Mountain Wheels: All-new Nissan Z packs subdued looks with explosive turbo power |

Mountain Wheels: All-new Nissan Z packs subdued looks with explosive turbo power

With wider tires, stiffer body rigidity and 400 horses from a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, the 2022 Nissan Z delivers an exciting but manageable two-seater experience.
Andy Stonehouse/For the Summit Daily News

After getting a grand tease last fall with the splashy debut of the all-new, seventh-generation Nissan Z sports car — lots of looks, but no seat time — I had an absolutely fantastic and totally immersive afternoon with the car last week in Boulder.

And the new, 400-horsepower, twin-turbocharged version of the classic Japanese automobile really does live up to the hype, with package of looks and performance that makes it in many ways a more livable and comfortable alternative to the relatively new Toyota Supra, its most direct competitor.

It’s been 53 years since the first Z appeared, and while the most recent and very roundish last-generation 370Z had maybe fallen off our collective radar, this sharp-edged but still 1970s-retro-styled, rear-wheel-drive two-seater will provide lots of summertime excitement to whoever is lucky enough to snag one in real life.

I got an hour apiece to rip up the canyons in both a bright Passion Red nine-speed automatic and a Seiran Blue six-speed manual edition of the higher-end performance model of the 2022 Z (it’s just the Z, as it probably always should have been).

For $49,990 plus paint job charges, you get performance brakes, 19-inch wheels, a 9-inch touchscreen and Bose audio system, heated leather seats and more distinctive chin and rear spoilers; a standard Sport version is $39,990 minus those bits, but still fully stocked with a 400-horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that will also generate 350 pound-feet of torque.

It turns out that’s all a pretty healthy amount of top-end power to add to the Z package, versus maybe some ungodly double amount you might find in a Nissan GT-R. You can indeed get into a lot of trouble really quickly by running the Z’s engine up to high RPMs, where the output suddenly takes a leap to hyperspace and the vehicle gets a little light on its 275/35 rear tires.

But that’s only at the absolute outer edge of the performance curve, mind you: In the rest of my drives, even up the precipitously hairpin-curved Magnolia Road off Boulder Canyon, Z felt impressively planted, super-responsive and safely athletic at all times.

It’s probably heretical to say I liked the automatic transmission experience a little better, but it did allow me to spend 100% of my time concentrating on very heavy acceleration, late braking and the almost intuitive cornering you get with this heavily reimagined automobile.

The six-speed manual was, however, pretty forgiving, with a relatively light clutch and very solid gear placement; very old-school enthusiasts may find that a pleasant way to lessen the pure and beautiful terror of Z’s unrestrained output.

Even Nissan’s program director admits that the car’s new larger front grille is perhaps a little ungainly, but it’s there to help meet the enhanced cooling requirements of the twin turbo and intercooler systems. I think it will grow on you.

The rest of the body is smooth, sleek and athletically sculpted, from more aerodynamic door handles to the GT-R-inspired, low-profile spoiler. Underneath, structural rigidity is up 10% from the last model, those tires are wider all around and updated suspension and a more natural steering feel have all been built in to accentuate the experience. You can also tilt and telescope the wheel and access seat controls on the transmission-side of the seats to accommodate a broader range of American-sized drivers — some 1.8 million Zs have been made since car launched, but 75% of them are sold here in the U.S.

That seating is comfortable, not race-car snug or over-bolstered, and the cabin is comfortably compact but well laid out. A new fully digital instrument screen has various performance display modes, offering brightly lit shift points, which adds to the fun if you’re pushing it hard in the automatic transmission’s manual mode, using the solid metal wheel shift paddles. There’s also a larger steering wheel, borrowed from the GT-R, and even a second cupholder hidden in the center console, to make for a more passenger-friendly experience.

While the manual performance model still makes pretty awesome music on the road, the automatic was absolutely symphonic, especially under full acceleration in the canyon tunnels. It’s got a very distinctive voice, which goes along with the car’s show-stopping looks.

Nissan is hoping to capitalize on a recent upsurge in dedicated sports cars — provided it can get the vehicles built and delivered to dealers, as it’s experiencing the same production delays as everyone else. But if you’ve put down money on this screaming ride, it’s absolutely going to be worth the wait.

Andy Stonehouse

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