Recently, the EFTM crew had the opportunity to travel to a windy and wet Melbourne for the launch of the new Nissan Z – a model that is critically important to Nissan’s standing as a maker of cars people desire. This is doubly so as we transition to what I envisage to be a two car garage for most people – an electric for commuting and running to the shops and something fun for the weekends.
Of course, something like Porsche’s Taycan, Tesla’s Model S Plaid or Audi’s E-Tron can achieve both but at a cost. Something like the Z makes a lot of sense when you think you can buy a Hyundai Kona EV for $60k AND a new Z and still have over $200k left in the bank (a Porsche Taycan Turbo S is around $350000! Wow!). Anyway, enough with the hypothesising, let’s have a closer look at this new Datsun.
Hiroshi Tamura (aka Mr GT-R) was on hand as Nissan brand ambassador to walk us through the design of the new Z. As Tamura-san was explaining how the new Z came to be, we were all reminded just how much of a rev-head Tamura is. The sparkle in his eye and his mischievous grin as he talks about his love for cars, and Nissan sports cars in particular, is utterly infectious. He is just a terrific guy to talk cars with.
Tamura-san’s influence runs deep in the new Z from the way he had to fight like hell to get a manual version approved by the bean-counters to the way the steering wheel is intentionally the same diameter as that on an R32 GT-R. Despite the successes, there are some aspects of the new Z that disappoint Tamura, such as the air intake. Tamura was desperate for the intake to match the dimensions of 1969’s 240Z, but alas, constant overheating in testing meant that a bigger grill was needed. Despite compromises like this, the Z manages to pay beautiful homage to the six generations of Z car that have come before it.
Tamura-san’s insistance on a manual transmission variant has paid dividends already with over 70% of pre-orders being for three pedal cars. The collaboration with racing specialists EXEDY has resulted in a slick shifting and involving drive, but the nine-speed auto will see most of the sales once the initial pre-orders are filled. This is understandable as the auto more successfully harnesses the 300kw offered up by the 3.0 litre twin turbo V6 more of the time. Still, it’s a car that really deserves you to tick the manual if only to honour Tamura-san’s fight with management. Interestingly, both the auto and the manual feature launch control – a first for a Nissan Z.
The launch took in spectacular roads on the fringes of Melbourne, including the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula – perfect hunting grounds for a powerful rear drive coupe. The Z retains the muscle car nature of the old 350Z but now gains a level of finesse that was lacking from earlier Zs. It’s a very rewarding car to drive with a silky composure that belies its sporty looks. Nissan proves that there is just no need for sporty cars to punish with a brittle ride on Aussie roads. Far more limiting to the Z’s GT potential is the modest and shallow boot – you’ll have to pack smart or risk a Bunnings carpark style embarrassment while you work out how to fit the Samsonite in while managing to shut the boot lid.
When it comes to the interior, it’s pleasant rather than plush. This makes perfect sense because money had to be saved somewhere. Nissan has really skilfully managed to combine a raid of the parts bin with a sense of quality that is in keeping with the asking price. The 12.3″ programable dash display and 8.0″ infotainment system are a long way from something Audi would produce but then again if the Z wore an Audi badge it would be much, much more expensive and not necessarily better. Speaking of price, Nissan have hit a real sweet spot with the Z’s pricing. Aside from the already sold out limited edition Proto and some fancy paint, the $73300 (plus on-road costs) Z comes fully loaded. At this price, the Z undercuts Toyota’s Supra by about $15k. Ford’s Mustang is cheaper but lacks the Z’s finesse.
I’m so pleased that Nissan has made the Z. It’s a celebration of everything that is good about Nissan and it’s heritage – from the way the LED headlights mimic the light refraction from a 1970s 240Z’s perspex covers to the way the blacked out rear valance matches the Z32 300ZX of the 1990s. It’s a great car and one that deserves to sell by the boatload.