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September 22, 2023

First Drive: 2024 Nissan Z And Nissan GT-R

Let’s stop for a moment and admire the fact that both the Nissan Z and GT-R exist. At a time when carmakers have gone crazy over electrification, these two honest-to-goodness sportscar is testament that some people at Nissan haven’t lost their cajónes. It’s the most definitive sign of Nissan daring to do what others don’t; to do seemingly the impossible when everyone else has given up. What a world we live in.

Of course, now begs the question: are they good to drive? Honestly, that verdict can only be resolved with a full test drive, but for this quick track experience (limited to just two laps around the Clark International Speedway per vehicle), both Nissan sportscars score high in just about every department. Both have a wide breadth, and for that, will satisfy just about everyone from the hardcore enthusiast to the casual speed freak.

The track experience started out immediately with the big daddy—the new Nissan GT-R. It’s a car I’ve had the pleasure of driving once before, but not full-on-mental on a race track. And it wasn’t this refreshed model either.

To recap, the 2024 GT-R gets more cosmetic tweaks. Gone is the V-motion grille and in its place is a broad grille with a mesh-pattern for improved cooling and reduced drag. As a bonus, it’s meant to emulate the R34 GT-R. The front bumper is also new; reshaped for a wider look. It also contains hexagonal DRLs at each corner. At the back, the bumper’s also new (now with a GT3-style rear fog lamp) as are the lenses for the quad taillight cluster. Regardless of these changes, they’re so subtle it takes a 2022 GT-R parked next to it to make the new bits stand out. Pre- or post-facelift, however, it’s not pretty. If you’re looking for any sort of feminine curves here, there aren’t any. It’s about as sexy as Michelle Rodriguez or Ronda Rousey.

On that point, that’s the sort of performance you’ll get with the GT-R. It’s the sort of car that you have to treat with respect. Bitch slap it, and it’ll bitch slap you back. With 570 horsepower and 637 Nm (100 RON fuel required so it’s Petron Blaze or nothing) on tap fed through a six-speed dual clutch and Nissan’s ATTESA (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain for you acronym nerds), it goes crazy in a straight line and even crazier through corners. The level of mechanical grip is just staggering that you’re pulling a lot of speed especially for the brave. Even a late lunge through one of the tighter corners of CIS isn’t enough to upset it. And the brakes, boy the brakes, they get you out of trouble every time.

No doubt about it, the GT-R is a track weapon with a license plate. It requires a certain kind of mentality to extract fully; a mental state I honestly don’t have. This isn’t about driving fun in an emotional sense; it’s about knocking down seconds off a lap time. Its appeal is down to its brutal speed and almost unlimited levels of grip. If you spin one around, it’s probably because your driving skill isn’t enough to tame this beast.

Now, whereas the GT-R is like a broadsword, the new Nissan Z is a rapier. Instead of being engineered to chase down lap times, the Z is all about driver involvement and emotional engagement; in short, it’s a partner of equals; an approachable, attainable sportscar.

The tried-and-tested FM (Front Mid-ship) platform has been tweaked, but its underlying grand tourer character remains. True enough, it neatly capitalizes on this soft suspension setup to intimately communicate with the driver regardless of skill level.

Body roll and pitching tells you exactly what you’re doing from how much grip’s left to how much you’re applying the throttle and the brakes. Nissan calls the Z (Fairlady Z in Japan) a dance partner, and it’s a label it lives up to. There’s great predictability and control, and movements are kept in tight check that quick corner transitions don’t upset the chassis (unless you happen to hammer down on the gas too early; more on that later). The brakes are also a great bit since the latest Z uses high-performance pads. It’s held up to repeated journo track abuse especially compared to the previous 370Z. I was unfortunate enough to be behind the wheel of the previous Z when the brakes went out.

Great as the Nissan Z’s handling is, the most transformative aspect is its engine. Eschewing the previous Z’s normally-aspirated V6, the twin-turbo one makes for big increases in power and torque. No one’s counting but despite the 400Z nickname, the latest one makes just 383 horsepower for the Philippine market (475 Nm of torque is the same as global markets). Nissan Philippines says it’s because of its 95 octane tune, but they are checking if running 100 octane will allow the sportscar to unlock the full 405 horsepower. Whatever its dyno output, because peak torque comes in early, it takes just a jab of the throttle to send it rocketing away. Turn off the traction control, and it doesn’t take much to send the tail whipping about. Typically, slush boxes aren’t great for the track, but the nine-speed automatic here is smart enough to hold gears and downshift upon braking. It even makes the entire package friendlier in that newbies can spend their time perfecting their racing lines and braking first. Purists can still opt for a six-speed manual as a no-cost option.

Because of its carryover platform, park the 370Z next to the all-new Z, and you’ll see that it shares the basic hardpoints. Compared to the GT-R and its angry look, this one’s a head-turner. Imagine your fantasy dance partner and turn him or her into a sportscar, that’s pretty much the Z. Sexy, prim, sporty, premium, retro, modern—it’s everything and anything all at once. Except maybe for the controversial square grille, it’s a lovely piece of work. Slap on a set of Watanabe wheels and you’re done, looks-wise. For those who plan to tune or customize their Z, it’s a proverbial rabbit hole with all sort of aftermarket parts available (some 370Z parts even bolt straight on).

Both the Nissan Z and the GT-R have earned the irk of the internet due to the age of their platforms: one’s riding on a platform that’s old enough to be in porn, while the other one will soon be able to get its own driver’s license. But who cares? The fact of the matter is that they’re so good you’ll forget about what’s underneath. The GT-R and its P 12.445-million tag doesn’t make it a supercar killer it once was, but it still remains brutally effective regardless. Normally, it’s hard to outshine Godzilla, but here, it’s the P 3.888-million Nissan Z that’s the real star and that’s not just because of its Proto Yellow color. More than anything both these cars is a big fuck you to anyone else who’s turned their back on performance (yeah, that’s you Mitsubishi) or resorted to outsourcing development of their halo cars to other carmakers (hello, Toyota).


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