Driven: Nissan Z

Thank goodness there are still a few car manufacturers building vehicles for people who actually enjoy driving and want to have fun with their cars. One of the best new sports cars on the market is the Nissan Z, which follows a 50-year tradition of Z cars in America, each generation building on the last.

Introduced as an affordable and reliable alternative to British and German sports cars like Jaguars and Porsches, the Z continues to punch above its weight class in terms of performance and styling, particularly for its price. It offers the perfect old school recipe of a classic sports car: powerful engine, relatively lightweight, two seats, rear-wheel-drive and an available manual transmission. Styling draws upon classic Z cues, such as the long hood and short sloping rear deck that make it immediately identifiable as the continuation of the line.

Power from the 400 horsepower 3.0 litre twin-turbocharged V-6 is awesome, with a 0-to-60 time in the mid four-second range. Handling and braking also are top notch. It really hugs the road in tight turns and is a pleasure to drive fast and hard. Plus, it’s still comfortable on city streets and highways. Sport and standard drive modes allow you to set the suspension according to mood and purpose. A limited slip differential and rev-matching are available on the performance model, and launch control and paddle shifters are available on cars with the automatic transmission. A sweet sounding dual sport exhaust ensures that the Z is always engaging. With an impressive horsepower to dollar ratio, the Z offers the performance of a Porsche on a budget.

The interior is well appointed and purposeful. Heated leather seats are well bolstered on the bottom and the back to keep you in place during spirited driving, but the electric seat controls are kind of hidden. The leather wrapped manual tilt and telescoping steering wheel provides plenty of feedback. Automatic temperature controls with three easy to use old-style rotary dials offer the easiest to use climate controls I’ve seen in 10 years. Audio controls are almost as simple, with real buttons for the radio and large knobs for tuning and volume. The center screen, which displays audio, the backup camera and other info, is relatively easy to use. The gauge cluster is actually a configurable video screen, with several display themes available, including one with an analogue tachometer in the middle, like the best sports cars have. Long a Z icon, old school round analogue gauges at the top center of the dash show turbo boost, speed and a voltmeter. It’s a wonderful throwback touch and much appreciated information. There’s a fair amount of rear cargo room under the rear hatch, but it’s not very deep. Tiny shelves behind the seats could hold a briefcase or purse.

According to Mark Eversgard, internet sales manager at Bommarito Nissan in Ballwin, who has deep roots in the St. Louis automotive community, “The increase in power is great; it feels more like a supercar. It introduces the newest technology while retaining a classic look and feel.”


Model: Nissan Z Performance AT
Price: Base $52,000 including delivery; as driven with options $53,200
Gas mileage: 19 city, 28 highway
Drivetrain: Front engine; rear-wheel drive; twin turbo 3.0 litre V-6 engine, 400 horsepower; 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters; 6-speed manual available.

Robert Paster ( is also an an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.

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