Tag Archives: sports car

2023 Nissan Z Performance

Z (it’s only Z now) nails modern, yet retro, looks and power …

Not many car lines go all the way to Z.

But Nissan has been going all the way since 1969 when it launched the Datsun 240Z its long-hooded sports car for the rest of us. I thought of it as a mini-Corvette at the time and, well, I still do.

In fact, Nissan’s relaunched 2023 version, now just called Z, has a nose that reflects both past and present Corvettes with its sleek pointy snout. Yet the new model has been smoothed and the hatch roofline slimmed to give the care a sleeker look. The Z also has been powered up with a 400-horse twin-turbo V6 and given a spiffy new digital-laden interior to bring it in line with today’s usual electronic wizardry.

My pre-production test car (dealers are to get theirs soon) was a stunning Seiran Blue Metallic with black roof, that two-tone paint scheme adding $1,295 to the sticker. But if ever I’d pay extra for paint, this may do it. Folks looked, some gave a thumbs up, others came out of their houses to see it up close at the curb. No doubt Nissan nailed the modern, yet retro, styling.

No pretense of this being a family car or carrying more than two as there are just two seats here and a long cargo area under a glassy hatch, but still just minor cargo space. Again, there will just be two of you with a suitcase each and Z accommodates that. Golfers may have to make other arrangements and forgo a hand cart.

Styling aside, and that’s hard to even say, the tested Z Performance was a well-controlled rocket with those 400 rear-wheel-driving horses pushing this up and down highway entry ramps like it was heading out of the pits at Road America. Heck, it just might!

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2023 Z Car – YouTube

Unlike almost any other sports car the Z comes standard with a 6-speed manual, otherwise known as a standard transmission or stick shift. Younger drivers may not be aware, but this is the way many vehicles used to arrive, an automatic tranny costing extra. Ironically, today’s automatics (a 9-speed is optional) now get better fuel economy than the manuals, but that’s another issue.

The stick is fun and easy to slide between the gears, although the throws are longer than I had anticipated. Mazda’s Miata still has the shortest throws I’ve encountered, but this works nicely and the clutch is moderately weighted so not a leg cramper in stop-and-go traffic. My one initial concern was how hard I had to push the shifter down to slide it far right for reverse. I got used to it.

Also need to mention that there’s a SynchroRev Match system here to blip the engine and match its revs to the gear you’ve selected. So as you downshift into a corner that sweet burp of the engine lets your passenger know you’re a legit road racer. Thanks techies!

Nissan’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine is stout and smooth. It feels strong as you slip through the gears and can easily lead to tire squawks. This had low-pro performance 19-inch tires that gripped the road like crazy until we had an early fall monsoon. Shifting early to maintain traction was needed in the wet. All-season tires would help, but then you lose performance and, well, Performance is this model’s last name.

Handling as insinuated above was sports car fun, meaning responsive. Wheel feel is moderate and this steering wheel is wrapped in leather, as is the shift knob. The Nissan Z is well-balanced with neutral handling. I’ve heard some say it’s too easy to swing its tail, but until it rained I was having no issues.

Ride is firm as you’d expect in a car of just 100-inch wheelbase. Plus the Performance model adds a sportier tuned suspension, so if like me you prefer a bit softer ride (I’m 60+) then the standard Z may be a more comforting choice, plus it will save you some dough.

Z’s brakes also deserve a mention here. The Performance trim gets enhanced brakes with red calipers with Nissan labeling. Front and rear discs are vented 14 and 13.8 inchers, so stopping distance and quickness is awesome. I suspect the standard brakes aren’t too shabby either.

Inside Nissan designers have created a very comfy, livable interior that would allow for long highway jaunts.

The digital dash is clean and the 9-inch touchscreen (8-inch is standard) is big enough but not overpowering, plus simple to use. I had no issues and the Bose sound system is solid too.

Interior styling and the comfy seats likely will dazzle most riders though.

First, this one featured blue leather seats and blue dash and door trim under a soft black dash top. Door inserts are suede trimmed in leather and the seats feature a suede center section that’s perforated.

Console and dash are basically a matte black so no nasty sun reflections here, something other car makers could learn from. That console is trimmed in blue leather to add visual pop too.

Retro gauges, but more useful ones would be a help!

Atop the dash for a retro look are three gauges that might matter if you were racing as they tell Boost, Turbo Speedm and Volts. I’d challenge most folks to know what voltage their car should be showing on a gauge (about 14 here) and as long as I can feel the turbo boost I’m not sure I need a number placed on it. So while I appreciate the retro look, I’d say substitute more useful info such as a fuel gauge or clock.

Nissan’s performance seats are beautifully sculpted and fitted to encircle the driver and passenger so they don’t slide about, or even move, when the car is rocketing around tight rural highway twisties, or during a track day. Shorter folks may find these a bit too confining, but I loved the seats, which are partially powered. That’s right, there are two power buttons on the inside edge (toward the console) of the seat. These control fore and aft movement and the seat back’s angle. Takes a bit to get used to the location, but I did within a week.

The power seat controls are on the inside seat edge.

On the left side are manual controls to adjust the seat bottom’s angle and a height adjustment for the rear of the seat bottom. I’d like it to go just a tad higher, but I’m just 5-5. Nissan heats the seats too.

The Z’s steering wheel is a manual tilt/telescope model, but round and not heated. I’d prefer a flat-bottom wheel in any sports car and especially to create more knee room when one is shifting a manual and also when exiting. I found too that unless I could open the door to its maximum sweep I had trouble getting my right foot clear of its edge when getting out.

A couple other issues to consider inside. First, the cup holders are so far back on the console they are difficult to use, although easier for long-legged drivers who may position the seat all the way back. The storage box there also is way behind the elbow, but then again, this is a two-seater and space is limited, especially with a manual shift lever on the console.

There also is no wireless phone charger in the tray under the center stack, just a nice spot to lay your phone. And while I know this is a sports car with a throaty growl, road noise, especially on cement, can make listening to the radio a bit of a chore.

That hatch opens wide, but the cargo bay is mighty shallow.

I did like the three climate control dials, all of which can be set to automatic for fan speed, temperature and the directional. Nice!

Safety features are solid here too with smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitor.

Fuel economy is nothing special, but you’re buying this for power, not efficiency. The EPA rates Nissan’s Z at 18 mpg city and 24 highway for the manual version and I got 22.8 mpg in a mix of city and highway. And yes, this drinks premium fuel.

Note that the automatic is rated better at 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

Big disc brakes with red calipers confirm this is a sports car!

Pricing?

The base level Nissan Z is an absolute bargain for power, looks and handling, starting at $41,015, including delivery. So think of it as 400 hp for $40k. There are two more levels though, and these push the envelope a bit, exceeding $50k.

The tested Performance model starts at $51,015 with delivery and ended up at $53,210 adding just the snazzy paint job, illuminated kick plates ($500), and floor mats ($400). The top level Proto Spec lists at $54,015.

Z epitomizes modern fastback style sports car and is an automotive icon. At its base price it’s extremely attractive. Move up to the higher versions and you’re in the Audi TT and BMW Z4 range. So at that level you may just want to consider a Kia Stinger or Ford Mustang and get a rear seat to boot!

FAST STATS: 2023 Nissan Z Performance

Hits: Stylish 2-seater, excellent power, balanced neutral handling, good brakes, slick stick shift. Excellent seat comfort, heated seats, automatic climate control dials, good info screen size and function and good level of safety devices.

Misses: Firm ride, considerable road noise at highway speeds, tough exit when door isn’t 100% opened, awkward cup holder placement, no heated steering wheel, no flat-bottom wheel, long shift throws, no wireless charger, little cargo room and premium fuel preferred.

Snazzy door handle styling on the Z!

Made in: Japan

Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, 400 hp/350 torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Weight: 3,507 lbs.

Wheelbase: 100.4 in.

Length: 172.4 in.

Cargo: 7.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 18/24

MPG: 22.8 (tested)

Base Price: $51,015 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Illuminated kick plates, $500

Two-tone paint, $1,295

Floor mats, $400

Test vehicle: $53,210

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

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2022 Toyota GR86 Premium

Sporty looks, handling and a price sure to entice …

Hyundai’s Veloster N last week tops the A-list for sporty, affordable wanna-be racers because it has oodles of muscle and attitude. This week’s Toyota GR86 Premium is a bit easier on the eyes, but easily wedges into this segment at an A-.

Here’s my reasoning.

If you want power, agility and looks, the Veloster is a kick-ass option and as tested only $35,005. In every way the GR86 (more on the name in a sec), is the Veloster’s equal, except on the power front. Veloster had 275 horses while the Toyota has a still generous 228 hp.

But before you think GR86 should maybe drop to B+ with such a big boost bulge, consider this, the Toyota rides better (still bumpy), offers more sensuous lines and costs less. You heard that right.

The difference is the GR86 is a sporty car, not a racer. Think upgraded Celica from years ago.

A little background. The GR86 is a close cousin to Subaru’s BRZ. Subaru and Toyota jointly engineered the BRZ and GR86, which is why it’s Subaru’s only non-AWD vehicle (keeps costs down) and why it packs the only 4-cylinder boxer engine in Toyota’s lineup. Boxers are a Subaru specialty (Porsche too) and provide smooth power that’s very linear.

Both cars have sporty, sophisticated looks that get noticed. I even had a guy with a thundering Tacoma buzz me on the highway in hopes I’d give chase. It helped that the test car was bathed in an orange-tinted bright red that Toyota dubs Track bRed (get it? Track bred), and for which it charges $425 extra.

The good news for GR86 buyers is that after skipping the 2021 model year, it’s back and that flat-4 cranks 228 horses, a 23 horse gain from its previous 2.0-liter boxer engine. Torque is up too, nearly 30 pound-feet to 184. That means more grunt off the line and, get this, it’s connected to a 6-speed manual transmission. Stick fans rejoice!

View Mark’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkcBOVUcQa8

Shifting is smooth and easy and it’s easy to chirp the rear-drive tires, not to mention get a little tail waggle around sharp turns, especially if the pavement is a wee bit damp.

GR86 is simple driving fun with a light (weighs only 2,833 lbs.), but precise steering effort. A limited-slip differential also aids cornering and acceleration out of a turn. This is a car that makes you want to hit the twisties, just for the fun of dancing the Toyota around corners. How much fun is it? Well, Car and Driver named this and the Subaru (by default) to its Top 10 car list this year, and C&D writers are even more obsessed with handling and power than me!

I wish the shifter throws were short and sweet like those in Mazda’s MX-5 (think Miata), but they are longer and the ball-shifter is big for a small driver’s hand. Still, a stick is a hoot to drive. For the record, an automatic is available for $1,500, but really?

Ride is bumpy as this is a short-wheelbase car, just 101.4 inches, but amazingly it was not as abrupt as last week’s Veloster, which really IS aimed more at buyers intending to purchase some track time. I found the GR86 ride tolerable for most city drives.

Braking is impressive and aids the sporty image. Discs are vented and 11.6 inches up front and just a fraction smaller in back.

Now, that name, why GR? It stands for Gazoo Racing, which helped develop the car and is Toyota’s longtime motorsports team and a division of the Japanese automaker.

Outside you’ll see GR and Toyota designers gave the nose a smooth rounded schnoz, avoiding the angular looks of the Veloster and funky Honda Civic Si and the boxier styling of Volkswagen’s venerable Golf GTi. There’s a modest trunk lid spoiler to add some tail flare and the roofline has a decidedly Porsche sweep to it. The result is a pleasant, sporty blend.

Inside, the interior is simple and easy to navigate, with extremely supportive seats, a new bigger info screen, plus two-level heated seats.

Seats themselves are a black suede type material with faux leather trim and gray stitching. There’s also a gray partial racing stripe that projects partway up the bottom cushion then reappears partway up the back cushion. Looks sharp.

Dash and doors are black and feature that suede material atop the doors to add a softer feel than the hard plastic elsewhere. The console is a flat black/gray that avoids reflections often found on consoles using black gloss trim. Satin chrome trims the console’s edge.

Toyota boosts the infotainment screen up to 8 inches and it’s easy to set and find channels, plus there are tuner and volume knobs. However, that volume knob led to an odd discovery. It’s so close to the touchscreen’s edge that apparently my little finger frequently touched the screen as I adjusted the volume, changing the radio to FM. Took me a while to figure it out as I couldn’t immediately tell that my pinky was the culprit as the touch was so slight.

Below the screen are big, easy to use climate control dials and toggles, and there’s a Track button on the console that changes the driver’s instrument panel for a racier look. I could not feel a dramatic change in performance with Track engaged, maybe a touch quicker acceleration.

Complementing the sporty interior is metal-faced pedals, all three, but Toyota does not go with a flat-bottom steering wheel that would give the GR86 a racier look and open up knee space for entering and exiting.

Speaking of which, crawling out of the GR86 is not too difficult, despite being a low-riding vehicle. It was much easier to exit than the Veloster, while both had tall side bolsters on their seats that can restrict exiting. There IS a rear seat in the Toyota, but it’s mostly useless. I’m short, so keep the driver’s seat fairly far forward and my 13-year-old grandson could not squeeze behind my seat to sit upright. Instead he laid sideways while we remained parked in the driveway.

The best use for the rear seat is for cargo as the trunk is a petite 6.3 cubic feet, so maybe the back seat is a bit more useful than I give it credit for. Rear seats do fold down to extend cargo room.

The Premium model’s stereo comes with 8 speakers, but to hear it you must crank it as the road noise is considerable, especially on cement highway pavement. I’d prefer a bit more sound deadening.

Electronic safety devices are minimal here, but are exactly what most of us would demand, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. No smart cruise or lane-keeping assist as the point of this car is to be driven, not computer-guided.

Gas mileage was just OK at 23.4 mpg in a week’s driving and about 70% on the highway. The EPA says to expect 20 mpg city and 27 highway. The biggest concern is the GR86’s preference for premium fuel. With performance there’s always a price. Ouch!

What’s a little premium fuel when your car looks this awesome?

The better news is pricing. Starting price for the Premium model is $31,325 and includes delivery, while a base model with 6-speed manual lists at $30,225. Remember an automatic adds $1,500.

With a few minor add-ons the test car settled at $32,975, so about $2 grand less than the Veloster.

The choice between the two could come down to price, styling and ride. Performance geeks will be happier with the Veloster. Folks who appreciate value, more sophisticated looks along with sporty performance should shop the GR86 or BRZ.

Fast Stats: 2022 Toyota GR86 Premium

Hits: Sporty looks, light responsive handling, 6-speed manual tranny and good power and braking. Bigger info screen, 2-level heated seats, big easy climate buttons and toggles, supportive seats, metal-faced pedals. Simple high-value fun.

Gorgeous, sporty, spunky and light on its wheels, that's the GR86. Congrats Toyota, it's also AFFORDABLE!
Even the taillights look great!

Misses: Road noise, bumpy ride, no flat-bottom wheel and prefers premium fuel. Useless rear seat and a touchscreen design that is too easy to bump the FM button when trying to adjust the radio volume knob.

Made in: Japan

Engine: 2.4-liter boxer 4, 228 hp/184 torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Weight: 2,833 lbs.

Wheelbase: 101.4 in.

Length: 167.9 in.

Cargo: 6.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 20/27

MPG: 23.4 (tested)

Base Price: $31,325 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $29,811

Major Options: Track bRed paint, $425

Carpeted floor/cargo mats, $249

GR shift knob, $149

GR air filter, $75

Preferred accessory pkg. #2 (all-weather floor liners, all-weather cargo tray, first aid kit, quick charge cable package, keyed glovebox), $364

Auto-dimming mirror w/Homelink, $230

Rear bumper applique, $69

Door edge guards, $89

Test vehicle: $32,975

Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Roadster

Mercedes’ AMG GT C is a street legal racer …

Mercedes-Benz has been dominating Formula 1 racing for six years and it has a long history of dominant race cars dating back to the 1930s. Famous race drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, and now Lewis Hamilton have put Mercedes squarely in the public eye.

Winning is the name of Mercedes game and Mercedes has been slapping an exclamation point on that in its road cars since 1967 via AMG. That’s Mercedes high-performance division, a separate unit that virtually customizes certain Mercedes-Benz vehicles to near race standards. AMG was launched by Daimler, Mercedes’ parent. Continue reading 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Roadster

2020 Toyota GR Supra Premium

New Supra delivers: Oh What a Feeling …

Seems collectively we’ve forgotten that it’s fun to drive a car, a sports car in particular. Instead the driving nation thrives on the high-riding muscle of big pickups and SUVs that 25 years ago might have been considered farm implements, or candidates for a Monster Truck rally.

But growing up in Indianapolis, where traditionally there’s a big race in May, I got hooked early on fast, nimble cars. Toyota, while making plenty of off-road haulers, used to also offer up finesse and styling. Think all the way back to its original sports car, the 2000GT, a swanky needle nose fastback introduced in 1967. Continue reading 2020 Toyota GR Supra Premium

Die-cast: Autoart Jaguar E-Type Lightweight

Jaguar E-Type “the most beautiful car ever made” …

There is nothing like an E-Type Jaguar, for style, pizzazz or sheer high-performance beauty.

When it was launched in 1961, the E-Type took the auto world by storm. Old men wished they were young again, young men wished they had the cash to buy one, and everyone declared them drop-dead sexy beasts. And this was well before Austin Powers came along.

Even Enzo Ferrari, never known to heap praise on competitors, called it “the most beautiful car ever made.” Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart Jaguar E-Type Lightweight

2020 Nissan Z370 50th Anniversary edition

Latest Z car a beauty, and a bargain …

Sports cars used to be more plentiful, but as we Americans have become larger, so have our cars, crossovers and trucks. Rare is the sporty or sports car, and rarer yet, one we could afford.

But in 1970 Nissan introduced its Datsun 240Z, a long-nosed low-slung sports car with quick handling and a modest price. That same formula is working for 2020 as Nissan launches its 50th Anniversary edition of the Z car, now a Z370. Continue reading 2020 Nissan Z370 50th Anniversary edition

Die-cast: Autoart Lexus LC 500

Lexus LC 500 is a sexy beast in any scale …

Life can be kind of ironic sometimes.

A few weeks back I slid behind the wheel of a beautiful Lexus LC 500h, the hybrid model of this sexy sports car. Not many current cars knock you out when you first see them, styling overall being pretty bland these days.

But the LC 500 is a knockout with the punch of a heavyweight fighter. It’s graceful, sleek, some might even say sexy. Then Autoart’s new 1/18 scale Lexus LC500 arrived for review. Talk about timely. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart Lexus LC 500

2019 Lexus LC 500h

Lexus LC 500h: A fast hybrid beauty that whines …

What must one expect when buying a car for $100,000?

Certainly standout looks and performance are in the top couple “must haves.” But do you expect a hybrid sports car with supercar looks and a steady whine? Continue reading 2019 Lexus LC 500h

Die-cast: Autoart McLaren P1 GTR

McLaren’s P1 GTR a sexy beast …

Supercars are like cell phones, always one-upping each other to the point that they blend together. Which one is fastest today?

They also all seem cut from the same well chiseled mold with swoopy looks and rounded edges that reflect the stylings of Le Mans-style racers, and at nearly the same cost. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart McLaren P1 GTR

2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Mazda MX-5 Miata stays atop its game … 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Not much changes from year to year with Mazda’s MX-5, commonly known as a Miata, although there’s nothing common about this cute roadster.

First, if you know what a Miata looked like when introduced 28 years ago, you’ve got a good idea of how sharp the new one looks. This little runabout was restyled a couple years ago, actually shrinking a bit, and getting more muscular rounded fenders and slim LED headlights. But really, you know immediately that this is a Miata, er, MX-5. Continue reading 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club