Today is an extra special day for sports car fans as Nissan has just unveiled the new 2023 Nissan Z—the seventh generation of the beloved Datsun 240Z, which debuted in 1969 and won over generations of American drivers with its superb handling, powerful engine, and reasonable price tag ($3,500 or around $25,000 in today’s dollars). Like its predecessors, the new Z will deliver a lot of car for not a lot of money. The low-slung two-seater has a V6 twin-turbocharged engine that will produce 400 horsepower and will be available with either a nine-speed automatic or (purists rejoice!) six-speed manual transmission. The starting price will be around $40,000.
The list of diehard fans of the early Zs is considerable and included the late Paul Newman, who raced several generations of the car at Limerock and other tracks. The actor Sung Kang, a star of the Fast & Furious franchise is another well-known groupie. His well-chronicled restoration and modification of a Craigslist-purchased 1973 240Z won numerous awards, including the Best in Show and Best Asian Import categories at the 2015 SEMA auto show.
The arrival of the 240Z in the 1970s earned the Japanese automaker a spot in the North American performance car arena, which had been dominated by Italian, British, and domestic manufacturers. It also proved a new automotive maxim: just as all the money in the world can’t guarantee a great car, a limited budget doesn’t preclude the creation of a revolutionary one. The designer of the original Z was Yutaka Katayama and he faced many obstacles while producing the car, including limited financial resources and underwhelming Nissan templates with which to work. Nonetheless, he was able to create a car that was both graceful to look at and fun to drive.
The announcement of the Z today marks a bright spot for Nissan and its relatively new COO Ashwani Gupta, who spoke to T&C a few hours before the launch. The company has announced numerous refreshes of existing models in the past year and will soon debut a new electric vehicle called Ariya. When asked how the Z featured in the automaker’s business plan, Gupta seemed especially proud. “The purpose of this [new model] is to make sure that Z remains part of our culture. That means keeping a focus on three things, authenticity, performance, and history.”
Gupta may have a personal bias. Until recently, he drove himself to work in a Nissan Z. “From 2017 to 2020 I drove from Tokyo to Yokohama every day in a Z with an automatic transmission,” he said. Then he added, quite proudly, that his daughter prefers to go old school. “She’s a young doctor who lives in England and drives a white Z with a manual transmission to her hospital every day—that’s the new generation for you.”
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