Cars > Driven

Nissan Z Premium AT: The fairest of them all

A new Japanese legend in the making

It's not all-new, but we're glad the Nissan Z still lives on in this age of electrification. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Have you ever found something so damn attractive that you instantly fell in love with it?

That’s what the Nissan Z is to me. I’ve seen it countless times in Japan and at media events, but I can’t help but feel butterflies in my stomach as I stare at the loaner unit I find myself with for the weekend.

One of the sexiest cars to come out in recent times. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

It may not be as accessible, as practical, or as powerful as its Japanese sports car colleagues, but many will agree that it is the femme fatale of the segment, much like Gal Gadot or a young Sharon Stone (for the generation that can realistically afford one of these).

It’s one of the best retro-modern production designs of recent times. Dramatic lines, a sharp and pointy nose, staggered forged 19-inch wheels by Rays, and a swooping fastbackthat classic Z silhouette is a distinct design that stands out in the automaker’s lineup.

Stop, look up close, and drool even more. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

It’s a head-turner in darker colors, but you’ll find yourself the center of attention in this neck-snapping Ikazuchi Yellow paint job. Trust me, this is one car that looks so much better in the metal than in photos, and it already looks pretty great from behind a screen.

We wish we got the colorful interiors of other markets as an option. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

However, the interior sort of falls flat in terms of presentation with its monotone color scheme. The colored upholstery that other countries get does spice things up, but this two-seater cockpit is meant for the driver to focus on driving.

In this case, the Z gets a pass for feeling a bit old. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

If you’re acquainted with the interiors of Zs past, it’s a very familiar affair in terms of general layout and shape. It’s only modernized now with a 12-inch digital gauge cluster and an eight-inch infotainment screen.

The former is sharp, smooth, and configurable but lacks the sense of occasion that comes with analog gauges. The latter finally has smartphone integration, but it’s tucked away from the driver’s line of sight with “analog but digital” climate controls below it. No wireless charging, just two USB (A and C) ports for connectivity and charging.

We're glad this is still here, but most of these gauges are redundant with the digital instrument cluster. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Instead of a typical tombstone tablet infotainment, the signature three gauge pods sit atop the dashboard—boost, turbo speed, and battery voltage. However, I would prefer oil pressure or temperature to replace the turbo speed.

The seat adjustments can be confusing for Z first-timers. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

But as elegant as this car looks, there’s no graceful way to get in. You awkwardly clamber in and out of the form-hugging seats.

They’re heated, firm, and supportive, and they have four-way power adjustments. The driver gets manual seat cushion tilt-and-height adjustment and lumbar knobs. Once you’re in, it’s a great driving position with decent visibility. You’ll need to get a feel of the car’s large haunches and long hood.

Also, taller drivers will have little headroom left, making fitting a helmet an issue should you want to track the vehicle.

You need to get creative if you want to use this for anything more than an overnight trip. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

As for storage, there’s not much. Two cupholders, a center storage bin, two shelves behind the seats (with one compartment for the owner’s manual), and a 241L rear cargo bay that can easily fit a golf bag or diving gear.

The wheel well and the rear glass hatch will limit what you can fit, and there are hooks for a retractable cargo cover that isn’t present on this demo unit. Underneath the false floor, there’s a fix-a-flat kit, an air compressor, and a subwoofer.

It has been downsized, but it packs more power than its predecessor. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Starting it up reveals a slightly muffled exhaust note. This is because the naturally aspirated 3.7-liter mill (VQ37VHR) is now swapped out for the 3.0-liter twin-turbo gasoline engine (VR30DDTT) that pumps out 378hp and 475Nm to the rear wheels.

You lose the sonorous nature of the old engine, but the magic of variable valve timing, the direct injection, and the two small snails underneath make for linear power delivery to complement the added horses. Launch it (yes, there is a launch control function) and be prepared to either terrify or impress your passenger.

With a great powertrain comes great fuel consumption. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Oh, and the “smiles per mile” adage applies here. Average readings of 4.6km/L in the city and 12.3km/L on the highway mean you’ll burn through the 62L tank of 95-octane fuel pretty quickly. But would you care when you’re having so much fun?

It's not outright bad, but the automatic somewhat sours the sports car experience. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

But if you have the choice, get this with the six-speed manual gearbox. Fiddly “digi-stick” gear selector aside, the Mercedes-licensed (Jatco JR913E) nine-speed multi-clutch automatic is jerky at low speeds, and is not the fastest shifting gearbox out there.

The Z is and always will be a grand tourer at its core. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

But its grand tourer genes are more prominent here than before. It’s more plush in terms of ride quality and NVH performance.

The suspension is soft enough not to shatter your spine, and the electric power steering rack is nicely weighted and provides enough feedback and precision to let you know what you’re doing, even if slightly numb.

It's softer compared to its predecessor, but still sharp enough to put a smile on your face. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The new double wishbone setup at the front, the rear multilink suspension, the improved rigidity, the limited-slip differential, and the wider rear tires (Bridgestone Potenza S007 on our local spec) make it confident, tail-happy, and willing to change direction at a moment’s notice.

It even invites you to turn off the traction control with how prominent the button is.

The 12.6-inch brake rotors up front (gripped by two-piston calipers) and the 12.1-inch discs for the rear (single-piston calipers) are enough for spirited driving and occasional track days, but those planning to race it may want bigger brakes.

We'll take these additional features over nothing. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

It also comes with the Nissan Intelligent Mobility safety suite. For a car like this, the adaptive cruise control won’t be used as much, and the lane-keeping assist is annoying, but the blind-spot monitoring, the automatic emergency braking, and the four parking sensors with a disappointingly low-resolution reversing camera are very much appreciated.

All of the upgrades make the Z’s asking price of P3,888,000 totally worth it. And that figure is the same regardless of transmission choice, but there’s one big catch for us Filipino buyers.

This might even be the last ICE-powered Z that will come out of Nissan's stable. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

To curb scalpers and resellers, Nissan Philippines has turned to a raffle system, just like how the Japanese do it with limited releases. This doesn’t guarantee your slot, and assuming you do get lucky enough to win one, you don’t even get to choose the color of the vehicle.

But if you really, really like this car and are willing to go through all of that, you’ll be rewarded with a future icon, and quite possibly, the last ICE-powered Z we’ll ever see if the direction that Nissan is taking with the Hyper Force is indeed electric.


Engine3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 gasoline
Transmission9-speed automatic
Power378hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque465Nm @ 1,600-4,400rpm
Dimensions4,380mm x 1,845mm x 1,315mm
Drive layoutRWD
UpsideIconic looks. Excellent engine. Great driving dynamics.
DownsideJerky automatic transmission. Get it with a manual.

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.