Why Nissan's New Z Sports Car Makes Me Feel Like Dancing
When we talk about Japanese car culture, there is, perhaps, no other letter in the alphabet that stirs up so much passion and excitement as the letter Z. This of course, refers to Nissan’s Z sports car, whose seventh generation the Japanese carmaker recently unveiled.
The first generation Fairlady Z aka Datsun 240Z made its debut in 1969 in New York as a revolutionary and competitively priced true sports car not only in Japan but in the US and the rest of the world. Last month, the all-new Z made its global debut once again in New York very close to the location where it all began.
True to the original
The all-new 2023 Z remains true to its original model that features a long hood and low rear stance. The trunk height is actually lower that the height of the hood, forming a sleek, classic profile. This writer saw the close-to-production prototype in Nissan’s secret lab back in 2019, at their highly secure research and development center at the height of the Tokyo Motor Show week that year.
The final production model indeed looked faithful to that car. During that visit, Nissan's SVP of global design Alfonso Albaisa took us around but we were sworn to secrecy so we couldn’t talk about the car at the time. Aside from showing us the car, he also said that it would be powered by the VR30DDTT V6 engine used in its Infinity Q50 and Q60 models rated at about 400horsepower.
True enough, two years later, the new Z sports a 24-valve Twin Turbo DOHC V6 engine, rated at 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque mated with a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission with an Exedy high-performance clutch or nine-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, launch control and Downshift Rev Matching.
Inside, the new Z has a driver-centric cockpit includes a 12.3-inch customizable racing-inspired TFT meter display, eight-speaker Bose Audio system and a 240Z-inspired center stack with instrument panel-mounted analog triple-pod cluster indicating the turbocharger boost, turbocharger turbine speed and voltmeter. In the US market, the 2023 Z model is offered in Sport and Performance grade levels and a special Proto Spec edition, which is limited to 240 units.
Chatting with the man behind the Z
We also asked Hiroshi Tamura, the chief product specialist (CPS) of the Z Proto and next Z who was also at the New York global unveil about what he thinks about his latest project. Tamura-san has been with Nissan since 1984 and became the CPS of the then-new GT-R and the 370Z, successfully taking on the challenge to exceed expectations with Nissan’s iconic and legendary sports car models.
“I’ve been passionate about the Z since I laid eyes on the first-generation Z,” Tamura-san explains. “You could say it was love at first sight. I dreamt of owning one and bought a second-hand 240ZG ‘G-nose,’ which looked to me like a Shinkansen (bullet train). I was fascinated by how a Japanese car company could create such a design.
“To be honest, the 240ZG’s power was good, but I wanted more,” he adds. “This car truly sparked my interest in tuning and helped lead me on my Nissan career. You could say it was part of my job training!”
Tamura-san says he also had a single-turbocharged 300ZX (Z31), which he enjoyed and understood the standard Z31 in depth for a few years. “This was when the tuning scene was big, and you could get aftermarket parts more affordably,” he says. “With the Z31, I was able to fine-tune my skills through a lot of trial and error. I learned to pay closer attention to even the smallest details and take a more balanced approach to tuning. It’s this approach that I use to this day, and is a mantra I use for developing both the GT-R and Z.”
Effect of the Z
Although he says his past Zs are already in the rearview mirror, so to speak, Tamura says they have had a lasting effect on him.
“The passion and excitement to push the limits and the pursuit of an innovative sports car with the driver at the center is what drove the development of new Z,” he says. “I wanted to capture the spirit of Nissan—an authentic connection between the car and the driver’s mind, body, and soul.
Hiroshi Tamura at the NYC Z global launch in New York
“With the all-new Z, I want people to feel like they’ve discovered a new dance partner and feel that unmistakable thrill when driving the new Z! Whether going to work or a run in the mountains, I want the first thing on driver’s minds to be, ‘Shall we dance?’” The designer says he wants people to refer to the new Z as a car that that one may consider to be a racetrack weapon but also as an athletic and nimble car you can dance with on lonely, winding, and twisty open roads.
“The prototype you saw, design-wise, was not much different from the Z Proto from last year,” Tamura-san says. “That’s the power of the design, simplistic and classic, yet something completely new. With the recent U.S. market production model, I wondered what the reaction would be as it’s very close to the Z Proto, about 95 percent, in fact. So not much has changed, which from the reactions so far, has delighted the fans.”
Being a true car guy, Tamura-san is actively involved in local and international car enthusiast events that puts him in touch with Nissan Z and GT-R aficionados. Clearly he is deeply rooted in the grassroots of Japanese car culture, so this guy knows what he is talking about. He’s also been to the Philippines a few times and has become somewhat of a darling in the local motoring media.
“We aim to launch the best Z in the long history (of the model),” he says. “I know that the all-new Z will continue to thrill our customers with its unmistakable Z-ness, sparking passion with past and future generations of Z fans. That’s the power of Z.”