By on August 18, 2021

 

Since last night’s unveiling of the 2023 Nissan Z, I’ve been chewing over my thoughts on the car. Is it good, or is it another misfire from a brand that’s struggling to recapture glory days?

After exerting far too much brainpower on the question — I’d rather ponder what’s for lunch — I’ve arrived at my answer.

It’s good, at least on paper. With a caveat.

Yes, the platform carries over and that’s a bit disappointing. Yes, the engine is basically the one found in the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport. Yes, the infotainment system, while updated to match other new Nissans, still lags behind the best in the business.

To which I say — if the car is a hoot to drive, who gives a flying fuck?

Yes, I know, I’ve made this same line of argument defending the Toyota Supra for borrowing so heavily from BMW, to the point the interior’s only difference is the badge. But I stand by it. When one is grinning while clipping an apex, does the corporate synergy really matter?

I mean, if the Z accelerates with gusto, are you going to give a shit that the engine is also available in another car, sold by the company’s sibling brand? No, right? We all praised Ram for making a TRX using a Hellcat engine, right?

I’ll admit that unlike our resident Z aficionado Chris, I’ve always been indifferent to the car. But, generally speaking, I do love two-door sports cars that can accelerate and handle well while also being livable in normal driving. And I prefer rowing my own.

Oh, hey, look — that’s what the Z is meant to be (obviously, we can’t evaluate its chops just yet). Not to mention, it offers a manual.

There’s a certain segment of car Twitter that just can’t be satisfied. “Where’s the fun stuff?” they cry. “I’m tired of boring crossovers,” they whine. Then, when Nissan builds a new Z, they scoff. “Sure, I wanted a sports coupe,” they say. “But not like this.”

I’m not saying that criticizing the Z for using an ancient platform isn’t valid. It is. Same with critiques of the choice to dip into the corporate parts bin while doing everything one can to avoid admitting it. But sometimes one must look on the bright side of life. The Z exists, it should drive well, and it looks good.

The only caveat is pricing — if Nissan sets it too high, that might be off-putting. If the MSRP is just right (especially if it undercuts the Supra), however, Nissan can clink champagne glasses while engineers finally start on a truly all-new Z platform that will bow three to five years from now.

I get that cars are subjective, and even if the Z rode on a truly all-new architecture, some would hate the styling. Some will no doubt dislike how it drives, no matter what numbers it puts up. That’s all well and good. I am sure I dislike some vehicles that are popular with the press and enthusiasts, along with liking some things that go against the grain. All I can do when I drive something is be honest and fair about my impressions.

So, it’s fine to dislike the Z’s looks or options or specs. Or eventually, to dislike how it drives. I won’t bag on anyone who comes to their conclusions fairly and honestly. And as noted, I understand the concern about using an aging platform.

But if the car turns out to be good, well, that last concern should fade. It’s not a given that using an older platform will be bad — see Challenger, Dodge — and car enthusiasts (and automotive journalists) need to stop searching for cynical reasons to hate something before they even drive it.

I don’t know if the Z will be good. No one outside Nissan does. But I do know we should keep an open mind.

[Image: Nissan]

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74 Comments on “Opinion: The 2023 Nissan Z May Be Old, But That’s Fine...”


  • avatar

    And it’s a farewell anyway, as everything the new Z is, is essentially a dead end.

    Platform
    Format
    Power
    Manual transmission

    None of this goes beyond the next few years. Look forward to EV-Z Cross though. ;)

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      Pour one out for the last generation ever. Given Nissan’s failure to catch up in the EV market, I don’t hold out hope for an electric Z!

      There’s one wish I had with this – I don’t mind the shared engine because 400hp is more than enough, but the old platform still bothers me. It’s old and heavy and inefficient for a sports car. Maybe they masked it well. Only a good drive will tell.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yeah, but the same can be said of any new comparable model. Let’s just enjoy this for what it is – a fun new(ish) model that isn’t a f**king CUV.

      Besides, I think that reports of the death of the internal combustion are greatly exaggerated. And if they want to make a two-seater EV Z, bring it on.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “And if they want to make a two-seater EV Z, bring it on.”

        Nissan’s half-baked battery engineering doesn’t inspire much confidence there.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Good point, but the Leaf actually has fairly respectable range now if you option it right. Let’s see how they do with the upcoming Ariya.

          • 0 avatar

            The upcoming EU legislation on emissions is going to do major internal combustion damage, because you won’t be able to get your C02 emissions low enough unless it’s a 1.0L.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Too bad for the Euro brands that they are at least 1.5 generations behind on EV development then. VAG is the only one that isn’t in terrible shape but even they are far from rosy.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Corey, I am changing your title to resident pessimist.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I have to wait until the press fleet gets their hands on a production model to test, and also see pricing and packages, but I am optimistic on this one. This, combined with the improved Pathfinder and Frontier, shows that maybe…just maybe, the lights are back on at Nissan.
    Styling-wise, I think they nailed it. I loved the look of the last 1990’s era 300ZX, and I’m glad to see some cues from that on the new. The interior looks to be of decent quality, which isn’t always the case in a Nissan, and I have to believe that Nissan knows that a lot is riding on this given the Z’s history, so maybe they’ll sweat the small stuff.
    I know there are those out there who will say it won’t sell in this CUV-frenzy market, or that the brand is too badly damaged for it to matter, or some other negative. I say wait. Wait for pricing. Wait for reviews. Be one of the first when they hit the dealer’s lots and take one out. Between this, the new Integra, and the next C-TR, there are some choices for the next car.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      ‘Your comment is awaiting moderation.’

      I posted a fragment from the original article. I guess TTAC approves
      of four-letter words, but only from the author of the article.

      Tim, seriously, dude, f*** and sh** are not the best words to use to make your point. There are more creative and colorful ways to express what you are trying to say, and using them would make you a better writer.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The engine is fine but doing battle with the BMW I6 or the Coyote or the LT1 is a gauntlet compared to a Q50 RS going against other turbo V6 offerings.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      This will actually have more horsepower than the BMW six in the Supra. Now, whether it delivers the power as well as the BMW mill does is another question. Then again, the Toyota’s quite a bit more money (and quite a bit uglier, if you ask me).

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “This will actually have more horsepower than the BMW six in the Supra”

        Nominally. Compared to the Q60 the M440i is 1 second faster through the quarter mile and .6 faster to 60. The 9A should help but I doubt it will close the gap completely.

        However, I do expect the Z will be a few thousand less and if you really priortize straight line speed a Challenger 1320 or Camaro SS would make you happier.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I wonder if they will introduce a base model sans turbos with 300 hp to compete with the entry level 2.0T Supra. If it’s around $35k it could attract more buyers.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Ignore the haters, folks…it’s a new sports car, it’s going to be good to drive, and it’s not some lifted-coupe crossover aberration. And if the low-$40s starting price holds up, this is going to be a pretty solid performance-car bargain.

    I see nothing bad at all about any of this.

  • avatar
    James2

    The Supra is Toyota at its cynical best. They care *so much* they couldn’t be bothered with even turning to old friend Yamaha for a proper engine, or test the aero for buffeting or even bother to try to fit some oversized people in the thing. Let someone else do the heavy lifting, as is the case with the GT/GR86. (Oh, and we can’t let Subaru build a turbo BRZ ’cause it would eat the 4-cyl Supra.) Next, they will throw some money at Mazda… because it’s easier to write a check.

    The platform under the Z may be old –frankly, Nissan couldn’t afford to do new– but at least it’s a Nissan platform, a Nissan engine and Nissan styling. Unlike Toyota, however, it looks like Nissan tried.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “turning to old friend Yamaha for a proper engine”

      I still don’t get what people have against the BMW engine. That inline-6 is basically the most worthwhile thing about BMW these days.

      If they had dumped a Coyote or LT1 into the Supra instead would people have had the same complaints?

      • 0 avatar

        I get it. Toyota said “WE ARE MAKE NEW SUPRA OMG U GUYS LEGEND”

        Then they let BMW build it, with a BMW engine and interior. It’s a Supra in name only. If it had a Toyota I6 there wouldn’t have been complaints.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “It’s a Supra in name only.”

          I agree it is annoying marketing wank but it isn’t anything substantive either.

          The BMW engine is also a very good sporty car engine so I don’t get what people have against it. A Supra isn’t a Corolla or an ES350 where people are looking to put 210k miles on it over 13 years. And if you *are* in that narrow niche then the RC350 is available for about the same price.

          My biggest issue on the BMW heritage is that I don’t think a Toyota dealer will do a good job servicing them.

          • 0 avatar

            I think it is substantive when the engine is from another brand. People view(ed) the Supra as Toyota’s sacred sports car icon since the 80s, very Japanese in nature.

            This one’s German and it doesn’t sit well. Whether it’s a good sports car or no, it’s not a Japanese car.

            And you’re right on the dealers. They’re used to 3.5 this and Prius engine that, the I6 will be an odd duck. Sort of like a Chrysler dealer servicing a Premier in the 90s.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “People view(ed) the Supra as Toyota’s sacred sports car icon since the 80s, very Japanese in nature.”

            That’s just people being weird.

            If I’m honest I don’t have a soft heart for any of the Japanese-built Supras. However, I do like what BMW created with this version a lot. If I didn’t have backseat needs it would probably be my next car.

            Maybe if I was very misty-eyed over the older Supras or wanted to drive 200k miles with it I’d feel differently, but it not being a Japanese car matters 0% to me.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Since dollar is about to become as good as toilet paper , I might just exchange few rolls for this in the base variant.

    Actually, if this has an automatic braking, how does it work when you’re right behind someone on the track?

  • avatar
    dwford

    The only thing wrong with this car is that it’s a 2023. This car could’ve and should’ve come years ago. I am surprised that there’s no base V6 or even a 2.0T. A 2.0T under $30k would make you thing twice about the 86/BRZ.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      This. Given the changes they made and the engine they used this car should have gone on sale 2-3 years ago. Could the engineers not work from home on the CAD aspects? We know COVID messed up supply chains and production but this car still seems late to the party.

  • avatar
    John R

    In a world where even single people with zero children and zero ambitions for hiking, cycling, or DJ’ing are buying Cherokees and RAV4’s I am pleased as punch Nissan was able to do this much.

    I really like the styling, especially from the rear as the 300ZX was the one that really laid its hooks into my heart when I was a teenager. And I really like this being a shot off the bow of the Supra and can’t wait for the comparisons.

  • avatar
    Zotz

    For a sizable customer base, particular factors matter: brand heritage, source of inspiration, owner of intellectual property, and country of origin.

    The Z is fully Nissan in those important ways. The Ram TRX has an engine from its extended family. The GR 86 is at least engineered by a Japanese partner. The Supra is… essentially another company’s car from another continent, no matter how much the owner likes it and defends it.

    Valuing how one’s car was conceived and built is an important measure of pride and enthusiasm. If none of that matters, an automobile is simply an appliance or a throwaway toy.

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      I strongly disagree. A good car is a good car, regardless of origin or pedigree. There’s absolutely no reason why one cannot have pride or enthusiasm in one’s car just because it doesn’t have some sort of history behind it.
      Denigrating an otherwise good car just because it fails to meet some arbitrary standard of heritage is just automotive snobbery.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        There was a reason 30 years ago that Ford abandoned plans to replace the Fox Mustang with a FWD Mazda based car – the heritage of the Mustang and the passionate enthusiast base. Toyota threw that away with the BMW Supra.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          So if the Supra was a rebodied GT350 or ZL1 that sold for $10K less than its cousin you think the backlash would have been the same?

          I honestly don’t think the Supra dislike has that much to do with “heritage”. A lot of people just don’t like modern-day BMW.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          @dwford:
          Tell that to Supra buyers. In the last year of the uber-desirable A80 model, Toyota moved…ahem…24 of them, and its’ sales “peak” was 3405 units, in 1994.

          Meanwhile, Toyota moved 5,887 of them in 2020.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “I strongly disagree. A good car is a good car, regardless of origin or pedigree.”

        OK, imagine this press release: “GM AND STELLANTIS ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP; NEW DODGE VIPER COMING, TO BE CORVETTE-POWERED”.

        Or the other way around: “CORVETTE ZR-1 TO BE POWERED BY HELLCAT ENGINE”.

        So, is a good car a good car, regardless of origin or pedigree?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      And that’s why no one likes the original Taurus SHO or the C4 Corvette ZR1.

      • 0 avatar
        Zotz

        “And that’s why no one likes the original Taurus SHO or the C4 Corvette ZR1.”

        No – not a valid comparison.

        Any car enthusiast alive and driving at the time those two programs were in development should be familiar with them. Ford contracted with Yamaha to build a killer engine loosely starting with the basic dimensions of the Vulcan. Chevy had Lotus – then owned by GM, so ‘in-family’ from a corporate perspective – develop a killer engine to be built my Mercury and fit into the bay of the C4. Nevertheless, the cars were still fundamentally Ford and Chevy, respectively.

        Lets not kid ourselves. The Supra and 86 are ‘good cars’ which may delight their owners, but do so with the core engineering of BMW and Subaru, respectively. Neither is a true Toyota by any valid measure.

        This is a debate between generations of car enthusiasts who have different sets of product values.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “Ford contracted with Yamaha”
          “Chevy had Lotus”

          So “country of origin” is important except for when it isn’t?

          • 0 avatar
            Zotz

            “So “country of origin” is important except for when it isn’t?”

            The architecture and platforms of the first-gen Taurus and C4 Corvette were fundamentally conceived in the US. Many cars source components and even drivetrains from other manufacturers or partners, but not to the point where basic identity is in question. The current Supra and 86 are examples of all the primary architecture coming from elsewhere.

            I’ll even admit to once buying a ‘pretender’: a 1989 Ford Probe GT. I knew it was essentially a Mazda MX-6 underneath, but it was a bit more affordable, and I liked its styling and hatchback utility. That was 32 years ago.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “any cars source components and even drivetrains from other manufacturers or partners, but not to the point where basic identity is in question.”

            You operate under a Potter Stewart-style test where a juggling set of variables make something “Toyota enough” or “Ford enough” or “Chevy enough” to get a passing mark in you mind.

            It’s your money and your garage so buy whatever works for you, but where I take issue is when you (and others) try to apply some sort of nobility or superiority to your conclusion.

            The idea that someone buying Supra is making an “appliance” or “throwaway” choice while someone buying a M440i or RC350 is an astute custodian of automotive enthusiasm seems ridiculous.

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            I can’t imagine expending the effort trying to keep track of what is “legitimate” or not.

            Aston Martons use AMG engines, is that legit?

            The Ford GT is not assembled by Ford, is it still legit?

            Range Rovers used BMW engines while being owned by Ford and assembled in the UK, is any part of that legitimate?

            I don’t care for the Supra because I’d prefer the combination of Toyota reliability and BMW styling vs. the opposite that we got instead. But if someone wants to buy it, I don’t think less of them for it.

          • 0 avatar
            Zotz

            Indeed! I know it when I see it.

            I’ve made my point well enough about the essential identity of an automotive platform, particularly one with highly touted branding and purported legend. We aren’t required to agree, and I’m OK with that.

            Carry on.

    • 0 avatar
      Pug

      I feel the same about this stuff. As a bit of a JDM fanboy (who isn’t American or Japanese), I don’t know what to think of the 2nd generation NSX. The production version was styled by an American, and the car was engineered and manufactured in Ohio. That’s all kinds of wrong to me – not that I don’t have a soft spot for it.

      Americans at the time were all like “Wah”, “Get over it”, “What does it matter?” but those people would shit a brick if GM Korea got to style, engineer, and manufacture the Corvette.

  • avatar
    monkeydelmagico

    I like it. Just enough retro to pay tribute. The only gripe is that they went and put electronic steering in it. After putting hydraulic steering in the latest Frontier I had hope for the Z.

  • avatar

    Does not matter. Dr.Z will be dead by 2025.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    If only this had vestigial 2+2 seats I’d be strongly tempted by the combination of manual and big V6. Unfortunately, Nissan will make you choose between the manual and bringing your kids along (by buying a Q60 instead).

  • avatar
    tane94

    I love nostalgia but the market for coupes has been shrinking for years. The Z purists will delight in this new model but I doubt this sells 50k units per year. After the first year, sales will drop off. That turbo gauge in the tri-stack on top of the dash is just stupid, they should have found something else worth a driver’s attention.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    “And as noted, I understand the concern about using an aging platform.”

    What, in plain English, is that concern? No one can ever give me an answer to this. The question is not addressed to Tim, but to whomever he is referencing that has the “concern”.

    I’m reasonably convinced that auto enthusiast discourse would be more intelligent if the word “platform” was banished.

    Be happy that a powerful sport coupe is being released at a reasonable price. God knows we need more of them.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      The problem with this platform is the weight. Of course the same could be said for pretty much every vehicle out there these days. I’m sure the extra power will offset some of the fat it lugs around.

      As someone who tracked a Z it had this odd combination of feeling slow and heavy on track yet quick and nimble on the street. My C7 is the opposite, on the street it feels big and heavy but on the track its responsive, light on its toes and lightning fast of course.

      I’m glad Nissan is still offering the Z, it just seems like a half hearted effort here.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        That’s a valid criticism I think, but the platform’s age is not the cause of the high weight. People were complaining about the 350Z being heavy from the beginning.

        If you want to say an all-new platform might have been lighter, I’d simply argue that pretty much every new car generation gains weight over its predecessor.

  • avatar
    rpm773

    Best-looking iteration of it yet. Nice to see they dumped those silly fishhook taillights.

  • avatar
    Zotz

    Indeed! I know it when I see it.

    I’ve made my point well enough about the essential identity of an automotive platform, particularly one with highly touted branding and purported legend. We aren’t required to agree, and I’m OK with that.

    Carry on.

  • avatar
    ollicat

    Sorry to be a prude, but I would really prefer journalism without the F and S words.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Best looking car I’ve seen in a long time that doesn’t cost a ton of money. Any car that doesn’t do the angry bug thing on the front end gets credit just for that.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    What is not to like?
    400 HP : check
    Hand shaker: check
    reasonably priced (we think): check

    Will this sell in droves? no. Will it drive some new $$ to the Nissan store with a credit score greater than a 590? Yup.

    Nissan has been in a bad way for quite awhile and the could use a win to non-credit challenged buyers to their showroom, if priced correctly and is reasonable to drive the new Z should help.

    Like others have said, enough with the potato CUV’s already. At least the Z is interesting to look at.

  • avatar
    JMII

    While everyone rips this platform one thing you’ll notice is how much love the Z gets with the weekend racer crowd. Its a super popular drift and track car. The main reason is they tend to get riced out by 2nd owner and thus become cheap, easy to modify cars with strong aftermarket support. If I would have had the garage space I might have kept mine just for track days.

    Now if they give it decent brakes that can actually tame its weight (looks like the same Akebono setup mine had, which was NOT enough) and put in a more sophisticate traction control system this new Z could be amazing since the engine makes real power now and offers tons of tuning potential.

    It looks good, has the desired RWD + manual and maintains a small enough footprint to handle well. Given what will surely be slow sales Nissan put in a level of effort expected for this niche market. I’m glad they are still trying but it feels like a swan song and a final coat of lipstick.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    The platform shouldn’t matter if it gets results. I’m surprised such an old platform can pass current crash tests.

    Maybe Nissan made mild updated to make it acceptable. Maybe they did nothing because no one drives their kids around in a Z anyway.

  • avatar
    renewingmind

    If they price this right, I can afford it. And the combination of classic looks, 400hp, and a manual transmission has me seriously considering purchasing a brand new car for only the second time in my lifetime. Y’all can whine all you want, I’m seriously pumped about the opportunity to buy a RWD sports car with a manual transmission that isn’t a Camaro, Mustang or Challenger…

  • avatar
    F-85

    Great post, Tim. Spot on.

    Sometimes the B & B collective tends toward the comically hyper-critical.

    We’d drive nothing if it first had to pass muster in the comments…

  • avatar
    Dedrean

    I really think Nissan should be given some credit here. They surely could have saved the coins and diverted them towards the EV push. Yes they had to make do with the old platform… but I have to echo the sentiment… who cares! I really feel like tech and how fast it moves has really spoiled the world of car enthusiasts. People expect all new everything every 3-4 years. These cars are not smartphones. Old does not mean bad. It’s obvious that the original FM platform was ahead of its time that its still serving up very competent sports cars almost 20 years later.

    Ideally, yes it would be awesome if Nissan developed a new platform but we know that’s no feasible, financially and market wise. All I care about is the overall experience. If when I get behind the wheel the car handles well and puts a smile on my face and it’s safe… I could care less about what’s under the sheet metal. What sense does it make to complain about something you can’t see when the overall goal is achieved, a fun sports car. The same can be applied to the Supra, but where Nissan ultimately wins is the manual.

    I also think the ones complaining about the old platform would be also complaining about the price of entry had Nissan went all out on a new platform. There is always something to whine about.

    With all that said… I am also seriously and surprisingly considering snatching up one of these things myself. I really think it’ll be the last of its kind and at an affordable price. I would love to get one and hang on to it as the world transitions to EVs. I honestly think this new Z will sell more than we think… not crazy, but looking at these comments and on other sites, there’s quite a few people like myself that wasn’t considering it but my show up on lots if the price is right.

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