Road Test & Shootout: 2023 Toyota GR Supra vs Nissan Z


Six cylinders, turbochargers, six-speed manuals, two-seaters, rear-wheel drive, short wheelbase and long hood – a formula that turns any vehicle into a memorable experience. No matter which brand you like, it is obvious that we are living in the glory days of ICE performance vehicles, as they offer 1980s supercar levels of performance with much lower price tags. Therefore, they are very appealing to car enthusiasts and especially the tuner world.

We are comparing two legendary nameplates that reshaped the future of the sports car, as both were considered as Japan’s finest sports cars since the 1980s. However, a lot has changed since the 1980s, we have much more fierce competition, so both entries had to get better. From Nissan’s perspective, they decided to use the older 370z platform instead of starting from scratch to make a better-performance car with a limited budget. On the other hand, Nissan is actually competing with BMW instead of Toyota, as the Toyota Supra has been criticized for using the BMW parts bin because it is based on an older Z4 platform.

The Looks: Exterior and Interior

Even though both “new” entries aren’t really “all-new”, both brands did a great job coming up with unique design languages. The Z has some similarities with the outgoing 370z, but you really have to look carefully to find the similarities. Nissan aimed to give the new Z a more retro look with its front grille and distinctive headlight and taillight design. The front fascia has significantly sharper lines, even though it has a sloping roof design, the new Z offers a little bit more conventional design elements.

Toyota did a phenomenal job redesigning the Supra, even though it is using an older BMW platform, you cannot find any similarities between the two cars. There are lots of curves going around the vehicle, especially when you look at the side profile and the rear design. The Supra is ever so slightly longer and sits lower and wider than the Z, which gives it a better road presence even though the numbers look small, it is noticeable especially when you park both of them side by side. Unlike the Z, the GR Supra has many vents in the front bumper, hood, doors and rear bumper, but in typical tuner car fashion, they are not functional.

Even though both cars have similar dimensions and drivetrain layouts, it is surprising to see how different they feel. Getting in and out is significantly easier with the Nissan Z, as it has a bigger door opening and a taller roofline. Once you get in, the Z feels slightly more spacious mainly due to the dashboard design, and little longer wheelbase. If you are a taller person and worried about fitment, the Z might be the more comfortable choice to live every day.

The Z’s interior feels that some parts are a carryover from the previous generation 370Z. It can be a good or bad thing depending on your expectations. The Nissan Z gives you a more old-school “JDM” feeling with a simple and usable interior layout with tons of physical buttons, and analog gauges located on top of the dashboard which shows crucial information like boost, turbo speed and voltage. If you are coming from another Nissan product, this will feel very similar. The biggest problem is the center console and other parts like the door handles, as it feels that Nissan just put the same part into the new platform without changing anything.

The Z comes with the latest head unit and infotainment system that you would find in other modern Nissan vehicles, which is not the best looking, but easy to use. The biggest update is the fully digital gauge cluster, it is a great addition as you can use different layouts based on your driving style, it can be customized, unlike the Supra’s older half-digital cluster.

Unlike the exterior design, Toyota did not put a lot of effort into changing the interior design, including the screens. There is no doubt that the Supra is the more premium choice especially when it comes to interior design and quality. As soon as you get in, you will feel that you are sitting in a Z4, except for the Toyota badge on the steering wheel. It is true that there is no old-school JDM feeling like you would find in Nissan Z, but the build quality is significantly better. You can use both touchscreen and BMW’s “iDrive” system to go through the menus, but I found it slightly more complicated.

Despite having more interior space, I found the Z’s seats slightly less comfortable as the bottom cushions are aggressively bolstered, whereas the Supra’s seats felt much more comfortable. The Z’s seats are still very supportive, but the bottom cushion is not very accommodating especially if you are overweight. Thanks to the electronically adjustable side bolstering, Supra offered a sufficient amount of side support and the leather seats just felt a lot more upscale.

Even though the GR Supra has a slight edge when it comes to interior quality, the Nissan Z has its own advantages especially if it is a daily driver. The Z has a much better visibility, and significantly better cargo space behind the seats. The biggest problem with the GR Supra is the trunk opening, it is much narrower and has less usable cargo space in general. Both entries are not family haulers, but if you are taking your car to a golf course. Both entries come with a rear-view camera, but the GR Supra is the only choice that offers parking sensors for both front and rear.

The Drive

A memorable driving experience starts from having a good drivetrain, and both entries offer turbocharged 3.0-litre engines. The engine layouts are different, as the GR Supra offers an inline-6 configuration whereas the Z comes with a V6. Both the Z and the GR Supra offer a similar amount of horsepower and torque figures, but their unique characters make them stand out in a different way.

The Nissan Z only comes with one engine option: The 3.0L twin turbo V6 engine puts out 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, and it delivers those 350 lb-ft of torque in an old-school way. The engine is derived from the legendary R35 GT-R, but it is downsized and also used in some Infiniti models. The engine feels peppy, but there is significantly more turbo lag below 3000 RPM. It sounds glorious and pulls like a freight train anywhere above 3000 RPM. However, if you want the maximum horsepower out of the Z, Nissan also offers the sportier NISMO trim, which bumps the horsepower and torque figures.

The GR Supra comes with two different engines and two transmission options. No matter which engine you choose, you are getting a BMW drivetrain. Our tester is obviously the better inline-6 turbocharged B58 engine that you would find in many BMW models. Yes, it is technically not used in the sportiest M models as BMW does not want to share the greatest S58 engine, but the B58 engine is more than capable and apparently reliable enough for Toyota’s standards.

The B58 engine offers 382 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque, but the way that it delivers the power is much smoother, and less noticeable turbo lag. The Supra is also slightly faster on the straight line, meaning that even though it technically offers less horsepower on paper, that does not mean the car is slower, mainly due to less overall weight of the vehicle.

Both entries offer automatic and manual transmission options, but all car enthusiasts owe a debt of gratitude to Nissan for bringing the new Z with a manual transmission, that is the reason why Toyota had to bring the manual transmission. Although it was not easy to come up with a manual transmission for a platform that they took from another brand, basically they had to take EU-Spec Z4’s manual transmission and make a few changes to use it in a GR Supra. Even though Toyota had to find a way around to solve the problem, the manual transmission feels sportier than the Z. The throws are shorter and crisper, it feels more solid, and the gear ratios are shorter than the Z.

The differences become more obvious when you take both cars to the twisties. There is slightly more body roll with the Z, the car feels confident in the mid-corner, but the inputs are slightly slower, and it feels heavier behind the steering wheel. The limited-slip rear differential works flawlessly and does a great job rotating the vehicle with throttle inputs, but at the end of the day, it feels more like a grand tourer than a track weapon. The overall grip and limits are slightly lower, but it is much more predictable and easier to control compared to the GR Supra.

If you have had a chance to drive both the latest generation BMW Z4 and the Supra, you will feel that even though they are on the same platform, they drive quite differently. Toyota did a phenomenal job fine-tuning the Z4 platform and changed a lot of things to Toyota standards, and all the hard work paid off. It is true that you will see a lot of BMW badges underneath, but Toyota deserves a lot of credit for unique suspension tuning. The only gripe I had about the GR Supra was the brake pedal feeling, even though it came with 4-piston Brembos, Nissan’s 4-piston brakes felt more confidence-inspiring and slightly better initial bite.

The electronically controlled dampers allow it to be more flexible depending on the road conditions, so when it is in the softest setting, it is softer than the Nissan Z, but when you switch to the sport mode, there is significantly less body roll. The chassis tune is also quite different. The GR Supra offers a much sharper front end and steering feedback. Due to the shorter wheelbase, the GR Supra tends to snap oversteer much more frequently, so it requires a little bit more attention and skill when you drive it at the limit.

2nd Place: Nissan Z

Being the second does not mean the Z is worse than the GR Supra. Even though both entries have a similar formula, they are built for a different audience. The Z is clearly the value champion in this segment. Even with the base trim, you still get the fun twin turbo V6 engine with a much lower price tag. It is a very predictable, fun and simple sports car – a golden formula we have been looking for. If it is going to be your first rear-wheel-drive sports car, or simply if you are looking for a proper rear-wheel-drive sports car with iconic looks, the Z might be the right choice for you.

1st Place: Toyota GR Supra

Even though it is financially the smarter choice, working on another brand’s platform is much riskier than starting from scratch. They literally took the “old man’s retirement gift” platform that BMW did not care about for several years and made it look appealing to car enthusiasts. They not only made it look much better, but it also performed better in every imaginable way. More importantly, the GR Supra does one thing that you expect from a proper rear-wheel drive sports car – it delivers a memorable driving experience.

2023 Nissan Z2023 Toyota GR Supra
Engine3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V63.0-litre, turbocharged inline-6
Transmission6-speed manual6-speed manual
Max power400 hp @ 6400 rpm382 hp @ 6500 rpm
Max torque350 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm368 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm
0-100 km/h4.3 sec4.1 sec
Weight3539 lb – 1605 kg3343 lb – 1516 kg
Fuel Economy (as tested)21 MPG – 11.2L / 100km21 MPG – 11.2L / 100km
Price (as tested)$59,448 CAD$70,630 CAD

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