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2023 Nissan Z Review: On Road and On Track

2023 Nissan Z | Photo: V.Aubé
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Vincent Aubé
The objective during this second test drive was to push the car on the famed Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec
2023 Nissan Z, profile
2023 Nissan Z, profile | Photo: V.Aubé

Auto123 reviews the 2023 Nissan Z again, this time testing the car on the road and on a very familiar track.

Mont-Tremblant, QC - Life is funny sometimes. Recently, my handlers at Auto123 offered me the opportunity to drive - or rather re-drive - the new 2023 Nissan Z, a car I had test driven just a few months earlier at the North American launch in Las Vegas.

This time around was a regional launch, an event taking place in my “backyard” - one of the best closed circuits on the continent, the Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, north of Montreal. I love the place for its history, but also for the thrill it gives me every time I have the opportunity to set foot there.

But here's the thing: that first contact in Vegas hadn't gone quite as I’d expected. Indeed, the new Z, despite all the improvements made to its structure and to its powertrain, had not convinced me of its on-track abilities.

The Z, throughout its glorious history, has been on racetracks all over the world and it's clear that this will be the case again with this new variant. But as far as the 'regular' 2023 Z is concerned, there's reason to wonder about its chops. The suspension, for example, appeared to me to be a bit soft for intensive use on closed circuits.

That's why I jumped at the chance to get back behind the wheel of the new Z on a familiar track. Would this second experience with the brand's only sports car - the GT-R is in a class of its own - disappoint me again, or would it win me over?

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2023 Nissan Z, front grille
2023 Nissan Z, front grille | Photo: V.Aubé

We set off on a cloudy morning, Nissan Canada having entrusted us with a beautiful Seiran Blue-finished Z equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. Note that the carmaker also offers a 9-speed automatic transmission as an option for those who prefer the automated option, but for the purists, there's nothing like shifting the gears oneself.

It's also worth mentioning that for this occasion, Nissan only had Performance versions to offer, a good thing given the nature of the on-track test scheduled for the next day.

2023 Nissan Z, three-quarters rear
2023 Nissan Z, three-quarters rear | Photo: V.Aubé

The Performance version
This variant features a limited-slip differential, spoilers on both ends (the front one keeps the nose glued tighter to the ground than the Sport version), performance brakes with red calipers, heated and power-adjustable seats, aluminum pedals, 8-speaker Bose audio system and wireless Internet connection, not to mention the superb 19-inch Rays wheels.

Like during my first contact on American soil, the 2023 Nissan Z once again showed me that it's just more attractive both inside and out than its predecessor, the 370Z. But while the exterior garnered us a few thumbs up as we drove through the streets of a few Laurentian villages - we weren't going to pass up the chance to take the car along some winding roads to get to our favourite closed course - the interior can polarize opinions.

2023 Nissan Z, interior
2023 Nissan Z, interior | Photo: V.Aubé

The interior
The designers sought to please techno-files by placing two screens in the Z - one behind the steering wheel and the other, touch-sensitive, in the middle of the dashboard. Purists, meanwhile. will love the three gauges mounted above the centre screen.

But some will find fault with the shape of the dashboard and even with the fact that some of the interior components are identical to those of the outgoing model. These include the circular ventilation nozzles in the doors, the handles and even a few buttons - a common practice at Nissan, that.

Which is understandable  given that the Japanese automaker, big as it is, doesn't have infinite funds to pour into a sports car aimed at a handful of die-hards. And frankly, that's not a serious fault as far as I'm concerned. If the car manages to make me feel good during a drive on a back road, that's (mostly) what matters to me.

I would like to see Nissan offer seats that are a little more enveloping, but this treatment may be - and I mean may be - reserved for a potential Nismo version that could be added to the model lineup in the near-future.

2023 Nissan Z, seats
2023 Nissan Z, seats | Photo: V.Aubé

Comfort? Yes, comfort!
Another point I need to mention is the improved comfort levels inside. Greater chassis stiffness combines with a revised suspension to create newfound smoothness on backcountry roads. That said, the new Z can't work miracles on all of the most-weathered surfaces. There were a few moments when we had to slow down to better absorb bumpier spots.

A sporty car needs a firm suspension, and while the Z has that, it's a more-livable car on the road overall, in terms of newfound agility, more-powerful mechanics and optimized comfort. There's still some work to be done in the area of soundproofing, mind you - the Z lets in a lot of decibels from the tires rubbing on the road.

The 2023 Nissan Z, surrounded by older Zs !
The 2023 Nissan Z, surrounded by older Zs ! | Photo: V.Aubé

On the track...
After the road portions of our Z excursion, Nissan Canada welcomed us at Circuit Mont-Tremblant, first to attend the last race of the 2022 Nissan Sentra Cup series. That race crowned the very first female driver to win a series title in the history of Canadian circuit racing series. Valérie Limoges, the most experienced driver in the field, thrilled the many spectators gathered in the stands for the historic occasion. 'Twas a great moment for the driver, her family and motorsports in general.

And as it happens, it was she who inherited the task the next day of guiding us on the Circuit Mont-Tremblant track. The guide being someone who holds the necessary qualifications as a driving instructor and would keep us out of trouble.

The next day, however, Mother Nature decided to get involved, gifting us rain, rain and more rain. And because the day before, the circuit had hosted races featuring several categories of cars, the track was quite rubberized. And when water mixes with this rubberized surface, the grip is almost zero. And it was in these conditions that I got to attack the half-circuit of Mont-Tremblant at the wheel of the two versions of the Z.

2023 Nissan Z, wheel
2023 Nissan Z, wheel | Photo: V.Aubé

Opportunity missed
The problem was that I couldn't push very hard in the corners. With the car's tires not sticking well to the pavement, the rear end was constantly trying to get out ahead of me. In the end I couldn't really appraise fully how the suspension reacted on this familiar track. It's a shame, because I think that the formula Nissan is offering is quite unique in the industry.

How so? Well, a sports coupe that comes with a twin-turbocharged 400 hp V6 and either a manual or automatic transmission is not very common in the North American market. The Toyota GR Supra comes pretty close to Nissan's approach, but it's an inline-6 engine.

Beyond the fact that on this day I couldn't really push it too hard in the straights or corners, I still feel like the Z lacks more-serious suspension components to make it a good machine for track use.

Hopefully another oppotunity will present itself to test this specific aspect of the car. But in the meantime, you can always fall back on any of the three versions (Sport, Performance or Proto) of the seventh Z in history, a car that performs quite well on the road. The Z may have a rich racing heritage, but it's on the road that drivers will appreciate it most.

2023 Nissan Z, three-quarters front
2023 Nissan Z, three-quarters front | Photo: V.Aubé

We like

The very successful silhouette
The overall comfort
The simplicity of the car

We like less

The comfort of the seats (they could be more enveloping)
The precision of the manual transmission
No Nismo version yet (will it come?)

The competition

Chevrolet Camaro
Ford Mustang
Mazda MX-5 RF
Porsche 718 Cayman
Subaru BRZ
Toyota GR 86
Toyota GR Supra

2023 Nissan Z, Z badging
2023 Nissan Z, Z badging | Photo: V.Aubé
Vincent Aubé
Vincent Aubé
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 60 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 200 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists