed Fairlady—try to make that sound macho—was mercifully renamed the 240Z for the American market. Badge inflation over coming generations created models like the 300ZX, the 350Z and, most recently, the 370Z. The 2023 Nissan Z will be the first in more than half a century to forgo a number that reflects its steady increase in engine displacement and power.
What could have been called the 400Z punches out 400 horsepower from its twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6. Producing 350 pound-feet of torque, the engine will be mated to a nine-speed automatic with paddle-shifters, though classic sports car fans will row their own with the optional short-throw six-speed manual, an increasing rarity.
The new Z hews close to what the Nissan designers call a “historic” shape. It retains the long nose and bulging hood that signify the power waiting for your right foot’s command. And the arcing fastback roofline flows into an integrated tail spoiler. The 2023 Z adopts a larger grille to help feed that hungry twin-turbo V-6. But there’s a more sinuous quality to the overall shape that reflects the role aerodynamics plays in modern car design.
The real changes are apparent behind the wheel. The two-seat cabin is clean yet functional, with a new level of refinement and technical sophistication. A touchscreen anchors the center console, with a digital, 12.3-inch gauge cluster flanked by its conventional analog readouts.
Nissan will offer two versions. The Sport model targets traditionalists with minimal frills. The Performance model adds such comforts as heated leather seats and a larger touchscreen, as well as a fancier Bose audio system. But it also enhances the driving experience with larger, 19-inch wheels shod in summer tires, larger brakes and a dual exhaust package.
Covid and the ongoing semiconductor shortage made the on-sale date uncertain at press time, but the target is summer 2022. With delivery fees, the entry-level pricing is $41,015—about $10,000 less than the performance Toyota Supra, which trails the Nissan base model by 18 horsepower.