One of the most important models in the recent history of the new Nissan Z car manufacturer – not for specific business reasons (not a big seller of two-seater sports cars), but because even a car company needs a soul.
Nissan has gone through some difficult times in the last four or five years. Former Nisan CEO Carlos Ghosn was arrested in 2018. Its business suffered under an aging product line-up, driven primarily by Ghosn’s focus on fleet sales rather than consumer excitement. The company’s chief designer, Alfonso Albaisa, said last year that he was “annoyed”. Even Nissan’s then-CEO, Hiroto Saikawa, was forced to admit in 2019 that the company had hit the “rock bottom”.
But Nissan has begun to return with new cars like the new Pathfinder and the Rug SUV. Jade, with a focus on style and excitement, promises to be a kind of spiritual center of that revival effort. Making this new car, its lines are reminiscent of Nissan sports cars of the past, which helped the company assemble, Albaisa told me at the unveiling of the new Z last year.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to sit in its driver’s seat for hundreds of miles on highways and behind-the-scenes roads. The new Z has proven to be an amazingly desirable long-term companion that provides true comfort in the long, dull stretched part but the excitement when the road invites it.
Once a year, my four brothers, three of whom have classic cars, gather somewhere to drive for a few days. I join them whenever I can. I had been planning for months to meet them this year in a small town in the northwest corner of Maryland. Just a week before our Airbnb reservation started, I received an email from Nissan that a Z, a pre-production car, would be available for me for a test drive but it was only available for one weekend. That weekend.
Sometimes things just happen to line up perfectly.
Soon, I was driving I-95 to Baltimore, where I headed west toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Jade was a comfortable cruiser with a spacious interior for two people and a good amount of cargo space. The first thing I noticed though was that the steering wheel seemed strangely large in the diameter of a sports car. Also, it didn’t give the roadside feel as much as I expected from a sports car during that freeway drive.
There was enough power though. The Z’s 400 horsepower turbocharged V6 likes to go faster and feels better the more it revives. I had to work to prevent it from hitting its 7,000 RPM limit in first gear because it seemed too good to pull the car fast. My car had a six speed manual transmission with a nice stubby shifter. A 9-speed automatic is also available.
My brothers came to see the Z when I pulled up on our Airbnb driveway in West Maryland (and I, too, hopefully, got the car). Much of the focus is on the front end, with its delicate nose and rectangular grille, clearly resembling the promoters of the 70’s 240Z line. The taillights are reminiscent of the later 280ZX and 300ZX blocky backlights
We spent Saturday watching the vintage car race at Summit Point Motorsports Park across the river in West Virginia. On Sunday, we headed to Shenandoah National Park for the famous Skyline Drive that winds its way along the hills.
Jade felt at home, the steering on the curve was better than I expected. The short shifter makes switching gears quick and easy in a manual transmission. At the push of a button near the shifter the rev-matching technology is introduced which automatically matches the speed of the engine with the gear I have chosen, which allows smooth change. I like it off.
Jade whipped through the curve and exploded in a straight line. At road speeds, the weight of the car felt nicely balanced while the driver’s seat felt like I was riding a little behind the center of gravity of the car. The V6 made a fantastic noise whenever I got a chance to run it harder, the turbocharger’s whirlwind sinking in the roar of internal combustion as the power increased.
The Nissan Z Performance I was driving would cost around $ 50,000 The least expensive version of the Z, the Z Sport, costs about $ 10,000 less, but prefers the same engine and transmission as the car I drove. (Mark-up dealers will almost certainly not add to the price of this sticker.) When I parked one, someone told me that he had just ordered a Toyota Supra and asked me which one I liked best. Since it was quite a while after I last ran a supra, it was hard to say. Also, Toyota recently added a manual transmission as an alternative to the Supra, which makes things even more even. In terms of style, at least, Z easily wins, in my opinion.
A few years ago, I did a similar trip on a Chevrolet Corvette that had more horsepower and its engine was like a supercar. It also costs more than 10,000. The Corvette offers amazing performance, the Z, with its easy controls, is a beautiful long-term companion and easy to imagine driving every day.
Even as Nissan prepares to take its next big step, releasing its first electric SUV, the Ariya, Z is welcoming again. With its internal combustion power, sharp handling and comparatively accessible value, it restores a kind of excitement for Nissan and all of us, which may go over the horizon.