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BEHIND THE WHEEL: Nissan Z

MONDAY JUNE 17, 2024

Gone are the days of communicative hydraulic steering, and modern cars often sound like vacuum cleaners due to particulate filters. Despite this, the new Nissan Z stands out with its striking design, promising a visually appealing ride. Even SUVs these days look good, does that mean we should celebrate?

 

Z cars have a strong following where I was often told by their owners that people will not understand the appeal until they have owned one. I am no JDM fanboy but the 2022 Nissan Z is a car I really wanted to drive since its release.It is a bin part special based on its predecessor, the 370Z, with an engine and gearbox from Mercedes-Benz which is also found in the GLC43. The new Z undercuts its main competitor, the Toyota Supra by around 20 percent which makes it a good value proposition. I just hope that the Z comes close to being nearly as good.

PRO

Looks

Power

Relaxed traction control

CON

Rough edges

Weight

SPECIFICATION

3-litre V6

400hp 475Nm

9-speed G-tronic

0-100 km/h: 5.1s

From A$83,363

Nissan Z parked with cityscape background

Looks are subjective and I find the new Z being a looker, especially from behind. That boot lid spoiler and throwback tail lamps are well executed by Nissan’s design team. The front grill may take some getting used to but it is very much acceptable if you can get other people’s voices out of your head. Just focus on the headlamps, the wheels and the curvaceous side profile because they are to be adored.

 

Once inside, you are greeted by a rather big steering wheel and driver focussed interior with three gauges on its dash looking at you. The seats offer plenty of adjustments and it takes awhile to find a good fit. Seat switches and door handles were also seen in the 370Z which can be a bad thing if you had one before.

Nissan Z interior dashboard and seats
2024 nissan z gauge
nissan z review

Those aside, the digital gauges are easy to read and somewhat painless to use. The infotainment can be faster and I had to plug in Apple CarPlay as there is no in-car navigation. Also, there’s no head-up display so I had to constantly glance down to prevent myself from explaining to the cops. That takes a bit away from having fun with the car.

 

The shift-by-wire gear selector could have been screwed more tightly together as this is a thing that is often in contact with the driver. It is wobbly and does not give a sense of quality or feeling of command from driving a sports car.

 

Going into drive and immediately the engine’s power shows even in normal mode. All 400 horsepower are ready to be deployed making the Z a tail happy vehicle in roundabouts and junction exits. Its traction control is pretty relaxed where sideways fun can be had without any noticeable intervention, that's two thumbs up from me.

Nissan Z front grille and headlights

Sitting down low in a coupe with power going to the rear is a recipe that is  difficult not to enjoy. I was definitely having a good time myself driving about although more communication will be appreciated from the front end. There is a limited slip differential at the back so drifting and donuts are not a problem with a press of the traction control button.

 

Putting this into sports mode amplifies the noise of the car, both up front and out back. Not that it has a lot of good sounds to begin with, acoustic does improve but some work can be done to make this engine sing more tuneful as demonstrated by Mercedes. It makes a single dimensional sound that only goes louder with not much, if at all going out behind. An automatic Z car appears to have a valved system unlike its manual alternative because Nissan believes that it’s most likely going to be modified so things are even quieter on the 3-pedal car. 

nissan z au review
Nissan Z wheels and brake calipers
nissan z exhaust

I am glad that Nissan is making coupes again and I do like the new Z but this car feels like the team that put this together lost their passion along the way or ran out of time and they had to submit whatever they have in their hands for production. Nothing is more important than sounds and a connected drive when it comes to sports cars. People will definitely like it more if it sings or drives better than just going fast in a straight line.

 

The 9-speed gearbox from Mercedes still is slightly indecisive and it does show in this application. To make matters worse, it cannot wait to occupy the tallest gear even in sports mode. Being released three years after the Supra, the Z somehow manages to be slower, heavier and quieter. Nissan has no-one to blame but themselves at why the new Z’s excitement was so quickly dismissed by car enthusiasts and journalists.

Rear view of the Nissan Z showcasing its taillights

I will have to drive a Supra to know how much worse the Z actually is but as of now, Nissan really should have taken another year to polish out the rough edges for this Z to live up to its heritage. Although the Z is cheaper but it really does not have to be substantially worse. The car community probably won’t be complaining about the absence of wireless phone connectivity, adaptive dampers and automatic wipers if the Z at least offers an exciting driving experience.

 

Slamming the brakes to the firewall does stop the Z pretty well but it is not all that confidence inspiring due to its mass. It may be sufficiently equipped but this thing weighs 1634 kilograms, only 56 less than a C43 coupe which has two extra seats and an all-wheel drive system.

Side profile of the new Nissan Z

Grade W Bridgestone Potenza tyres were fitted whereby a set of Michelin Pilot Sports could have improved steering feel, grip and road noise. The cabin noise and ride quality are above average for a sports car. Long distance travels can be done in the Z as it also comes with adaptive cruise control. The Bose audio sound system is favourable, better than the one in an Mazda MX5 ND. Best of all is the tune of the traction control that has not intervened much from all that tail happy action. So well done the engineers at Nissan for remembering this integral element for a rear wheel drive sports car. 

2024 nissan z review

At the end of the drive, I could certainly see myself taking the Z to places, taking beautiful photographs with a backdrop to match. The issue will be me thinking to myself, is sacrificing practicality worth the price of arriving in style? Only if it produces childish noise and manufactures smiles in the bend then it will be worth it. As much as I am a fan of coupes, I would pick a Subaru BRZ up then the Z when it has lost a good half its sticker price.

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