Jan 26, 2023

For a seemingly innocuous part of a car’s bodywork, the lure of the rearmost pillar appears incredibly strong among certain car companies. Irrespective of the style of car, or the geographical location in which its shape is conceived, design departments have been pulled in over the years – like polo neck wearing moths to flame – by the siren call of the c-pillar as a place to add a flourish.

From the angled air intakes on a tiny Suzuki Fronte, to Munich’s iconic ‘Hoffmeister Kink’, adding a visual affectation of some sort to the rearmost pillar is akin to a signature: an unnecessary component of the car overall, but often a detail that becomes an indelible part of its ‘presence’.

And I’m positing here that the ‘Z’ which adorns the c-pillar on the Nissan coupe of that very name, is perhaps the greatest such flourish of them all.

Struck through its middle with a dash and (as much as my internet research will decipher) rendered in a sans-serif font, the ‘Z’ badge was a feature of the very first of its type: the S30 Datsun 240Z.

It’s fitting then that the latest incarnation of that sports coupe lineage should return the ‘Z’ badge to the c-pillar, moving it from where it sat behind the wheel arch on this car’s predecessor, the 370Z.

Fitting? Absolutely. Especially when the new Nissan Z is viewed as a whole. Because the 2022 take on the iconic Z car sees Nissan skirt closer than ever to the essence of the original 240. While the 370Z sat on its haunches and shared a sharp roofline reminiscent of the 1970 original when viewed from certain angles, it was still its own thing, with visual hallmarks closer to the 350Z than the 240.

In context, the new Nissan Z looks every bit the direct descendant. It’s a brand-new car, but it looks like it has been hewn from the trunk of the Z family tree, rather than the branch its predecessors originated from.

Nissan’s designers have got it absolutely spot on. The roofline, the rake of the windscreen, that stereotypical long bonnet, the subtle ducktail spoiler at the rear, those slim rear lights. And yes, the ‘Z’ badge in the c-pillar.

Inside there are fantastic nods to the original 240Z too, not least the three analogue gauges that top the centre stack, describing for the driver turbo boost, turbine speed and voltage. It’s information that is neither here nor there for the most part. But Nissan’s designers clearly understand the theatre of performance, as much as wish to pay homage to this model’s heritage.

It isn’t all rose tints for the glorious past, however. Under that long bonnet is an uprated 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 which is force-fed by small-diameter turbochargers. Nissan says these are regulated for maximum spooling speed and to balance power output and throttle-response time. Peak power and torque rise in the new engine to 298kW and 475Nm respectively. This new Z is 51kW more powerful than the 370Z, with 108Nm more torque twist.

“The new Nissan Z looks every bit the direct descendant of the 240Z. It’s a brand-new car, but it looks like it has been hewn from the trunk of the ‘Z’ family tree, rather than the branch its predecessors originated from.”

Another improved figure is the Nissan Z’s power-to-weight: 13% better than the 370, which makes for more rapid acceleration.

Moving back towards the heritage side of the workshop, an important facet of the new Nissan Z is its availability with that increasingly rare component, a manual gearbox.

The sports coupe’s six-speed close-ratio manual is paired with a high-performance clutch supplied by Japanese motor racing specialist, Exedy, and linked to the rear wheels via a carbon-fibre composite driveshaft. Manual-transmission-equipped models also feature a carbon-fibre composite drive shaft and Downshift Rev Matching, which provides for a great soundtrack when changing down into a tight corner.

Naturally, there’s an auto ‘box option too: a nine-speed affair which is fly-by-wire for rapid response to inputs from aluminium paddle-shifters (the exact same paddles you’ll find in the halo GT-R). All automatic transmission-equipped models feature a launch control system.

While still delivering all the engaging on-road feedback you’d anticipate of a twin-turbo V6 rear-wheel drive sports coupe, the new ‘Z’ cushions the driver better, offering up a compliant and settled ride, but not to the detriment of the sporty tactility that enthusiast drivers’ demand.

Standard specification for our market loads the new Nissan Z with a leather-accented interior, a fully customisable 12.3-inch TFT display, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smart-phone integration, and three driving modes – Standard, Enhanced and Sport – each one automatically optimising information provided to the driver depending on which mode is selected.

While our test car looks great in Boulder Grey paired with the so-called Super Black contrast roof, Kiwis’ keen on the new Z can also choose from a special edition Proto Spec flagship version, which will only be available in limited numbers. This comes in the fetching Ikazuchi Yellow paintwork topped by a Super Black roof pairing which you may have seen when the car was first announced. More than just a celebratory (and retro-minded) paint job however, the Proto Spec Z also arrives with a bespoke interior and 19-inch bronze forged alloy wheels and yellow brake calipers.

Okay, I admit it. I’m a sucker for all the heritage theming that the 2022 Nissan Z brings to the table. But the latest Z car isn’t simply trading on past glories. It pays homage to the past while representing the next chapter in Nissan’s unique sportscar narrative.