The new Nissan Z will not match the effect of the original Datsun 240Z. I can not. When the first of these heritage-inspired machines hit the spot, they’ll find themselves towed alongside electric sedans and crossovers easily able to juggle it in the tow bar. Time passed, and Z arrived like Akira Kurosawa’s black and white movie about samurai. Today’s fans want lightsabers.
Nissan’s latest sports car roams the city with old ideas matched with an old chassis. No hybrid. There are no torque vectoring differentials. The closest you’ll get to electricity in this thing is a standard block heater. But here’s the problem: Have you ever watched yojimbo, or seven samurai or Rashomon? Because those ideas are not old. It is valid for all times.
Tucked behind a front end engineered to mimic the 1972 Fuji Grand Championship-winning Fairlady 240ZG, the new twin-turbo V6 is the heart transplant that gives this Z a fighting chance. The V6 has the same 3.0-liter displacement as the larger engine you get in the Supra, but is slightly superior to Toyota’s 400-horsepower direct-six engine.
But with great power comes great weight, uh. Anyone who complains about the lack of a turbocharger in the Toyota GR86 should take a closer look at what the intercoolers, turbines, plumbing and cooling associated with the new Z do to the old 370Z. The base model for the base model, there is an increase of 70 kg. Performance models equipped with a standard manual transmission tip the scales above 1,600 kg. The new nine-speed automatic transmission is 30 kg heavier.
However, the sacred supplication, “Standard Manual Transmission” has just been said, and sacred to be the Blessed Lady of Acceleration. In a world, as the voiceover of the videos says, where humanity has abandoned the transmission, here Nissan comes with your gearbox connected to four hundred horses that you’ll eventually drive to your local tire shop to put three new espresso-makers in the waiting room. Even better, the public seems to be responding — Nissan says 70 percent of Canadian pre-orders for the new Z are for the six-speed manual version.
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None of these owners will be disappointed, as will those who order a nine-speed automatic transmission. The latter is probably less intelligent than the dual-clutch transmission you might find in other sports cars, but it does a good job of holding the revs in Sport mode in both driving modes. Responses to the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are quick enough, but the car still runs when left to its own devices.
The Z is, at its core, a simple car. While torsional rigidity is up about 10 percent, the chassis is nearly identical to the outgoing 370Z, its underpinnings dating back to 2009. The traction control options are either “on” or “off.” An improved brake option is four-piston calipers with 355mm rotors at the front, and 350mm two-piston units at the rear; These are the same brakes on the Nismo model of the outgoing 370Z. The extra grip comes from fitting the larger tires, with Performance models getting 19-inch forged wheels with 255mm tires front, and 275mm rear. A more positive wheel has been added for a heavier steering feel and better stability at high speed.
On a short track, the braking seemed up to the challenge, but given the weight of this car, anyone looking to use the dedicated track should start exploring more heat-resistant braking settings. Nissan’s accessories department will offer a cushion upgrade, and given the Z’s similarities to the 370Z, the aftermarket support should be huge.
The track isn’t really where the Z lights up, it’s out on the road. Again, the automatic version isn’t flabby here, and it doesn’t dampen the fun. The guide, on the other hand, is an absolute magician.
The Z might look a little like a modern 240Z, but it drives like a 300ZX twin-turbo. Torque comes in quickly from 1,600 to 5,200 rpm, but peak power is still high enough (6,500 rpm) to make it worth pressing the redline (7,000 rpm). This red line indicator is recorded at noon, and it is endlessly fun to watch the needle sweep across your eye line as the shift indicator counts down from green to red. Just watch your speed, because this car pulls like a freight train in the medium range. The weight blunts a little off-line performance and means the Supra will likely take the bragging rights from zero to 100 km/h, but the Z will tweet its rear tires in a quick shift into third gear, and soar up in a turbo boost from 2,500 rpm.
Maneuverability is more about outright grip than flexibility in quick shifts, but this is a predictable, confidence-inspiring car. Ride quality is reasonable, less jitter than the 370Z thanks to the new monotube dampers, and the car doesn’t get bogged down on bumpy pavement. Some patience is required in the power cut since there is plenty of torque, but that just makes the driving involved.
Some internal improvements should be mentioned. If Nissan doesn’t convert the Z to the iPad, upgrades take it from the 370Z’s Speak & Spell system to an agreeable modern look. All Canadian models will have to content themselves with an 8-inch central screen and no onboard navigation system, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Driver assistance systems, such as forward collision warning and blind spot assist, are also standard.
The best news is the prices, which start at $46,498 for the entry-level Sport model. As a show off, this level of Z dilutes a four-cylinder Mustang when Ford has a few choice boxes. It’s also $10,000 less than the four-cylinder Supra.
Less of the bargain is the Zs performance model, which comes with a huge price jump. However, the $58,495 for a manual transmission performance model with a mechanical limited-slip differential, 19-inch forged wheels, and a host of sound and comfort upgrades is again $10,000 less than the six-cylinder Supra.
The new Z wasn’t the bargain the 240Z was when it was introduced, nor is it the high-end power that the 300ZX was in its day. Rather, it’s kind of a mixture of the Nissan Z’s greatest success, a blend of sports car charms from different generations.
Since it’s not trying to be a car at the moment, Z managed to pull off the toughest trick ever. A brand new classic sports car from the old school has already arrived. You can keep space wizards with silly names. Z arrives as Toshiro Mifune as he pursues a village, Battle Mood and Leonin. Aging, yes, but it still holds steel.