Road Test: Z Car

I knew the car was hot when the Porsche Boxster S pulled up alongside me at an L.A. light. "Whoa," said the driver, raising his Gucci sunglasses. "Is that the new Z?" Absolutely. Nissan's redesigned signature sports car is back with a vengeance. The Z's reintroduction--the model was pulled from production in 1996 due to sagging sales--marks Nissan's attempt to revive the carmaker's image as a leader in sporty wheels. This two-seater just might do the trick. Priced from $26,269 to $34,079, it's a lot of car.

Nissan drew on what was captivating about the old Z: the car's long nose, flared wheel wells, hatchback and rear-wheel drive are nods to its halcyon days in the late 1970s. The tight steering and short-throw on the gearshift made me feel like Speed Racer. But the car is sluggish from a standstill. Inside, the Z has racing-inspired seats. But since Nissan put so much into the engine and suspension, it had to cheap out on something: flimsy plastic sheeting covers the door panels and dashboard.

Tip: The Z delivers style and handling found in pricier makes. An excellent date car.