Full disclosure: I was very tempted to name this piece, “Nissan Z and Chevy Camaro, How Do They Compar-o?” but sense and reason won out in the end. Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about sports cars because it’s one area in which the auto industry is always pushing the envelope and creating new and exciting things. The Nissan Z-series took some time off after the 370Z came to its end with the 2020 model year, but it has returned with the all-new Nissan Z (that’s it, no number on this one), but how does this new Japanese sports car stack up to its established American competition?
As impressive as the Nissan Z is, I feel it would be a bit unfair to compare it to America’s best-known two-seat sports car, the Corvette––especially since the Corvette is getting a Z06 trim this year that takes its already-bonkers performance to the next level. Instead, looking at the 2023 Chevy Camaro vs 2023 Nissan Z seems like a fairer way to approach this and see what Nissan’s latest offering brings to the road. I can tell you right now that one of the Z’s standout features is the excellent engine that Nissan has packed into it (more on that in a moment). Where the Camaro is going to come out on top as we compare them, however, is in the options and features it provides for drivers—Nissan falls short there.
Engines and Performance
You could pretty easily argue that the single most important aspect of any sports car is its engine and the kind of overall driving experience it delivers. One might argue the engine is the most important part of any vehicle, which would be more debatable, but there’s no denying its importance overall. Looking at two cars like the Camaro and the Z, you have to start with their engines to see what they can deliver. This is an area where arguments can really be made for either of these vehicles.
This is due to the fact that the Nissan Z starts with a truly exceptional engine right off the bat: it’s powered by a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 that delivers 400 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Again, that’s the starting engine on the 2023 Nissan Z, but here’s the catch: it’s also the only engine. This is excellent power and performance that absolutely makes the Z a blast to drive, but it is your only choice. This means if you want more power, then you’re out of luck, and it also means that every Nissan Z comes at a price point that reflects the beast they packed into it.
The Chevy Camaro goes a different route with a weaker starting engine but numerous options for you to choose from. Chevy packs a 2.0L Turbo into the base Camaro models, delivering 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s obviously much less power than the Z provides, though it’s still plenty of fun to drive. The upside to this is that the 2023 Camaro starts at a price tag almost $15,000 lower than the 2023 Z—that’s hard to argue with.
But you’re not stuck with this starting engine in the Camaro; there are three other engines available for you to choose from. There’s a 3.6L V6 that delivers 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque, or you might choose the available 6.2L V8 engine that provides a massive 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque, meeting and exceeding the Nissan Z’s performance. At this point, you’re in the same price range as the Z, but Chevy offers up all of these options that Nissan simply doesn’t.
Plus, if you want truly insane levels of power, there’s the available Chevy Camaro ZL1 (more on trims in a moment), which features a supercharged 6.2L V8 engine that delivers a monstrous 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. Again, Nissan doesn’t offer anything that comes close to this kind of power unless you want to shell out nearly a quarter million dollars for a GT-R NISMO. With both the Z and the Camaro, all of their engines come with your choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an automatic—a nine-speed automatic from Nissan and either an eight-speed or 10-speed automatic in the Camaro, depending on the engine you’re looking at. Both of these cars have remarkable engines that provide exceptional performance and power; Nissan starts with a superior engine, but Chevy gives drivers more options.
Available Trim Levels
Speaking of options, this is something that remains a trend when looking at the Camaro and the Nissan Z, particularly in terms of the trim levels available. Nissan offers three trim levels for the 2023 Z, but really there are only two—the Nissan Z Proto Spec is limited to just 240 units nationwide, so unless you’re an NFL star or something, you’re probably not getting one of those. Instead, you really have two choices for the Z: the standard Sport trim or the upgraded Performance trim. Having two options isn’t terrible, but it’s not particularly great either, and what’s worse is that the jump from the Sport to the Performance comes with a $10,000 price increase. That means you have to pay over $50,000 to get basic performance features like a limited-slip differential.
For the Camaro, Chevy offers eight trims. Eight! Admittedly, the differences between some of them can be pretty minor, and you’ll need to choose certain trims if there’s a particular engine you’re after—for example, the 6.2L V8 is only offered on the higher trims—but this is still an incredible amount of flexibility. You can look at this huge selection and simplify things by grouping a few trims together. The 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT trims are all offered with the 2.0L Turbo and V6 engines, while the LT1, 1SS, and 2SS trims offer the 6.2L V8. Finally, the ZL1 sports its unique supercharged engine. The amount of customization here just can’t be overlooked, and it’s something that’s earned Chevy no shortage of fans over the years.
Interior Features and Options
Much like with trims, this is an area where either Nissan or Chevy could come out on top, depending on what a particular car buyer prefers. Both of these cars have great features and options inside, but the Z starts with more (as you’d expect from a model priced a lot higher). Standard features in the 2023 Nissan Z include an eight-inch infotainment display, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a six-speaker sound system. The Z comes with an eight-way manual driver’s seat, a four-way passenger seat, and cloth upholstery. Moving up to the Performance trim adds a larger nine-inch infotainment display, a Bose sound system, and leather seats with four-way power front seats at a much higher price.
The standard features of the 2023 Camaro are not far behind what the Nissan Z delivers, which considering the massive price difference, is something of a shock. The starting trim for the Camaro, the 1LS, comes with a seven-inch infotainment display, a six-speaker sound system, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and a four-way manual front-passenger seat with power recline. Moving up to something like the Camaro 3LT, you’ll find a larger eight-inch infotainment screen, a Bose premium sound system, heated and ventilated front seats, and an eight-inch driver information display. Overall, both of these cars have similar features and options available, but the Camaro offers more for your money.
In the End, Which Is Better?
Honestly, there really isn’t a “better” when it comes to these two sports cars because it’s all about what a driver wants. For someone who doesn’t care about having a lot of customization options, the Nissan Z could be the right choice since the standard model has incredible power and reasonable features. But for someone who wants plenty of control over the engine they get, the features they find inside, and more, the Camaro will be a far more satisfying way to go. Plus, the Camaro ZL1 and its supercharged engine deliver power far beyond anything the Nissan Z can offer––though once you’re spending that type of money, you might want to consider the mid-engine Corvette. In the end, these are both excellent sports cars that are incredibly fun to drive, so Chevy and Nissan fans should be quite happy with what’s available.