Mustang vs Camaro. Evo vs STD. Agree against Camry. These are all great car rivalries that made any combatant better for the experience. Now we can finally pit the 2022 Toyota Supra against the 2023 Nissan Z, a battle some three decades in the making. Kind of.
In a way, this is a Nissan proxy war with BMW rather than Toyota, as the Supra is based on the BMW Z4 roadster (perhaps we should call it the Zupra). Meanwhile, the Nissan Z isn’t quite an all-new sports coupe, as it shares much of its chassis with the sixth-generation 370Z dating back to 2009. Doesn’t seem entirely fair to me. And it isn’t. But this is the matchup people want to see, and who are we to deny them?
To continue the boxing practice, let’s go through the tape’s story. The 2023 Nissan Z is just 0.1 inch shorter nose to tail than the Supra. The Z is 0.4 inches narrower, but is 0.9 inches taller. A bigger difference can be found in the wheelbase, where the Nissan measures 100.4 inches versus the Toyota’s 97.2 inches. The Z’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 has 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The Supra’s (BMW-supplied) turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six rings in at 382 horses and 368 pound-feet.
Now comes the all-important weigh-in. No emaciated championship fighters, these two-seaters arrived with premium unleaded. The Z packed nearly 200 pounds in his three-year retirement, tipping the scales at 3,507 pounds. The Supra is lighter, weighing just 3382 pounds — but it’s not just mass, it’s where it’s placed. The Z has 56.4 percent of its weight on the front tires, compared to the Supra’s more favorable 51.7 percent. Obviously the Supra has a range advantage as we get into the ring.
The Nissan Z in its base Sport trim starts at $41,015, while the entry-level Supra 2.0 sets you back $44,565. That price gap is especially worrisome when you realize that the latter is the tab for the 255 horsepower four-cylinder Supra. Upgrading to the Supra 3.0 with the six-cylinder will cost you $52,915. That compares to the peak performance of the Z, which arrived at a tested price of $53,610 with Passion Red paint, illuminated side sills and some floor mats. The Supra in 3.0 Premium trim with the Driver Assistance package was $57,260.
Nissan Z Performance
Highlights: Engaging manual transmission, twin-turbo V-6 is willing and capable, less cash outlay.
lows: Tires are quickly overloaded, outdated interior with disappointing materials, shallow trunk.
Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Premium
Highlights: Excellent suspension tuning, pleasant ride quality, powerful inline six.
lows: Exciting exterior styling, small boot, infotainment could be more intuitive.
In testing, the six-speed manual reaches 60 mph in a respectable 4.5 seconds. The Supra and its eight-speed automatic transmission are there in 3.7 seconds. The gap remains constant at the end of the quarter mile, where the Z arrives at 111 mph after 13.0 seconds, compared to the Supra’s 12.2 second run at 114 mph. Both vehicles benefit from launch control, although the Supra manages wheelspin better.
Braking is also beneficial for the Supra, which stops from 70 mph in 147 feet. The Z needs 166 feet. Around the skid path, the Supra pulls 1.00g on its Michelin Pilot Sports, while the Z pulls 0.93g on Bridgestone Potenza S007s. Replacing those Bridgestones would definitely improve the Z’s performance, and since the Nissan costs $3650 less than the Supra, that might take the sting out of paying for a new set of tires. The first round goes to the Supra.
The Supra is a playful and willing companion on tight, technical roads, with a sharpness and precision that encourages you to go faster and faster. The suspension tuning is especially inspiring on a section of undulating left-right kinks, while the springs bounce back with choreographed precision over gentle crests into the next bend. The next turn, and the next, and so on, until the road finally straightens and we giggle with childish joy.
On the same roads, the Z doesn’t inspire the same confidence as the Supra. Much of this can be attributed to the less capable tires howling wildly when cornering. This is especially true on steep descents where the front contact patches give up their weak grip. At least the tire noise telegraphs that the Z is ignoring your next request by running wide through the bend.
Don’t think the Z is ready to throw in the towel, though. It has three pedals and a stick to score points with the judges. That’s something the Supra won’t have until the 2023 model year, and it’s one of the best ways to get drivers fully involved. The Z has automatic rev-matching to eliminate inelegant downshifts, and it works incredibly well, but we prefer the traditional heel-toe two-step, and thankfully you can disable the auto-helper with a long press of a single button. As enjoyable as dancing the pedals and rowing through the gears is, this kind of fan service isn’t enough to pull the Z over the top.
Both the Supra and Z suspension are tuned for performance, but neither is punishable in its stiffness. The Supra benefits from adaptive dampers, which make it a bit smoother on the one hand and firmer on the other. In terms of seating comfort, both provide an appropriate amount of cushioning, but not so much that your butt is isolated too much from the road. However, the Supra offers more lumbar support and power adjustments.
The Supra continues to pack a punch when it comes to the interior, with a more modern cabin courtesy of BMW. Much of the Z’s dash has been reworked to accommodate a larger infotainment touchscreen, digital instrument cluster and new steering wheel, but there are plenty of disappointing transfer elements throughout. The center console is almost the same as it was ten years ago, with an abundance of hard, flimsy plastic and large outdated buttons pulled from a parts bin. Neither of these coupes has much cargo space, with the Nissan offering a shallow capacity of seven cubic feet, compared to 10 for the Supra.
It became clear very early in the drive that the Nissan Z’s return to the arena would not end in a career-defining victory. That’s not to say it should have stayed retired, though. This is the best version in the storied history of the Z, but the Toyota GR Supra simply surpasses it. While styling can be subjective, resistance to the Supra’s exterior design may be enough to drive some shoppers to the Z.
In every other way, the Supra wins the battle as the superior sports car. As much as the Z is better than the 370Z it replaces, it’s more of a “sporty” car compared to the Supra. Perhaps a future better-performing Nismo Z could even help the scorecards, but it’s unlikely to correct the internal missteps. To sum it all up in a final boxing metaphor, the Z swings wildly in hopes of a lucky knockout, while the Supra confidently executes unrequited precision strikes.
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