The old Nissan 370Z has been in production since 2008. It is a dinosaur by automotive standards. Now in 2023, the Nissan Z returns but it’s not completely new. Meanwhile, the Toyota Supra that was reintroduced in 2020 finally gets what fans were demanding since its reincarnation. A manual transmission. So with both of these “400 hp” sports cars being new, how do they stack up against each other?
Disclosure: I had the opportunity to test drive both cars at the beginning of December which means cold temperatures and ice on the roads. Both vehicles were equipped with performance summer tires which provide little to no grip when temperatures are hovering around the freezing mark. So unfortunately I was not able to fully explore the dynamics of each vehicle. I couldn’t even reach half their potential for fear of crashing. So this review will be a first drive impression of these cars. But I will try to bring these two together again in the Spring or Summer of 2023 for a proper review.
Starting with the new car first, the 2023 Nissan Z is actually made up of older parts. The chassis is a modified version of the same chassis that the 370Z rides on. The engine is straight from an Infiniti Q60 Red Sport. And the 6-speed manual transmission is also from the old 370Z. But while the Nissan Z is made up of “hand-me-downs”, they all work together to make a pretty potent street car. The twin turbocharged V6 engine produces 400 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque (298 kW & 474 Nm). In the old 370Z, you had to rev the heck out of the engine before it produced enough torque to get the car going. In the new Z, peak torque is reached at just 1,600 rpms. This makes the car, not only faster, but also much more responsive when the engine is at low rpms. The turbochargers spool up quickly to provide the maximum 15 psi boost and you can actually see how fast the turbos are spinning thanks to a new gauge in the center of the dashboard.
But while this engine has significantly more power and torque than the outgoing model, it doesn’t feel intimidating. It is manageable even on cold, damp roads. Of course, if you mash your right foot on the throttle pedal when exiting a corner, the torque will instantly overwhelm the tires at which point traction control intervenes like a boat anchor. The traction control system is an on/off switch. The Nissan Z does not have any sort of variable T/C system. Nor does the car have different drive modes. You’re left with 400 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque whether you like it or not. But again, on city streets, it doesn’t feel intimidating.
On the other hand, the 2023 Toyota Supra’s 3.0L turbocharged inline-6 engine does feel intimidating, despite it having less power… on paper. It is rated for 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque (285 kW & 499 Nm). But owners and other publications have dyno tested stock Supras before and the horsepower numbers are just a little above the 400 mark. Just like the engine in the Z, the Supra’s inline-6 produces torque below 2,000 rpms but the peak power figure is reached at 5,800 rpms vs 6,400 rpms in the Z. What’s more, the engine in the Supra is much more responsive. It doesn’t have any hint of rev hang whereas in the Nissan Z, it’s quite apparent. This immediacy from the engine is what makes it feel much more lively than the V6 in the Z. It’s also what makes it more exhilarating. On top of all that, it also sounds better. The V6 in the Z is muffled and you hear more sounds coming from the engine compartment than the exhaust pipes out the back.
The Toyota Supra’s 6-cylinder engine also manages better fuel economy than the V6 in the Z. With the 6-speed manual, the 2023 Toyota Supra is rated for 12.7 L/100km (18.5 MPG) in a city and 8.8 L/100km (26.7 MPG) on a highway. The 2023 Nissan Z with the 6-speed manual is rated for 13.4 L/100km (17.5 MPG) in a city and 10 L/100km (23.5 MPG) on a highway.
Speaking of the 6-speed manuals, the transmission in the Z may be from the 370Z but it has been beefed up to handle the power and torque. It also doesn’t feel as notchy and as rough as the previous iteration in the 370Z. It does still require some effort to get the shifter into 2nd gear but the rest of the gears are quite smooth. The Synchro-rev match feature returns which automatically blips the engine when performing a downshift. This feature can be turned off if you don’t like it. A 9-speed automatic is also available.
In the Supra, the new 6-speed manual transmission is one of the best feeling out on the market. The shifts have a mechanical feel that is missing in so many (or rather so few) modern manual equipped vehicles. It’s hard to describe in words how it feels but it’s something that all manufacturers who produce manual transmissions should strive for. An 8-speed automatic is still available with the Supra.
The driving dynamics of these cars couldn’t be any different. The 2023 Nissan Z feels lighter than the previous generation Z, even though it’s heavier, but it doesn’t feel as agile as the Supra. The new electronically assisted steering rack in the Z is precise but it makes the steering feel too light on spirited drives. That light steering though makes the Z a pleasure to drive on city streets. Other big changes to the Z include a stiffer chassis and a new limited slip differential. With the power that this engine produces, the back end can easily go sideways but thanks to the chassis updates, the 2023 Z is quite manageable when you’re looking out the side windows.
The Toyota Supra is much more focused in delivering fast lap times than the Z. The steering is fast and sharp just like the Z but you get more feedback through the steering wheel. The chassis feels stiffer still and the whole car responds more quickly than the Z at every minute input into the steering wheel. On a race track or a twisty road, it’s the Supra that shines between these two. That’s not to say, however, that you can’t have fun in the Z either. It just feels a bit more rewarding in the Supra than in the Z.
The 2023 Nissan Z has softer suspension than the 2023 Toyota Supra. As a result, the Z is much more comfortable as a daily driven car. The ride in the Supra is a bit more jittery and the ride height is lower as well. Whereas the Z is much more forgiving when driving over a pothole.
The interiors of these cars are similarly spacious. In fact, they are within millimeters of each other for headroom and legroom. At 6’4”, I fit comfortably in both. Outward vision is ok but the front-right portion of the windscreen is a bit more obstructed in the Supra due to the rearview mirror and the protruding infotainment screen. Visibility out the rear-right is pretty poor in both but both have blind spot sensors to inform you of a vehicle in that blind zone. The Nissan Z has 241 L (8.5 cu-ft) of trunk space while the Toyota Supra has 290 L (10.2 cu-ft) of space. However, the hatch opening in the Supra is narrow making it more difficult to load items.
As for the interior design of these vehicles, it’s hard to pick a clear winner. Perhaps the leather in the Supra feels a bit nicer but I do like the Alcantara/Suede inserts of the seats and also on the door panels. The Nissan’s interior feels like a Nissan product as it uses the same infotainment screen (8”), same buttons, and same general controls as other Nissan vehicles. The steering wheel controls however are gloss black buttons which I’m not a big fan of. In the Supra, it’s very much a BMW product. The infotainment screen (8.8”), the climate controls, the iDrive controller are all from various BMW cars. Having said that, they all work. To make the 6-speed shifter fit, the center console is a bit wider than the automatic version but there’s still enough space for both the driver and the passenger.
One problem that both cars share, and it’s common with manual cars, is the placement of the cupholders. If you have a cup or water bottle, they get in the way when changing gears in both cars.
Odds and Ends
Both vehicles are equipped with similar basic features. They both have leather upholstery, heated seats, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity (wireless CarPlay in the Supra), backup cameras, parking sensors, automatic climate control, keyless entry & push button start.
However, the Toyota Supra has a few more features that are not available in the Nissan Z. These include a built-in navigation system, a head-up display, a 12 speaker audio system (8 for the Z), and fully power adjustable seats with adjustable side bolsters. In the Z, the seats are power adjustable for front-rear motions and tilting of the backrest. If you want to change the seat thigh, lumbar, or lift support, it’s done manually.
On the outside, the 2023 Nissan Z is a much better looking car in the flesh than what it looks in photos and video. Certain parts of the styling pays homage to Zs of the olden days such as the 240 and the 300. I’ve noticed more people gawking and giving me the thumbs up in this new Z than in the Supra. That could be because it’s in a more vibrant colour but it could also be because certain gear heads know what this car is. Also, I’m pretty sure that at the time I drove the car, it was one of only a small handful that were actually driving on city streets.
The Toyota Supra A91 Manual looks no different than a regular Supra. I actually like the look of the new Supra. It looks exotic. But what i don’t like are all the fake vents in the bodywork. It would be nice if they were functional from the factory. This A91 manual receives a red Supra badge on the back and is only available in one of two colours; “CU Later” grey and “Burnout” white. If you want the same vibrant colours of the Z, you’ll have to settle for the standard manual Supra instead of this limited edition version.
And finally the price of these two cars is what really sets them apart. The 3.0L 2023 Toyota Supra manual starts at $68,640 CAD ($55,650 USD). The A91 package adds $1,630 CAD ($2,695 USD) to that price. The 2023 Nissan Z starts at $46,498 CAD ($39,990 USD) for the base Sport trim with this Performance 6-speed manual trim costing $58,498 CAD ($49,990 USD). So essentially a $10,000 CAD difference between these two cars.
The best way to summarize these two cars is that the 2023 Nissan Z is a much better car than the old 370Z. It is undoubtedly faster and better to drive. But compared to the 2023 Toyota Supra A91 manual, it feels a bit softer. It feels more forgiving and easier to deal with on city streets. The Supra is a track weapon first and foremost. The responsive steering and engine are unmatched. But it’s also more intimidating as you get closer to the limits or when pushing it on twisty streets. However, it also feels more rewarding than the new Z. So although the new 2023 Nissan Z doesn’t quite match up to the Supra, its price and the way that it drives reflects that. This is more of a Sports GT car rather than a track focused sports car.
Thank you to Nissan Canada for providing the Z. www.Nissan.ca
Thank you to the owner of the Toyota Supra for providing the vehicle.