400-HP 2023 Nissan Z Puts the Toyota Supra on Notice
When we first tested the 2003 Nissan 350Z, we heralded its unrivaled combination of price and performance. Bringing 287 horsepower for less than $27,000, the reborn Z was an instant hit, re-establishing Nissan as a maker of serious sports cars. Now, almost 20 years later, we’re feeling that same excitement for the next Z car, the 2023 Z. Factoring for inflation, its base price—about $40,000—is that same as that of the 2003 350Z. So is the basic layout, with two seats, rear-wheel drive, and a six-speed manual transmission. But now you get 400 horsepower, from a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6. That’s the kind of inflation we can get behind.
Built on a much-modified version of the current FM platform and riding on the same 100.4-inch wheelbase as the outgoing 370Z, the new Z—yeah, it’s just “Z” now—uses the VR30DDTT V-6 from the Infiniti Red Sport 400 models. Making 400 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 350 pound-feet of torque from 1600 to 5200 rpm, the sweet 3.0-liter features direct injection and variable valve timing, running up to 14.7 psi of boost. Manual models get a carbon-fiber driveshaft, an EXEDY performance clutch, and automated rev matching on downshifts, while Zs with the nine-speed automatic have aluminum paddle shifters and available launch control.
When we tested the Z’s four-seat Infiniti cousin, the Q60 Red Sport 400, it ran from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and that car had a seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. The Z, a full foot shorter than the Q60 and presumably hundreds of pounds lighter, should hound the Toyota Supra 3.0 (zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds) in even its base Sport trim.
Keeping the decisions simple, there are really no stand-alone options among the three trims. The Z Sport is your entry-level model, but it’s not a stripped-out husk built strictly to tout that $40,000 price point. The Z Sport gets the same powertrain as the other Zs, along with a customizable 12.3-inch TFT instrument display, cloth seats with synthetic suede inserts, and a full cadre of safety nannies and driver-assistance gear that any self-respecting Z driver won’t actually need.
Z Performance models add some interior upgrades, like heated leather seats and an eight-speaker Bose stereo system, two more than the Sport’s audio setup, but most of the package contains actual performance gear: stiffer suspension, a limited-slip differential, and beefier brakes. Up front, four-piston calipers grip 14.0-inch rotors, while the 13.8-inch rear rotors are squeezed by two-piston sliding calipers.
The Performance replaces the Sport’s 18-inch wheels with lightweight 19-inch forged Rays wheels wearing staggered Bridgestone Potenza S007 tires, 255s up front and 275s on the rear. Besides the unique wheels and red-painted brake calipers, the Performance trim is visually distinguished by front and rear spoilers and dual exhaust (and perhaps aurally distinguished by its more boisterous muffler, though we’ve yet to hear it). The automatic’s launch control function is also restricted to Performance models.
Above Performance, and essentially serving as a launch edition, the Proto Spec is a Z Performance wearing the color scheme of the Z Proto concept car—yellow paint, black roof, bronze-colored wheels, and yellow brake calipers. The Wiz Khalifa–approved color scheme continues inside, with black seats and yellow stitching and accents. Manual cars also get a special shift knob. In a nod to the first Z car of them all, Nissan will only build 240 Proto Specs.