2023 Nissan Z
Modern Performance, Retro Inspired
Most people would agree that the original Nissan 240Z was the car that legitimized Japanese sports cars here in America. But much has changed over the last 50-years, a small sporty coupe is certainly not as popular they once were, and the Z went from leading that pack to barely remembered. So it’s Time to see what kind of an impact an all-new Z car will have in the modern performance car landscape.
If you’re old enough to remember the original Datsun 240Z, congrats, you’ve lived a full and hopefully rewarding car enthusiast life; as did the last generation Nissan 370Z. It saw a full 12-years before quietly slipping away in 2020. The new 2023 Nissan Z does away with the numbers in the name; fitting, as this car is about much more than just numbers.
The family lineage of this 7th generation Z is obvious, without any further review required; as there’s less of a design theme and more of a greatest hits collection of previous Zs. There’s the long nose of the original, eye-like headlights of the 240ZG, and taillights reminiscent of the 90’s 300ZX; plus, a subtle hood bulge and black roof; though sorry, no T-tops.
Same exact wheelbase as before, but there’s a new chrome roof spear, and either 18 or 19-inch wheels.
Available in Sport and Performance specs, it’s the Performance that gets the 19-inch wheels along with a mechanical limited slip differential, more aggressive suspension tune, sport muffler, front chin spoiler and rear spoiler.
But, the Z launches with this special Proto Spec edition, limited to just 240 units. It sports unique 19-inch wheels, yellow brake calipers, upgraded leather seating, yellow trim, and even a distinctive shift knob.
The really good news is you don’t have to pay any extra to get max power. All Z’s come with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. It’s not the first turbo-charged Z, but it is the first Z to come exclusively with boost; rated at 400-horsepower and 350 lb-ft. of torque. And yes, it’s the same VR30DDTT engine you can get in Red Sport Infiniti’s.
That’s a substantial jump over last gen’s standard 332–horsepower; and with those turbos, torque delivery is noticeably more intense.
The interior is far more modern than retro, with a center multimedia screen that is either an 8 or 9-incher, while the gauge display is more than 12-inches. Though we were glad to see they still incorporate a trio of analog dials on top of the dash, because who doesn’t like to monitor turbo speed?
In the console, is either a short-throw shifter for the 6-speed manual; or an electronic gear selector for the 9-speed automatic transmission.
We manually shifted our Z to the ¼-mile test grounds of Mason Dixon Dragway.
Even with the manual, there is launch assist to help you make a quick getaway; and putting it to use, got us to 60 in 4.5-seconds, 8-tenths quicker than the last NISMO tune 370Z we tested. The clutch is firm and the shifter is solid and works well, provided you don’t try and force it too aggressively.
The engine sounds precise and sewing machine-like more than raw powerful, but is feels hella torquey throughout the 12.9 second ¼-mile, which we finished at 108 miles-per-hour.
All of that torque makes for easy burnouts, but it also powered some quick trips through our handling course.
It understeers early at turn-in, but power is smooth for providing the subtle inputs you need for maintaining a good pace. Compared to the Supra it feels softer but also less twitchy. The stability systems let you have quite a bit of fun before stepping in.
Underneath is the same basic double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension setup from last gen, but tweaked of course, with revised geometry and upgraded monotube shocks.
Brakes were outstanding. Even with a slight bouncing motion, the 3,500-lbs. Z delivered consistent stops from 60 of just 104-feet.
All of this comes with greater comfort than before in both seating and ride quality for the drive home.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the manual transmission are 18-City, 24-Highway, and 20-Combined. We averaged a good 22.3 miles-per-gallon of Premium.
That’s only slightly below average for the Energy Impact Score; 14.9-barrels of annual petroleum consumption, with CO2 emissions of 7.2-tons.
Starting Price is only $41,015 for Z Sport; Performance is 10-grand more; undercutting the Toyota Supra by a significant margin. Limited Proto Specs are still available for $55,310.
While it doesn’t break any new ground, Nissan has done a fantastic job with the 2023 Z. They’ve captured the spirit of the original, while delivering a more than notable dose of modern performance, at a still realistic price. Even if the popularity of true 2-seat sports cars has given way to high-output SUVs and track-worthy compacts, it’s great to see brands like Nissan keep the faith. And, anyone with a little petrol still in their veins prays that they can do that for another fifty years.
- Engine: 3.0L Twin-Turbo V6
- Horsepower: 400
- Torque: 350 lb-ft
- 0-60 mph: 4.5 seconds
- 1/4 Mile: 12.9 seconds at 108 mph
- 60-0 Braking: 104 feet (avg)
- EPA: 18 City / 24 Highway / 20 Combined
Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better
When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.
The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.
Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.
A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.
That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.
The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.
At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.
While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.
Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!
- Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
- Horsepower: 227 | 250
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
- EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined