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  • Writer's pictureCory Fourniquet

2023 Nissan Z Proto Spec: A Rare 1 of 240 Find

Few cars have caused such a stir with their return in the modern era as the Nissan Z has. With a powerful twin-turbo V6, manual transmission, and heritage-inspired styling, this Z could be what brings Sexy Back to Nissan.

It would be foolish of me to ignore the elephant in the room. Many have criticized the styling of the grille on this vehicle. I can admit that in pictures it certainly looks polarizing. However, in person, this is a much more palatable vehicle design. What does not come across in many pictures and videos online is the grille within the grille. From a distance, or with a camera that cannot capture images with dynamic range, it is easy to believe the grille to be a large gaping black rectangle in the front of the Z. In reality there are two sections to this grille, split horizontally down the middle with a distinct upper and lower section with two different designs.

Yes, having a character line or body-colored splitter would look more appealing, so much so that there are already aftermarket bumpers for this vehicle that addresses this very issue. Nissan themselves created a one-off vehicle for the Tokyo Auto Salon last year that showed just what many in the states had been asking for.

Historically, I have not been the biggest fan of the Z brand. I am more of an American Muscle fan, but this Z is perhaps my favorite design of the vehicle since the 300ZX. I felt the 350 and 370 Z models got most right until the rear end of the car where designers just ran out of ideas. I think the 350 was perhaps the worst of the two with taillights that didn’t align with body panel separations and a shapeless round booty that needed to hit the gym.

This 2023 Z is the total package for me. Taking rear-end cues from the 300ZX and applying them to a profile from the 350 and 370 Zs while digging even further for treatments on the hood and headlights. It all works in a way that the Z just hadn’t for me up until now. Now I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so these are just my takes on the styling of this new sports car, but I believe we can all agree it is nice to have new vehicles in the segment.

New is a relative term. As Nissan has done with many of their vehicles lately (Frontier, Kicks, Armada, Pathfinder) this is really just a new suit over the same bones. Utilizing the best parts of the old platform, the looks of this Z are some of the biggest changes most will notice. However, sit in the driver’s seat, press the brake, and start the engine and you’ll find out more.

Powering this 2023 Nissan Z is a 400-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6. That is all models, from the “base” Sport trim and the top Performance trim as well. One engine for all models. That is in stark contrast to the rival vehicle from Toyota’s past and present in the BMW-engineered Supra which has a base 2.0L 4-cylinder and a more powerful inline-6 option. Also a selling point against its rival is the availability of a 6-speed manual transmission, an omission from Supra’s options list when it went to market. Toyota has since rectified that point, perhaps we have the Z to thank for this pivot.

We have spent time on the track in the automatic Supra and fell in love with its go-kart-like rigidity. Z has increased bracing behind the seats and under the hood to help keep this new version more stiff than the model it replaces. Unfortunately, we only had this rare model for an afternoon thanks to our local dealer. We hope to change that fact sooner rather than later.

This model is so rare because it is only one of 240 ever to hit the US shores. This is the Proto Spec built off the top Performance trim of the new Z. Mostly an appearance package, the Proto gets these lightweight bronze wheels, brightly painted brake calipers, and a unique interior with bright accents throughout. The Proto Spec suede seats do a great job of holding you in place without suffocating you.

Our short time in this 2023 Nissan Z was just that, short. Too short in fact. We are attempting to get a Z Performance trim delivered to us for a week of testing where we can really learn the character of the vehicle. Even though we did not do much with this Proto Spec while we had it, we definitely see the appeal of the Z platform in general, and with a starting price of $40k for the base model with the 400 horsepower engine makes a strong case for itself against the likes of Supra and even Mustang and Camaro.

What are your thoughts on this new Z?

Huge thanks to our friends at Peltier Nissan here in Tyler Texas for letting us take a look at this Z. Check out their full inventory here:

Z highlights include:

  • 3.0L Twin Turbo V6 Engine

  • 400 Horsepower

  • 350 lb-ft of Torque

  • Standard 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission with EXEDY® high-performance clutch

  • Available SynchroRev Match®, allowing heel-toe-like downshifting

  • Motorsports-inspired EXEDY® high-performance clutch (manual transmission models)

  • Available electronically controlled 9-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, launch control, Downshift Rev Matching

  • Standard aluminum paddle shifters (Sport 9AT); available unique GT-R design paddle shifters (Performance 9AT)

  • Dual outlet exhaust, available sport grade muffler (Performance)

  • Carbon fiber composite driveshaft (6MT)

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