Meet the latest step in Nissan’s path to be great again.
Plans for the future of Z have been missing, feared dead, for some time now. The 370Z still looks sharp, but has been around since Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister – the first time, not the second – and Nissan executives have been cagey about what’s to come.
Hybrid power? Maybe! An SUV? We can’t rule anything out. Nothing at all, nothing at all? All signs point to us not answering.
Now we know what the future of Nissan Z looks like. And we like it.
The Z Proto might be billed a concept, but it isn’t far removed from how we expect the production car to look. Power comes from a turbocharged V6 engine, and it’s sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.
Power outputs haven’t been confirmed yet, but the engine is believed to be a variation of the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 from the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport, where it makes 298kW and 475Nm.
That’s a big step up from the current 370Z’s naturally-aspirated 3.7-litre V6, which produces 253kW of power and 371Nm of torque.
The biggest rival for the 400Z, as we expect it to be called, is the Toyota Supra. With 285kW and 500Nm from its BMW inline-six engine, there isn’t much to split them on paper, except for the fact the Supra is not available with a manual in Australia.
Along with the manual transmission, the production 400Z is expected to pack a locking rear differential to help better put down the twin-turbo engine’s punch.
“Z is a balance of power and agility,” said Hiroshi Tamura, chief product specialist for the Z Proto.
“It is a vehicle that creates a connection to the driver not just on the physical level, but emotionally, and responds to the driver’s impulses.”
The pedal box and gear lever are old-fashioned in a world dominated by quick-shifting automatics, but the rest of the Z Proto interior looks thoroughly modern.
The driver is faced with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the infotainment touchscreen, climate controls, and dashboard design borrow plenty from the latest X-Trail SUV. Of course, there’s also three analogue dials atop the dash.
There are a few hints the Z Proto shares its underpinnings with the 370Z, though, as has previously been reported. The transmission tunnel looks identical, with the same handbrake placement and cupholder, and there are strong similarities in the door trims as well.
Measuring up at 4382mm long, 1850mm wide, and 1310mm tall, the Z Proto is 50mm longer and 20mm narrower than the 370Z Nismo.
As for the design? It’s in keeping with what the renders and leaks suggested, which is to say it’s a careful blend of retro and modern design cues packaged up in a clean, classic coupe silhouette.
“Our designers made countless studies and sketches as we researched each generation and what made them a success,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan design boss.
“Ultimately, we decided the Z Proto should travel between the decades, including the future.”
The bonnet and LED headlights are a clear nod to the Datsun 240Z, while the rear borrows heavily from the 300ZX with a clean horizontal light signature.
Nissan has finished the Z Proto with a black roof, calling both the 240Z and 300ZX to mind. There’s a badge on the c-pillar, and a retro Fairlady Z badge on the boot lid to complete the effect.
As for the squared-off front air intake? Nissan pulled a similar trick on the 350Z Concept, before amending it for the production model.
Given Nissan will need to mount number plates to the production version, we’d suggest the Z Proto’s mouth will shrink when it becomes the 400Z.
Nissan hasn’t confirmed when the Z Proto will transition from the virtual motor show to showrooms. If the timeline of the Ariya electric SUV is a guide, the production car followed the near-production concept by around nine months. That means we could be seeing the 400Z next year.
“The Z, as a pure sports car, represents the spirit of Nissan,” said Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida.
“It’s a key model in our Nissan NEXT transformation plan, and it’s proof of our ability to do what others don’t dare to do, from A to Z.
“As a Z fan myself, I’m excited to announce that the next Z is coming.”
What do you think of the Z Proto? Let us know in the comments below.