2023 Nissan Z Coupe (launch drive)

The launch of the 2023 Nissan Z might just be the most anticipated automotive event this year. The spiritual successor to the 370Z, with a history that dates back 53 years to the original 240Z – the latest iteration features a multitude of nods to its predecessors.

From the 300ZX inspired taillights to the 240Z inspired headlights, its design is evolution, rather than revolution. Keen watchers of design inspiration will also notice that the steering wheel too is a head tilt to the one fitted to the R32 GT-R.

We got the chance to get behind the wheel of both the manual and auto variants ahead of their Australian launch, and are happy to report, lovers of the Z are going to be super impressed with where Nissan and engineer Hiroshi Tamura have taken the new model.

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Available in just one specification down under (aside from an already sold out Proto launch model), the Nissan Z Coupe is powered by a twin turbo 3.0-litre V6 that pumps out 298kW of power and 475Nm of torque, all of it to the rear wheels.

That’s paired to either a 6-speed manual with an EXEDY high performance clutch, rev matching and launch control (more on that later), or a 9-speed shift-by-wire auto with paddle shifters.

2023 Nissan Z Coupe
2023 Nissan Z Coupe

Nissan won’t reveal the exact 0-100km/h time but we can tell you, it’s damn quick and the power comes on strong from the get go. If we were stabbing in the dark, or Googling, we’d hazard somewhere around 4.0-seconds. But don’t quote us on that.

You’re not here for numbers though, and we know you want to know what it’s like to drive, so let’s get right to the point. Our two day drive program started at Melbourne airport and saw us head for the Mornington Peninsula, with a special pit stop along the way.

On the road, it’s smooth, particularly with the automatic, comfortable even, and not what one might expect from an angry sports car. That’s because it’s been designed to be a capable daily driver, that just happens to have performance and power on tap.

Double wishbone aluminium front suspension and multi-link aluminium alloy and steel rear suspension keep the ride sporty yet supple, while stopping power comes in the form of 355mm front and 350mm rear vented brake discs.

These are paired to 4-piston front brakes and 2-piston rear brakes with red calliper finish. There’s active sound enhancement too, if that’s your thing, as well as a mechanical limited-slip diff.

2023 Nissan Z Coupe
2023 Nissan Z Coupe

Tamura-san describes the Z as your spiritual dance partner, a sports car with sting that marries tradition with modern technology (well sort of – there’s no sat-nav, the infotainment system feels dated, and there’s only wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).

You also won’t find wireless phone charging either, but what you do get is a fantastic 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a very nice BOSE sound system, and heated 4-way power adjustable seats, dressed in suede, with leather accents.

There are two cup holders (there used to be one) in the centre console and cup holders come small bottle holders in the doors too. Riding on 19-inch alloys with Bridgestone rubber, the manual also comes with a carbon fibre composite driveshaft.

We found the manual gearbox quite notchy and temperamental – for example, it hates downshifting from fourth to second, unless it can rev-match properly.

Worth noting there almost wasn’t a stick shift, and only some number fudging with NISMO figures got that over the line. Interesting too that pre-orders here in Australia already sit at around 70 per cent manual transmission (of total orders to date).

interior
Inside the 2023 Nissan Z Coupe

But back to driving. And so it was, we trekked from one airport to another, bound for Tooradin Airport to test out launch control, in the wet. That, in and of itself is an unforgettable experience.

Even in less than ideal conditions the Z is hooked up, if not a little loose (pushed hard in Sport mode later in the day on the twisty roads that run up to the Arthurs Seat Eagle, it had no problem breaking traction).

It’s an extra paddle flick during launch control testing that leads us to what we’re about to say though. While the launch control in the manual is seriously cool, much like dropping the clutch, with a fair bit less wheel spin, it isn’t the better of the two.

Sure it’s complete with the glory that is slamming your way through a notchy 6-speed stick shift, but the 9-speed auto, in launch control mode, with paddle shifts – that’s a whole other ball game, and one that we reckon delivers a more pure speed experience.

But there’s a caveat here, and it’s an important one – you have to drive it like a manual. Without the manual shifts, or paddle flicks, it seems a little unsure of the transition from second to third, at pace, so there’s that.

engine
Under the hood of the 2023 Nissan Z Coupe

Let it loose in the quick-flick version of manual mode though and those nine gears come in super handy. It’s proper wicked fun to drive that way, and the power delivery is smoother. That says more about how far autos have come, than anything else.

From the runway sprints, we headed to Sorrento Beach for a press conference where we learned about the many things that inspired the new Z, and what exactly Z-ness is, as well as how it’s the glamourous beauty, to Nissan’s GT-R beast.

From there it was the chance to spend some quality time with the now retired Mr GT-R himself, Tamura-san, and some much needed sleep. The next day saw us take an alternative route back to Melbourne, with more opportunities to test the Z’s capabilities.

Road tripping aside, we should also tell you about just how safe the new Z is, as it comes with Nissan’s full intelligent mobility suite, including emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

You’ll also find rear cross traffic alert, high beam assist, traffic sign recognition, intelligent cruise control, hill start assist and vehicle dynamic control, complete with a cancel switch. There’s traction control too, and an ISOFIX child seat tether.

It’s a two-seater though, so your munchkin will be riding up front beside you. Boot space is a compact 241-litres. Impressively, no matter which variant you choose, the price is the same, with both the manual and auto available for $73,300 plus on-roads.

Colour choices include Rosewood Metallic, Diamond Black Metallic, Gun Metallic, and six options with a Super Black Roof, including Brilliant Silver, Boulder Gray, Seiran Blue, Passion Red, Everest White and Ikazuchi Yellow.

The 2023 Nissan Z comes with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty. You can build your own on the Nissan Australia website. If you’re keen on one, and need help with finance, talk to the team at CreditOne.

Our test vehicles were provided as part of a two-day Nissan Australia media launch. To find out more about the 2023 Nissan Z Coupe, contact your local Nissan dealer.

Mark Holgate
Mark Holgate
A journalist with more than 24 years experience, Mark Holgate has worked with a number of regional, suburban and metropolitan newspapers, as well as stints with motoring specific publications like Which Car? Motorsport News, Auto Action and Street Machine. He is also a contributor to DriveTribe.

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