When the Nissan Z Proto made its debut, we couldn’t help but notice a considerable amount of similarities between it and the outgoing 370Z. The cut lines, shut lines, and even air vents of these two cars matched up just a little too well, leading us to believe the Z Proto wasn’t truly sitting on redesigned underpinnings. This ruffled more than a few feathers, but it turns out our hunch was right. We’re not here to gloat, but an “I told you so” wouldn’t be completely out of order.
Before the silk was pulled off of the 2023 Z, we asked a Nissan executive if the new twin-turbocharged sports coupe’s chassis carries the Z35 chassis code. We were simply told “no.” You read that right: by Nissan’s own internal standards, the changes made to the latest Z are not significant enough to warrant a new chassis designation. The 2023 Z chassis is not internally known as the Z35, and it instead maintains the Z34 chassis code of the 370Z.
So that pretty much settles that. Yes, there will be significant changes to the new Z to make sure it is substantially different from the 370Z that came before it. The bodywork is obviously new, and so much of the interior has changed (and hopefully been improved) that the carryover chassis might not matter to the majority of consumers.
That said, much of the 2023 Z’s body in white (all the bits you can’t see) mirrors that of the 370Z’s. We only hope Nissan’s chassis gurus and engineers were able to extract all that they could from the Z34 chassis old bones to give the new Z a behind-the-wheel experience befitting of its engine’s grunt.
Nissan Z Trim Comparison: Sport vs. Performance
In a year like no other, 1969 gave us Woodstock, the first man to walk on the moon, The Beatles’ Abbey Road, and a long-hooded Japanese sports car known in America as the Datsun 240Z. Unveiled in New York City over 50 years ago and most recently adopting the 370Z nameplate, now in the seventh generation, this new model eliminates its numerical prefix and will only be called “Z.”
The newly redesigned 2023 Nissan Z will be available in two trim grades, Sport and Performance. To celebrate the unique styling of the Proto Z that debuted in 2020, Nissan is also releasing a limited edition model called the Proto Spec, which will see a run of 240 units (to honor the original 240Z). Here is a thorough breakdown of the shared features and main differences between the base Sport and higher Performance trims.
All Nissan Z models are powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 rated at 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque—an additional 60 hp and 80 lb-ft of torque compared to the outgoing 370Z. Power is routed to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual (standard on both trims) or optional nine-speed automatic transmission.
The six-speed manual is equipped with an Exedy high-performance clutch and a carbon fiber composite driveshaft. Choosing a manual Z Performance model adds SynchroRev Match, a rev-matching system pioneered by Nissan on the 370Z. The nine-speed auto is optional and features launch control; the Performance trim gets upgraded, GT-R-inspired paddle shifters.
Nissan engineers tuned the chassis, cooling, suspension, and steering of the seventh-gen Z to improve handing and driver feedback.Up front, the double-wishbone aluminum suspension has new geometry that now includes increased caster angle, improving straight-line tracking and high-speed stability. A front strut tower brace stiffens up the front structure, and the rear multilink suspension has been reconfigured. Wider tires, larger diameter monotube shocks, and enhanced body rigidity help improve cornering. A sportier suspension calibration is available on the Performance trim.
In terms of brake hardware, the Z Performance utilizes slightly larger rotors, 14.0-inch for the front and 13.8-inch in the rear. It gets floating aluminum calipers, four-piston up front, and two-piston for the back, finished in red. The Sport makes do with 12.6-inch rotors up front and 12.1-inch units in the rear, gripped by fixed two-piston front calipers and single-piston rears.
All Performance models—manual and automatic—come equipped with a mechanical clutch-type limited-slip differential. And the Z Performance rides on 19-inch Rays super lightweight forged alloy wheels, while the Z Sport features 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Regardless of trim level, the new Nissan Z is available with three monotone exterior paint options, and six two-tone schemes. The monotone options are Black Diamond Metallic, Gun Metallic, and Rosewood Metallic. The two-tone options pair a Super Black roof with the following colors: Brilliant Silver, Boulder Gray, Seiran Blue, Ikazuchi Yellow, Passion Red TriCoat, or Everest White Pearl TriCoat. Sport and Performance models have dual body-colored side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, and the hood, doors, and hatchback are all made of lightweight aluminum.
There are a few aerodynamic and styling enhancements for the Performance model. It adds front and rear spoilers to reduce lift (by how much isn’t clear), and sports dual exhaust outlets.
Z Sport Vs. Z Performance: Interior Goods
Nissan consulted GT500 class driver Tsugio Matsuda to assist with the interior design, using his input to arrange the information on the 12.3-inch fully configurable digital display for maximum usability, which is standard on both trims. A programmable shift indicator, for example, is placed right on top at the 12 0’clock position on manual transmission cars. Three analog gauges are perched on top of the dash, angled towards the driver.
All 2023 Zs feature newly designed ergonomic shift knobs for both the manual and automatic, while the sport buckets, taking after the GT-R seat design, were developed to support the driver during enthusiastic cornering. Sport models come outfitted with manually adjustable seats upholstered in black woven cloth, eight-way for the driver, and four-way on the passenger side. The Performance grade adds leather seats that are both four-way power-adjustable and heated. Buyers have a choice of Black, Red, or Blue for the interior of either Z.
The Z Sport has an 8.0-inch touchscreen, whereas the Z Performance gets a 9.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation and NissanConnect Services. Another Z Performance equipment upgrade is an eight-speaker Bose audio system with active noise cancellation and active sound enhancement. Standard safety and tech include lane departure warning, automatic braking with pedestrian detection, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Intelligent Cruise Control; there are no differences in standard safety equipment between the two trims.
Nissan Z Proto Spec Edition
Limited to 240 copies, the Nissan Z Proto Spec is only available with a six-speed manual transmission. It features bronze-colored 19-inch wheels, yellow-painted brake calipers, leather-appointed seats with yellow accents, and an exclusive shift lever knob. Additional interior treatments include yellow stitching throughout the cabin, suede and cloth door trim panels, and Proto Spec badging.