Datsun 240Z-inspired sports crossover concept reveals Nissan’s vision for an expanded Z sub-brand
15 September 2015

Nissan has released its vision of how the next car to carry the famous Z badge could be a crossover with this Frankfurt show concept called Gripz.

With exterior design by the manufacturer’s team in Paddington and an interior created by their colleagues in Tokyo, the Gripz is billed as “a radical new type of sports car” by Nissan.

As outlined by Autocar last month, the firm intends to gauge reaction to the idea of a sports crossover, but it has already decided to expand the remit of the Z sub-brand to include vehicles that are more ‘everyday’ than the existing 370Z.

The Gripz draws inspiration from two main sources: the classic Datsun 240Z rally car that won the East African Safari Rally in 1971 and sports bicycles that are used as commuter tools during the week but enjoyed at the weekend.

The ‘z’ in Gripz is a direct nod to the Z brand. Visual cues include a distinctive kink in the window line near the C-pillar and a carbonfibre bonnet that apes the black finish on the rally car’s engine cover. A simple three-spoke steering wheel looks like it could have featured on the rally car, although it is adorned with bicycle-influenced graphics.

The Gripz is slightly shorter than a Juke, at 4100mm, and its roofline is 65mm lower. The concept is considerably wider, by 135mm, and its wheelbase is 50mm longer. The front end of the car incorporates many of Nissan’s latest styling cues, including the strong ‘V’ below the prominent badge in the grille and boomerang headlights that are influenced by both the Juke and the 370Z.

The side stance is unmistakably that of a sports car, with references to the stance of the 350Z and 370Z, albeit jacked up on 22in wheels. The cabin appears to have been pulled towards the back, while the roof rails - a mix of body-coloured material and a contrasting metal finish - taper down towards the car’s rear.The rear treatment includes deep scallops in the bodywork, boomerang tail-lights and, in another nod to the 240Z, an unusual carbonfibre element that incorporates a lip spoiler.

The concept uses a version of Nissan’s PureDrive Hybrid system, with a petrol engine acting as a range extender to keep the batteries charged and electric motors driving all four wheels. A production model would be based on Nissan’s forthcoming CMF AB platform - set to be used by the next Micra and Juke - and wouldbe front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, with a turbocharged petrol engine.

The cabin is deliberately industrial, because Nissan’s designers in Tokyo wanted it to reflect the functionality of a sports bicycle. There are just a handful of materials on show, including artificial leather, carbonfibre and coloured metal with a mixture of gloss and anodised finishes.

Some of the leather patches are designed to be removed or changed for personalisation or if the owner wants even more of a bare cabin look. The layout is a 2+2, with two deeply scalloped rear seats cut into what looks like a single-piece panel.

A pair of carbonfibre spoilers at the end of the roofline give a modest boost to head room for the rear passengers, although they also house the hinges for the hatchback. The concept does without side mirrors, instead using cameras mounted in the  ‘gills’ on the front wings.

Nissan says the Gripz is a design study, but the brief for the design contest was to consider how the firm “can continue to lead the B-crossover market” and a 2+2 sports crossover - positioned alongside or slightly above the Juke in the line-up and carrying the fabled Z badge - is very likely to make production.

Philippe Klein, Nissan’s product planning chief, told Autocar at the Frankfurt motor show: “The concept is an exploration, to see different trends in the market. With crossovers and SUVs we’ve strengths already. We see people still looking for a dynamic sports car. Fuel economy also, and alternative drive. All these topics. [The concept] explores the best way to combine all these."

Klein did however say that the 370Z remains a success and Nissan had “no urgency” for a replacement, although he did say that “standard evolution is not best for this kind of product”. “We won’t see a 390Z or 400Z,” he said, as it “doesn’t make a lot of sense” in the current market.

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Comments
6

15 September 2015

Having previously owned a 370Z I really cant see this as anything I'd want. Yes I can imagine how crossovers are popular now, but a Z-car on the Micra platform with a 1.6 turbo? no.
If it had more than 350 bhp, a mental 2.5l+ turbo engine, 4WD with drive strongly biased towards the rear to allow tailslides and rally car handling then maybe it could be seem as some sort of successor, but this is just a blinged up Juke Nismo, not a Z car.

Lets face it if they put a decently powered 2.0 litre diesel engine in the 370z and sold it for early 20k's it would have sold in Europe. I'd have hated it but it would have sold. 20mpg, 3.7 litre engines for over £30k from a non premium brand in the European marketplace hasn't worked, when the previous gen TT sold for much less, was much more efficient and had much better residual values.

15 September 2015

I hate the idea of it, but here is my real world situation. I have a MK2 MX5 for commuting and fun, but due to a year old son I'm very reluctantly trading it in on Thursday, and have ended up settling for a Juke as it is interesting and slightly practical if fairly dull to drive. A production version of this that offers 2 +2 reasonable seats and more sporting dynamics than the standard Juke would have been a fantastic alternative.

Given the ever deteriorating road network in Scotland and the proliferation of speedhumps this may be the future of the sportscar for most of us whether we like it or not...

As long as Mazda continues to develop the MX5 as a true sportscar we will be ok!

15 September 2015

What a colossal disappointment from Nissan. This is absolutly hideous and an embarassment to the Nissan 'z' badge. I currently have a 370z and love the car. When I first heard the rumors of a crossover, I thought it was a prank -- then this 'thing' comes out. I was waiting for a great evolution of the 'z' and would have probably considered trading 'up' to the new 'z'. I wouldn't trade dead even for this confusing, gimmicky looking, jukemobile thing. It looks like a cross between an AMC Pacer and a Buick Aztec. Guess that I now have to look elsewhere for a replacement for my 'z' -- vette, mustang? Nissan has lost its way in producing the everyday affordable sports car. RIP "Z". The upside - now I can say that I have the last true 'z' to be produced by Nissan.

15 September 2015

This is a car only its designer can love. With the current trend of SUVs of all sizes this makes sense but they do not need to misappropriate the Z legend to put this into production. They need to go back to basics with a small straight six and light bodywork. Call the SUV something insipid and use that money to make a new 240Z. Perhaps start with a 200 Z that uses a turbo four and then go up from there.

15 September 2015

I think it looks great! If it were the choice between a Polo and this...

21 September 2015

"As outlined by Autocar last month..."
No, last month you had the bizarre notion that this car WAS the next Z car, not some sub-brand. How about admitting that perhaps your initial idea was a bit bonkers?

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