Japanese sports cars are back in vogue and Nissan has just launched its new Zed, which brings a potent V6 engine and rear-wheel drive fun.
Here’s what you need to know about it.
The Z has serious heritage
Few cars can match the back catalogue of Nissan’s Z. More than five decades of sports car history spans models ranging from the original 240Z to the 280ZX of the 1980s and the more modern 350Z and 370Z duo. You can find elements of most of those models in the latest Zed, from headlights inspired by the 1969 original to tail lamps channelling the 1990s Tokyo-neon chic of the 300ZX. Every Nissan Z has been a proper sports car, with a front-mounted six-cylinder engine sending generous power to the rear wheels. That might not be possible in an increasingly environmentally conscious future. If there is another Zed, it’s unlikely to be a petrol-powered coupe with a manual transmission.
It’s not a new car
New sports cars are a rarity these days, as manufacturers focus on more profitable and pertinent machines such as family SUVs or electric cars. Then again, the Z isn’t really a new car. The new model is an evolution of the previous-generation Nissan 370Z – it has the same structure, seats, and even doorhandles as the old car. But it benefits from a range of changes including a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine pinched from the Infiniti Q60, tuned to make an impressive 298kW and 475Nm.
There are plenty of features
Priced from about $80,000 drive-away, the Z is loaded with performance hardware including forged 19-inch wheels, high-performance brakes and a limited-slip differential. A six-speed manual is standard, or you can go with a nine-speed auto at no additional cost. The cabin swaps analog clocks from the old car in favour of a wide-screen driver’s display augmented by retro gauges mounted near the base of the windscreen, plus an 8-inch infotainment unit with smartphone mirroring. Heated leather seats are standard, as is a Bose stereo.
This Z takes a new approach
Softer than the outgoing car, the fresh Z is designed to be easier to live with, and somewhat less focused than the previous model. It works well on long drives, where the loose-limbed suspension, muted exhaust and effortless torque combine to make for a surprisingly relaxed road trip companion. Dive right in if that sounds appealing. But keen drivers might not like the Zed’s less overtly thrilling approach – it lacks the synaptic immediacy and carefully honed polish of more expensive drivers’ cars, and doesn’t deliver adrenaline quite so readily. Spiky power delivery and snatchy traction control frustrate at times, as does a gritty gear shift that occasionally jars on quick changes.
But wait, there’s more
Folks who love the Zed’s look and are happy with relaxed driving characteristics should go for the current car. People looking for the last word in driver engagement should hang out for a hardcore Nismo model likely to drive in the near future, or check out some of the performance accessories Nissan recently flirted with at the SEMA car show in America. But you can forget about a convertible version – there simply isn’t enough demand for drop-tops to warranty investment from Nissan.