2023 Toyota GR Supra vs. 2023 Nissan Z: Parallel performers

Cameron Neveu

Three decades have passed since two of Japan’s finest sports cars, the MK IV Toyota Supra Turbo and Nissan 300ZX, were on top of the world. There were successful iterations of both cars prior, but never did their performance so challenge the likes of Porsche and the Chevrolet Corvette. Now here we are, yet again, with the Toyota Supra and Nissan Z back for sports car fans to relish. Is this just another reboot, or the revival of a long-lost rivalry?

With popular culture positively dripping in nostalgia—Barbie is suddenly toy royalty again, and fashionable teens are inexplicably embracing Birkenstocks and ripped jeans—it’s tempting to look at the latest Supra and Z with the kind of cynicism fitting of another Marvel sequel. You may remember when two proud Japanese companies, investing all of their technological and engineering might into cutting-edge performance, sought to strike fear into the heart of European sports-car makers. These were moonshot cars with, at the time, ambitious technologies like sequential turbocharging and rear-wheel steering. The infinite wisdom of The Animaniacs—Yakko, Wakko, and Dot—apply nicely here now:

Reboot it, renew it
Reshoot it, redo it
And reuse it, retool it
Abuse it, just do it
If you wanna make some easy cash, just recycle and rehash!

2023 Toyota Supra and 2023 Nissan Z Performance group driving action rear
Cameron Neveu

However, a lot has changed in thirty years. Neither the new Supra nor the Z you see here reflects Toyota or Nissan at the peak of their powers. For one, underneath the Supra’s curvy exterior lurks a BMW in almost all but name, including its chassis and 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six shared with the current Z4 M40i roadster. Nissan’s handsome Z Performance may resemble the classic 240Z, but in reality it’s a heavily breathed-on update of the outgoing 370Z, itself a dinosaur dating back to 2009. The Z’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 should be familiar to Infiniti fans from the Q50/Q60 Red Sport 400. Neither the new Nissan Z (generation RZ34) nor the Supra (A90) breaks barriers from a technological standpoint.

All this is to say that we aren’t dealing with a Michigan/Ohio State, Red Sox/Yankees, Camaro/Mustang battlefront here. It’s almost a rivalry by default, as sports cars in 2023 with two seats, two doors, and three pedals have become downright rare. The only other such cars currently sold in the U.S. are the Mazda Miata and the Porsche 718; at about $30,000, the Miata is quite a bit cheaper but also a lot slower and less powerful, while the least-expensive 718 Cayman starts at $70,000. Smack in the middle are the Z and Supra, both wearing MSRPs in the $50,000 range.

Specs: 2023 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 MT

• Price: $56,745 / $57,945 (base/as-tested)
• Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6; six-speed manual transmission
• Horsepower: 382 hp @ 5800-6500 rpm
• Torque: 368 lb-ft @ 1800-5000 rpm
• Layout: Rear-wheel-drive, two-door, two-passenger coupe
• EPA-rated fuel economy: 19/27/21 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
• Curb weight: 3389 pounds
• 0–60 mph: 4.2 seconds (est.)

2023 Toyota Supra and 2023 Nissan Z Performance group
Cameron Neveu

Specs: 2023 Nissan Z Performance M/T

• Price: $51,015 / $52,360 (base/as-tested)
• Powertrain: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, six-speed manual transmission
• Horsepower: 400 hp @ 6400 rpm
• Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 1600-5200 rpm
• Layout: Rear-wheel-drive, two-door, two-passenger coupe
• EPA-rated fuel economy: 18/24/20 MPG (city/hwy/combined)
• Curb weight: 3536 pounds
• 0–60 mph: 4.5 seconds (est.)

Which brings us to our two test cars. You won’t have an easy time tracking down either model for MSRP at dealers, especially with a manual, but the window stickers nonetheless say the following:

Coming in at $52,360 we have the Nissan Z Performance, packing 400 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque under the hood. Standard kit includes a mechanical limited-slip differential, 14-inch front brake rotors with four-piston calipers, and 19-inch forged RAYS wheels. That price includes two options added to this Gun Metallic gray over Red Accent example: a floor mat package ($400) and illuminated kick plates ($500).

The Supra demands a bit deeper pockets, with this Stratosphere blue over black tester totaling $59,040. The Bavarian straight-six summons 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque, delivered via an active, electronically locking differential. Adaptive dampers are standard, as are Brembo four-piston front brakes and 19-inch forged wheels. Options include the Driver Assistance Package ($1195) which bundles blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, and parking sensors. The carbon-fiber mirror caps cost $925.

Driving the Z and Supra back-to-back on back roads near our editorial home base in Ann Arbor, Michigan, revealed cars with two distinct personalities.

The Z is your old friend who got, like, really into Crossfit. If you liked the outgoing 370Z, the new Z is improved with upgrades to the engine, transmission, suspension, and interior. The V-6 still emits that distinctive VQ-series mix of howl and groan, particularly in the upper reaches of the rev range. On the way there it’s all about the boost. You can feel the urgency and shove of the turbos as they spool into action, the engine getting increasingly feverish as the tach needle climbs. At full throttle the Z will chirp its tires in the first three gears, which rarely fails to evince a smile. The six-speed is a friendly gearbox with relatively easy throws and clear spacing between the gates. No complaints.

It’s a bit of a loose cannon, this Z. The suspension is compliant enough to allow for a bit of body roll, as well as noticeable compression and rebound over bumps. This isn’t a bad thing—you know what the car is doing, which helps you feel involved. Everything is relative, which is to say the Z Performance is still fairly stiff, but even over bad pavement and a pockmarked dirt road we didn’t wince every time a tire dropped. If there’s a weakness here it’s the front end, which can feel vague especially on corner entry. Hard to tell if a sharper-responding tire than the stock Bridgestone Potenza S007s would fix that, but either way a bit more grip and bite would not hurt.

In terms of over-the-road speed and composure, the Supra simply outclasses the Z. (It also works out, but with a private trainer and a real-time blood-glucose monitor.) The engine in particular is more refined, delivering silky-smooth torque on demand in whatever gear you like. It arrives with little drama, as in the Z, but rather with a sense of ever-present inevitability that suggests a deep well of reserve muscle. The intake sounds content, sweet even, compared with the nine-o-clock shadow brashness of the twin-turbine VQ. A precisely cut gem, happiest and most responsive at about 5000 rpm. We’d love to tell you what the exhaust sounds like from inside the car, but the wind buffeting above about 40 mph with the windows down is so aggressive we couldn’t bear it long enough to listen.

Suspension is considerably more taut than in the Z. That tautness translates into quicker reflexes, mostly noticeable in quick transitions, like over crests or when the radius of a corner decreases. The car simply pivots and then sticks, wherever you point it, and the nose responds adroitly to steering corrections. It probably helps that the Supra is about 150 pounds lighter, weighing in at 3389 pounds to the Z’s 3536 pounds. Standard adaptive dampers mitigate major potholes better than you’d expect, but the busy ride and gentle head toss over ordinary broken pavement might tire owners living in regions without manicured roads.

The Supra’s brake pedal stays firm and immediate even after half an hour of punishment. All of this speaks to solid, familiar BMW engineering and intelligent Toyota tuning, except for the six-speed manual. What a thing, one of the lovelier gearboxes on the market today and distinct in feel from the shifter in, say, the M4. Shift action is light—more snappy than toy-like—with a pleasant mechanical clack with each gear engagement. Though this is technically a BMW ‘box, Toyota says it comprehensively tweaked it to suit the character it wanted for the Supra. Having driven the automatic version, this manual utterly transforms the car, enlivens it. Why it wasn’t offered from the get-go boggles the mind.

2023 Toyota Supra and 2023 Nissan Z Performance side pan action group
Cameron Neveu

For longtime Z fans, the looks of the latest iteration could well be enough to seal the deal. The design is a home run, melding the silhouette of the original 240Z with the more linear geometry of Nissan’s current language. There’s no question the Z got more attention than the Supra around town. Toyota’s design looks best from the rear three quarter, emphasizing the duckbill rear spoiler and length of the hood, but in general it comes across as more overwrought. A try-hard.

The Supra’s interior is more sober, business-like. You sit nice and low, gazing out over that mile-long nose. The roof feels right overhead, a result of that steep rake above the driver. The double-bubble helps, as do the widely adjustable seats, but taller drivers might not fit comfortably and still be able to see well. Gauges are clear and legible, and the infotainment system is a somewhat dated version of iDrive that nonetheless works quite well.

The Z is airier and gets the nod in this respect, but on longer drives its hard seatbacks and deep, concave seat shape begin to take a toll. The Z also suffers from precious little trunk space compared with the Supra, with a cargo floor that seems five inches too high and not especially deep. And while there is plush leather and a modern-looking center screen, the big, chunky climate control knobs and other switchgear are frequent reminders that the cabin was designed in the mid-2000s. (For old-school types who hate complex interfaces in new cars, this may even be a selling point.)

The people who lusted after Supras and Zs in the ‘90s and 2000s may now be at the place in life that they’d actually be able to afford a new one. Nostalgia undoubtedly fueled the return of these two cars, which means fans of one or the other would need a very good reason to turn traitor. There isn’t one here. The Supra is the better all-rounder, the one more people would be happy to drive and live with every day. The Z stays more true to its roots, for better and for worse, and a quick romp in it is all you need to get the blood flowing and hair standing up. With so few sports cars left, both the Z and the Supra feel like winners for their part in restoring the rivalry, such as it is.

2023 Nissan Z Performance

Price: $51,015 / $52,360 (base/as-tested)

Highs: Gorgeous design. Thrilling engine. Comfortable ride, for what it is. A Nissan through and through.

Lows: Poor cargo capacity, even for a sports car. Stiff seats, and a cheap interior if you look too closely. Turn-in could be sharper.

Summary: A familiar beast, much improved, and at a friendly price.


2023 Toyota GR Supra 3.0

Price:$56,745 / $57,945 (base/as-tested)

Highs: Impeccable chassis balance. Sweet-shifting six-speed. Interior that feels modern yet focused on the driving experience above all. Reasonable trunk space for a weekend getaway, or even daily use as a second car.

Lows: Maddening wind buffeting with windows open. Won’t win any design awards. BMW bones may dissuade Supra purists.

Summary: Entertaining, capable, and confidence-inspiring in just about any situation. It’s not the Supra some remember, but it’s damn good and we’re happy it’s here.




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    My Dad used to say the 1962 Plymouth Valiant “looked like it was designed by a cake decorator.” I think the same thing about the Supra.

    The Toyotas has about the same power as my 02 Corvette and comes in about 200 pounds heavier. Is this really progress?

    I get it for regulations some weight has to be added but this is a very small car Even the new C8 comes in not much heavier.

    And is it me but do these cars just not exhibit any emption of personality. The Nissan in the past tried to play off the Jag but still made no doubt that it was a Datsun 280 or 260.

    Neither are wall poster material.

    In this battle I choose the Z because it is the only Japanese car here and I say that as a 1997 Toyota Supra Turbo owner. In reality I choose neither and go for something else instead.

    If we are talking about the only Japanese car here Gary, then it should be pointed out that Nissan is mostly owned by the French manufacturer Renault. The article should have mentioned that in paragraph 2.

    We live in a world of color, unless of course you are color defective. Its nice to see what we could expect to get if we bought one. Same with the detail shots. So many less important details shots instead of the items that are more important. Why blurred pictures for speed? Is this a photo contest? Too bad the 400Z you tested was a blah color, maybe why you threw in a bunch of b&w shots? At least your driving descriptions were helpful to the reader.

    I honestly don’t get how the new Z is like $50k even if it’s a Performance model
    It should be at $45k at best because it’s literally just a recycled 370Z model with a Q60 drivetrain and only a few other things are brand new even worse it still falls behind most other cars in its price range
    I don’t get what Nissan was thinking when it came to pricing with the new Z first they said it’ll be under $40k then it ended up $39k for a near basic model like c’mon
    Would rather get the Supra at this point especially as it has superior value over the Z

    The interior of the Z looks like someone wrung out a pile of Maxipads. It should be marketed to vampires and the colorblind.

    To pick some geographical nits: Reference is made to the Supra’s “Bohemian straight-six”.
    Change to “Bavarian straight-six”, from Bavarian Motor Werke. Bohemia is the area west of
    the Czech Republic next to Austria. But they both speak German anyway. Or did you mean the motor makes you feel like a free thinker, an artistic sort- also a definition of Bohemian.

    The looks of the Supra are disappointing to me. I guess because I remember the last version so well. If one can get over it’s looks, then it’s probably a getter car/value!

    Nissan Z floor mats – $400! …and you thought only the dealers were grubbers. Also, I have looked at both of these cars on-line from dealers and the prices you quoted are almost $10K below dealer asking. The BMW Z4 roadsters are going for over $75K.

    The new Supra’s design has always looked overdone and adolescent to me and I see several other responses echoing that same observation. That the new Z is a beautiful design that “attracts more attention” than the Supra reinforces that sense. I’d like to see the new Z compared in the media to the similarly priced Supra 2.0 I4. Something the media has failed to do and whose outcome might be quite different!

    It is great that two cars of this nature and ability are available. That said, I would be embarrassed to be seen driving the Supra; it is unattractive all over, but the rear three-quarter and direct rear views are hideous. Heretofore, Supras were always at least moderately attractive, all the way back to their arrival in the USA in 1979.

    Being 6’4″ I will attest that the Supra does not have enough room to comfortably fit me. When sitting in the car, my line of sight is half interrupted by the edge of the roof over the side window, as does the roof over the windshield with the seat down as far as it will go. I would most likely have to lean forward to see a stoplight if I was the first or second car at the intersection.

    I actually fit better and can see better out of the GR86.

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