The new Z car is here, and it only has one archrival.
The Nissan Z has finally arrived, following an extensive teaser campaign that just didn't seem to end - it was even teased again yesterday, just before it was revealed. Nevertheless, we'll forgive Nissan for dangling that carrot in front of us for so long, as the end result looks fantastic and seems to have all the characteristics we'd have hoped for, from a manual gearbox to a suitably retro design. It looks fantastic, but while Nissan has been giving us the runaround, Toyota's GR Supra has been impressing those who experience it in the real world. The Supra will arguably be the yardstick against which the Nissan Z is measured, so before we get a chance to see how they stack up in the real world, we're looking at how they compare on paper.
The GR Supra was berated on release for its relatively small proportions compared to the FT-1 concept that we all loved, but it has since grown on us as a well-balanced mix of aggressive ducts and vents with smooth, muscular arches and a double-bubble roof adding to its exclusive feel. A pair of exhaust finishers on either end of a beefy faux diffuser adds to the drama. On the 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six versions that we're comparing to the Nissan Z, 19-inch wheels are standard, as are matte black mirror caps, but the A91 Edition adds matte black wheels, carbon fiber mirror caps, and a carbon fiber front lip spoiler. The ducktail spoiler has become a signature for the A90 generation, and while we've fallen in love with its looks in photos, nothing compares to how it looks in person, where those strong haunches and curves are accentuated by changing light conditions. In short, it's one of our favorite sports car designs. period.
With the Nissan Z, the production car looks almost identical to the Z Proto concept, and that's a welcome change. Like the Supra, LED headlights and taillights feature, with the latter particularly intricate on the Z. 18-inch wheels are standard with 19-inch RAYS alloys on the upper spec, as is a trunk spoiler and a large faux diffuser with two exhaust tips. A different take on the double-bubble roof is employed here, and like the Supra, a special edition is available. For the Z, it's the Proto Spec, which adds yellow brake calipers and tints the RAYS forged wheels bronze.
Unlike the Supra, which was essentially a clean-sheet design, the Z takes influence from those that have gone before it with a 240Z-inspired silhouette, taillights reminiscent of the 300ZX's items, and a broad, square grille inspired by the early Zs. It's a familiar look, and yet no less appetizing to look at.
In our opinion, both cars look great but the Nissan Z wins for its less fussy design, classic proportions, and elegant use of retro styling accents.
Enthusiasts will have decided on a point of bias here before anything is even discussed. Why? Because Toyota has committed a cardinal sin and in following up to the 2JZ or the A80 Supra, has employed not only a BMW platform, but BMW engines, too. While the powertrains might be stellar, fanboys find this hard to forgive. Then there's the detail of how you shift gears. The Supra is auto-only, while Nissan has made a six-speed manual the shifter of choice with a nine-speed auto as an option. Both are rear-wheel drive.
As for the engines themselves, Toyota gives buyers more choice by offering a cheaper 2.0-liter turbo four with 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and is capable of a five-second 0-60 mph dash. By bringing the price down to $43k with this engine, Toyota has made the GR Supra more attainable. To more directly compete with the Nissan Z, the Supra 3.0 has a 3.0-liter BMW B58 straight-six, turbocharged to produce 382 hp and 368 lb-ft, ringing up 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. Only the 2.0T doesn't have an active differential, but the 3.0T gets one as standard.
Nissan's twin-turbo V6 comfortably beats both BMW, er, Toyota powertrains with 400 hp, but its 350 lb-ft is less than the range-topping Supra. It's a Nissan-built engine, though, sourced from the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400, and Nissan has been brave enough to give buyers a manual gearbox with a high-performance Exedy clutch to appeal to the purists and the #SaveTheManual brigade. Nissan hasn't published a 0-60 mph time, only citing a 15% improvement in the figure compared to the 370Z. A bit of math gives us a figure of 4.3 seconds, which is slower than the BMW, but will that really matter if the driving experience is more involving? The nine-speed auto could be quicker, but we'll have to wait to find out. Even the manual has launch control, as well as automatic rev matching. The Z doesn't come with a limited-slip diff as standard, but the Performance spec equips a mechanical LSD.
The Z might've lost out with an electronically power-assisted steering rack, but it seems to be geared towards interaction more than the Supra is. We'll have to wait to see how they drive, but the Nissan has a truly unique selling point here.
The Supra's interior looks like it could have come straight out of a BMW, but that's no bad thing, with loads of quality finishings and a good mix of Alcantara and leather. It does mean that the design is very familiar, with infotainment atop the dash and a chunky steering wheel to grip onto. The seats are supportive, but feel very BMW. There is a downside to this, as even the shifter - which isn't available in an H-pattern for you to shift yourself - is straight BMW, giving the Supra a feeling of cheapness in the sense that Toyota couldn't be bothered to develop smaller details to give the Supra its own identity.
An 8.8-inch digital instrument cluster is matched to an infotainment touchscreen of the same size. Other features include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry with push-button start, lane departure warning, and collision warning with pedestrian detection.
Without leveraging another brand for development, the interior of the Z is pure Nissan. It is based on the previous-gen 370Z, though, and certain elements like the position of the infotainment screen (eight inches as standard but available as nine on the Z Performance grade) have an old school feel. But there are contemporary nuances like a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The steering wheel is supposedly designed to have a retro feel, and atop the dash where the Supra's infotainment screen is positioned, the Z has triple gauge pods for boost pressure, battery voltage, and turbo speed. You get a choice of three color themes for the cabin: Black, Red, and Blue. The Z Proto Spec adds yellow accents and layered seat material. This is where the Z pulls a lead, as it feels like a unique vehicle with its own design language rather than one borrowed from elsewhere.
As in the Supra, the Z features keyless entry with push-button start, and forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. Unlike the Supra, you get lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors as part of the standard offering.
The 2021 Toyota GR Supra starts at a base price of $42,990, and that's not even with the straight-six engine. The cheapest 3.0 will cost you $50,990, while the top A91 Edition will set you back $55,990. The Nissan Z is expected to be much cheaper than even the 2.0-liter Supra, with an estimated base price of just $35,000 - although that won't get you a limited slip differential.
Taking into consideration the Z's power advantage, manual gearbox, stunning design, numerous standard features, and affordable expected asking price, it seems like a winner right out of the blocks. However, the Supra is remarkably well-finished, the inline-six, while not unique to Toyota, punches well above its weight, and it's based on a far newer platform than the Z. We're also worried the electro-mechanical steering of the Z will be too close to Infiniti's system that isn't the greatest in practical use.
A premium cabin and a known recipe could attract you to the Supra, or the Nissan Z might steal your heart with its funky design and focus on driver engagement. Either way, these are both excellent sports cars, but if we had to choose, the Nissan Z looks like our favorite.