Opinion: The 2023 Nissan Z May Be Old, But That's Fine

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

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]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • F-85 F-85 on Aug 19, 2021

    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...

  • Dedrean Dedrean on Aug 20, 2021

    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.

  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.
  • Ajla A Saab that isn't a convertible. 😏
  • MaintenanceCosts It's not really much of a thought in the buying process. I would think twice about a vehicle assembled in China but other than that I really don't care. Looking at my own history, I've bought six new cars in my lifetime (I don't think choice of used cars says anything at all). I think the most patriotic of them were mostly Japanese brands. (1) Acura, assembled in Japan (2) Honda, assembled in U.S. (3) Pontiac, assembled in Australia (4) Subaru, assembled in U.S. (5) Ford, assembled in U.S. (6) Chevrolet, assembled in Korea
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