Imagine our surprise when we learned that a follow-up Nissan Z model was added to our test fleet. This writer evaluates new models as received from manufacturers through a pair of distributors. Our Atlanta distributor handles Nissan and delivered the new 2023 Nissan Z in August 2022. Eight weeks later a second model was on its way.
Manufacturers occasionally send more than one version of the same vehicle during a particular model year. This allows journalists to gain a broader understanding of the vehicle to disseminate to readers.
In August, we had a Z with an automatic transmission. This time, Nissan sent a Z equipped with a manual gearbox.
My reaction? It was like Christmas morning all over again! This time, the gift came exactly the way we wanted it – with a 6-speed manual transmission, suitable for extensive on-road shenanigans. Not that the first model was a disappointment. It certainly wasn’t. Indeed, it triggered our longest review to date – Nissan Z: Deep Dive! – that had us examining nearly everything about the Z.
This time, though, we’re pulling apart the manual and the manual alone. Please reference our earlier review for all the delicious details about the Z writ large. Meanwhile, read on for our manual Z dissection…you won’t be disappointed!
Shift This Nissan Z
Shop for a Nissan Z and every model comes with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine. Used initially in Red Sport 400 versions of the Infiniti Q50 sedan and the Infiniti Q60 coupe, it is the right choice for the current Z.
Nissan also read the market correctly by offering a pair of transmission choices. Customers can choose either a 9-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. They have different missions, but the price is the same. Indeed, your choice is a no-cost exchange.
Nissan did not need to look far for the right engine for the Z. In 2016, Infiniti introduced a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 to select models. This engine delivers 300 or 400 horsepower, as tuned. Fortunately, Nissan went with the higher end of the tuning spectrum to imbue the Z with a truly potent machine.
The difference maker for this Infiniti-supplied engine rests on a few important distinctions.
First, this engine comes with a pair of water pumps for improved heat management when operating at higher loads. Second, it includes a turbo speed sensor that raises turbo output by 30 percent over the base engine. Third, an electric motor is fitted to the valve timing system, thereby increasing the speed of the throttle for heightened response times.
Pull these three points together and add in an optimized blade design for quicker turbo response times and the Z rocks it. Further, turbo lag is mitigated thanks to a water-cooler intercooler system. The system is compact; this makes for a shorter flow path for air entering the turbocharger. The result makes for faster engine response.
Willing Transmission; Compliant Clutch
While the ZF-supplied 9-speed automatic transmission suits the Z well, it’s a placeholder for people who prefer three-pedal foot action. The #SaveTheManuals crowd will always opt for the manual. In any case, this Nissan-built choice is a no-cost decision for the shopper.
The shifter supplies clean throws, although on the long side. We prefer shorter throws as that’s less effort exuded for a faster shifting response. No matter, shifting is smooth, and the Exedy-supplied clutch delivers a clean uptake. Not overthinking is an important part of the driving experience and certainly, you won’t do that here.
Engaging Steering; Weighted Handling
Describing the steering as “nimble” seems overused, but it fitly describes the Z. Terms such as agile and quick mean the same thing; in all, the experience is highly responsive and engaging, with sufficient weight and feedback.
The tale is told, though, when driving. Navigating local streets is one matter, but handling twisty roads is something else. The Z remains planted and eager as it slips in and out of turns. While cornering, the rear tends to slip – we recommend simply letting up on the gas pedal and slowing down. We do not suggest turning off stability control unless you’re looping an empty parking lot with no light stanchions or other obstacles nearby.
On the Road
We won’t describe the Z as a fire-breathing beast. It has beastly attributes, but its cacophony is tame. This is one of the Z’s points we were not able to reconcile – it is relatively quiet for the model at hand.
Most cars in this class have an active exhaust system that complements the roar of the engine. Under the hood, the Z is satisfactorily loud, although it isn’t on par with V8s of yore. On the other hand, the exhaust system doesn’t complement the performance at hand. We are guessing that aftermarket Nissan parts or a NISMO variant will solve this discrepancy.
We made quick work of the shifting as much as possible, although it is easy to push past the posted limits with no difficulty. Unless you’re operating in heavy traffic, your experience will be anything but tame. The Z is willing, almost demanding, and you’re there to satisfy.
Oddly, Nissan did not include driving modes with the Z. Most cars these days have normal, eco, sport, and even performance modes, but the Z has a singular and default setting. Sure, there is a special “S-Mode,” tasked with delivering rev-matching while downshifting. As for controlling engine response, the dampers, and the exhaust note, we’re supposing Nissan wanted the Z to behave more like models of yore – without tech interference.
Serene Driving Conditions
A cloudless, deep blue autumn sky greeted us as we took to newly discovered backroads in central North Carolina. Long, looping, and devoid of any traffic, these were two-lane paved roads that allowed us to put the Z through its paces.
Immediately, we uncovered the Z’s strengths and weaknesses, although the former greatly outweighed the latter. The Z’s strengths include sharp steering, capable handling, and firm brakes. It is also tossable, and compliant, and the turbos spool quickly with no lag detected.
We felt most confident on the twisty roads, enjoying pushing this sports car to its limits. Quite easily, you’ll still be in third gear as you hit the speed limit, with the engine revving loudly. Most times, we shifted to fifth gear but saved sixth gear for highway cruising. At that point, activating cruise control and giving the feet a rest seems appropriate. But not for too long as that massive rig begs to be passed!
Again, the one area of caution (or a weakness) has to do with cornering. As we were leaving one loopy road to make a left turn, we felt the backend slip underneath us, then snap back. The combination of a turn and a quickly rising and falling road contributed to the experience. Thanks to stability control and our calm reaction, the challenge swiftly disappeared.
The 2023 Nissan Z is not perfect, but what mainstream car is? We understand the criticism levied Nissan’s way, including taking years to replace the woefully outdated 370Z with the current model. Also, the styling doesn’t break ranks to the degree that the Toyota GR Supra does. But then Nissan kept the Z going, while Toyota resurrected the Supra after two decades with help from BMW. There is something to be said about continuity – just ask Ford regarding the Mustang.
All in all, the Nissan Z makes the kind of statement enthusiasts want – the fun is back, and it comes wrapped in sheet-metal that’s easy on the eyes. For these reasons, we believe demand will be quite strong. Most likely, you’ll need to work with a Nissan dealership to acquire one.
2023 Nissan Z Specifications
|Price Range||$39,990 to $52,990|
|Standard Engine||3.0-liter, Twin-Turbo V6|
|Horsepower||400 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||350 lb.-ft. @ 1,600 to 5,200 rpm|
|Transmission||9-speed automatic or 6-speed manual|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,486 to 3,602|
|Shoulder room (f,r…inches)||54.2|
|Hip room (f,r…inches)||54.6|
|Storage (cubic feet)||6.9|
|Gross combined weight rating (pounds)||NR|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||16.4|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||18/24/20; 19/28/22|
|Manufacturing Plant||Louisville, Kentucky|
Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.
(n.d.). Debuts New 3.0L V6 Twin-Turbo Engine | USA. INFINITI.
Oliva, J. (2022, September 28). Nissan Z GT4 Race Car Debuts, Hitting The Track In 2023. Motor1.com
See Also — By the Numbers: 2022 Nissan Altima
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