2023 Nissan Z Trim Breakdown: Sport Vs. Performance

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Which new Nissan Z should you buy?

After a long wait, the Nissan Z was officially revealed a few days ago. It seems like forever since the Z Proto was shown as a preview to Nissan's new sports car, but the wait is finally over. In an early comparison between the new Nissan Z and the Toyota GR Supra, we feel that the Nissan has the edge. But if you've already decided the same, which Nissan Z should you buy? Not all Zs are created equally, and with some key differences in spec, the cheapest option might not be the best.

The new Nissan Z will be sold in two main trims - Sport and Performance - and one Proto Spec limited-edition model based on the Performance and inspired by last year's Z Proto. Only 240 units of the Proto Spec will be made. We've broken down the key differences between these trims to help you decide which is best.

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Nissan

Performance & Handling

First, let's look at some of the similarities between the trims. Every Nissan Z gets the same 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 with 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, with power going to the rear wheels exclusively. A six-speed close-ratio manual gearbox is standard and a nine-speed automatic is available. The differences start under the skin, however. The Performance model has a sport-tuned suspension and more powerful brakes with four-piston front calipers instead of the Sport's two-piston front brakes. The former also has aluminum calipers instead of cast iron items and the brakes are larger with 14-inch rotors up front and 13.8-inch items at the back. The Sport only has 12.6- and 12.1-inch rotors.

Additionally, the Performance gets SynchroRev Match on manual models and a mechanical clutch-type limited-slip differential, plus standard launch control with the automatic. A sport grade muffler is added to the Performance Z's sport grade exhaust muffler.

When it comes to laying down 400 hp to the tarmac around a corner, a limited-slip differential is crucial. All 3.0 Supras get one, so you'll likely want one here.

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Nissan
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Nissan
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Visual & Infotainment

From the outside, the Sport is distinguished by 18-inch dark-painted alloy wheels wrapped in Yokohama ADVAN Sport high-performance tires, whereas the Performance has 19-inch RAYS lightweight forged wheels and Bridgestone Potenza S007 high-performance tires with a definite grip advantage. Both have LED headlights but the Performance adds both front and rear chin spoilers.

Inside, there are numerous differences between the Sport and the higher-spec Performance. The base model has black woven cloth seats with synthetic suede inserts, whereas the Performance has leather upholstery and special bolsters for better support. The latter also gets power-adjustable and heated seats, a premium leather steering wheel, suede door trim, and aluminum sport pedals.

The limited Proto Spec is an option on the Performance. It adds Bronze alloy wheels, yellow brake calipers, yellow interior accents, and a unique shift knob for the manual.

Infotainment tech shared between the two includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM radio, but whereas the Sport makes do with an eight-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker sound system, the Performance has a larger nine-inch touchscreen, an eight-speaker Bose sound system, and navigation.

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Nissan
Nissan
Nissan

Verdict: Which Z?

Many shoppers will look at the headline and see 400 horsepower for $40,000 and think the Z Sport is a bargain, but we're not so sure. Typically, a lower-priced version of a sports car is meant to be stripped of the frills to make it an easy-to-access purist's machine. However in this case, the base Sport strips out a lot of the core components enthusiast's will want. With smaller, less powerful brakes, no rev matching, no launch control, and no mechanical limited-slip differential, as well as tires that won't be as grippy, you're buying a lot of horsepower with less means to be able to control it. These upgrades are integral to making the Z handle the way it needs to. The $40,000 Z is a marketing tool to get shoppers in the door, but we don't think it's the best Z there is, and we don't think it'll be the one Nissan uses to showcase the Z to journalists when we get to drive it.

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Nissan
Nissan
Nissan

That honor goes to the Z Performance. Nissan will undoubtedly make use of grippier tires and an LSD when showcasing what the model can do, and anyone who is serious about driving won't consider smaller brakes when there's 400 hp on the table.

Not knowing the price of the Z Performance, it's difficult to say whether the cost of the upgrades is justified, but we can't help but feel maybe Nissan should've added a third trim, one that slots in between the Z Sport and Z Performance with all the mechanical enhancements, but without the embellishments like leather seats, power adjustable seating, a larger infotainment screen, etc.

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