Nissan has re-fried its Zed for another decade, the two-seater sports coupe back with twin-turbo power. But does the go match the show?
We’ve heard a lot so far about Nissan’s Z revival. The excitement began with the launch of the concept in late 2020, a near production-ready teaser to gauge interest. It struck the right note with sports car fans and not quite a year later the wraps came off the road car, along with all the details. Those included twin-turbo V6 power and the retention of the old Z car’s chassis. That’s been a bone of contention for the Internet. But given the development costs associated with an all-new sports car in a world where electric vehicles are hoovering up all the R&D money, it was the only way Nissan was going to get a ‘new’ Z rubber stamped by the board. Even Toyota, with a much healthier balance sheet than Nissan, looked to BMW to co-develop the Supra. So, whether you share parts with other companies or rehash old designs, either way you get ‘slammed’ by the keyboard warriors. Yet it’s the only way to make these models ‘affordable’. And by that we mean under the $100k mark, rather than into the Porsche zone where things now kick off at $140k for a 2.0 718 with a few must-have options.
The rehash has helped Nissan keep the sticker price below that of the Supra, the Z Coupe at $84,990 for both the manual and the auto and therefore undercutting the $96,990 Toyota. Still, that’s more than the old ones were. The first time we drove the 350Z it was $67,990 while the 370Z was in the mid-seventies. And so the new Z follows in those wheeltracks by rising into the $80k bracket. But then isn’t everything more expensive these days? Zed is packing more tech, more convenience features and safety gizmos and, after spending some more quality time with it on home soil, we can say it’s a more rounded sportscar too.
Certainly more refined
When you prod the starter of the new Z, the V6 awakens in a subdued manner, no raucous exhaust blipping, and quickly settles into a deep but reserved burble. Pull the odd-looking but easy-to-use shifter into D, and it doesn’t take long to realise they have refined the Z’s character. What was once gruff and a little unruly is now more cultured. Its main market is America, where people will use it daily, and while sports car buyers like fun, they are now more discerning. The Infiniti-sourced V6 helps here. The blowers add the low-down pull to aid commuting, the nine-speed auto shifting with genuine quality, the V6 burbling away discreetly. And the ample low-end torque can help ease consumption; we recorded 11L/100km for a mix of urban and motorway commuting. The ride too has found decorum. There are no adaptive dampers here, just some quality, fluid shockers that help soothe the low-speed ride. You still feel the road, but not the harshness which isn’t bad for a low riding sportscar.
Is a two-seater ever practical?
Well, not really, but if your lifestyle allows, the Z will accommodate. The low-set seating is not the easiest to plonk yourself down into, while the seat itself isn’t the best we’ve encountered, the squab narrow and short. Additional driver aids like active cruise (easy to set and smooth acting) make peak-hour commuting more tolerable, blind spot monitoring compensating for the small side mirrors. The steering has moved to full electric assistance, so is easy to twirl at slow speeds, the turning circle is good (short wheelbase and all) and the clear image for the reversing camera also alleviates the lack of vision rearward.
There is a fair amount of familiar switchgear in the cabin, but then much of the cabin seems to be carryover too, titivated enough to look modern. It’s a bit dark in there, with some hard plastics to be found, although the usual touchpoints have been softened. The touchscreen provides a basic infotainment set-up, but you’ll need to plug your phone in to bring sat nav and the like to the party.
The boot is accessed via the big hatch, and while it’s not very deep, it is long and wide. Not many sports cars take the oversized gear bag with all our camera gear in but this did with room over for other smaller holdalls. So pack thoughtfully, and the Z will take you and a lucky someone away happily for the weekend. And you should have fun getting there.
Goes alright then?
With 298kW and a heap of turbo’d torque, this is plenty quick enough. It weighs 1561kg, so not a lightweight, and is a little heavier than last time around, but the power-to-weight ratio has improved. And performance is easier to extract with more abundant torque that dwells down low rather than hiding up top. This dips into the high four-second bracket for the 0-100km/h run, but a grippy surface under the rears is a requirement to go any faster. There is a launch control function for both the manual and the auto, which is easy enough to call up in the latter, but we recorded a quicker time without, easing it off the line before burying the gas. Despite measuring 275 at the rear, the Potenzas are easily hazed by the power. With an 80-120km/h run of 2.5sec, it can roll on quickly too.
There are just two drive modes, Standard and Sport, the latter adding some sound and sharpening the throttle. While the auto swaps ratios in a quick yet smooth fashion, it’s not overtly sporty once you’re into the curves. And so we took to the paddles, where the shifts are quickly enacted but still smooth. With the broad spread of torque and so many gears you tend not to dip much lower than third, and upshifting through fourth and fifth gets you along at a fine clip. The engine is more about torque than free-spinning revs, so you tend to plough through the midrange. It extends itself to 7000rpm energetically but it’s not an experience you feel duty bound to repeat much. Still, we managed to massage the average fuel use up to the 17L/100km mark. The engine does make a noise, but it’s a fairly subdued note as the tyre noise also fills your ears. The rubber roar is not overbearing however, active noise cancelling helping there.
Can it carve?
As for the corners, it took a few of them to gel with the Z. We’re used to the latest machines arcing through bends with an unnatural ease whereas the Z doesn’t turn quite as sharply as most contemporary sportsters, nor does it hold on as sternly. At first it’s disappointing, but we learned to appreciate its charms. No, it’s not the sharpest cornering tool, but it’s a car that demands to be driven. Hurl it too quickly at the bends and it will start to push sooner than you’d hope, while the rear gets twitchy as well. And so you’re having to make steering and throttle adjustments to help sort it out. It’s therefore something you have to drive, rather than merely steering it. It rides well at speed too, eating up most of the bumps, though this comes at the expense of sterner roll control. And along with what feels like some decent weight on the front axle, this is what leads to the understeer. The suspension does ease the hits of an unruly road surface, but the steering lets the side down as the quest for refinement has stifled a meaningful connection. The brakes work okay, with reasonable feel at the pedal but the Z will squirm around when you’re hard on them.
We sometimes bemoan a car with a lack of character, that the machine is too capable, whereas this is a sports coupe that demands to be driven. It feels like it could be a harder charger, but maybe Nissan is holding something back for a sharper, more focused Nismo edition. Well here’s hoping anyway.
And so while the Z is not the keenest sports car in the business, its added refinements makes it now as easy to live with as it is easy on the eye.
|Model||Nissan Z Coupe|
|Clean Car Discount||Fee + $3582|
|Engine||2997cc,V6, T, DI|
|Drivetrain||9-speed auto, RWD|
|Stability systems||ABS, ESP|
|Safety||AEB, ACC, BSM, LDW,|
|Tow rating||Not rated to tow|
|Service intervals||12 months/15,000km|
|ANCAP rating||Not yet rated|