Nissan is planning a radical shake-up of its next-generation Z-car that could even include diesel engines and a four-cylinder hybrid powertrain, sourced as part of the brand’s recent tie-up with Daimler.

Renault-Nissan is expected to supply three and four-cylinder petrol engines and electric technology to Daimler as part of the deal. In return, it will get four, six and eight-cylinder powerplants, and CEO Carlos Ghosn is said to be keen to install some of those units in the next Zed to keep the car ahead of tightening emissions regs. Greener variants could also help the car to attract buyers in Japan’s flagging domestic sports car market.

See Autocar's artist's impression of the next Nissan Zed car

Nissan is considering three new engines for the Zed. First is a 3.5-litre V6 hybrid set-up used in Mercedes S400; Nissan also has the option of its own, similar-sized motor from the forthcoming Infiniti M hybrid.

Even more tempting are Mercedes’ diesel options: the V6 from the E350 CDI and the four-cylinder petrol hybrid from the forthcoming E300 Bluetec. The E300’s mix of 2.2-litre, four-pot turbodiesel and 15kW electric motor produces a total of 221bhp and more than 420lb ft of torque. In the E-class it returns a claimed 56mpg while emitting just 109g/km of CO2.

Another longer-term option would be Mercedes’ Diesotto engine, which combines diesel and petrol tech and can power cars as large as an S-class from just 1.8 litres.

Nissan’s Japanese rivals, Toyota and Honda, have struggled to maintain sales of sports cars in recent years. But while Toyota’s FT-86 small petrol coupé has now been pushed back until 2012 at the earliest, Honda is now enjoying strong sales with its CR-Z hybrid.

Peter Lyon

See all the latest Nissan 370Z reviews, news and video