Nissan’s successor to the 350Z, the 370Z, will be “very much an evolution” of the current car but with an even greater emphasis on agility, according to the company’s design chief, Shiro Nakamura.Speaking at Nissan’s recent ‘360’ event, where the company showcased its global product range to journalists and showed a teaser of the new two-seater for the first time, Nakamura said the car will be even more aggressive than the 350Z, with more muscular panel surfaces.The essential proportions of the Z remain intact, as does the curved roof and the distinctive vertical door handles. Most surprising is the news that the new Z-car sits on a wheelbase shorter than the 2650mm of the outgoing car, taking advantage of the fact that it remains a two-seater. What this does to boot space (which is somewhat limited in the existing car) remains to be seen, but the aim is to improve agility, despite the current model hardly falling short in this respect. It retains its rear-wheel drive layout.The new car’s name, 370Z, signifies the enlargement of the V6 engine’s capacity to 3.7 litres. In this form it produces 326bhp when installed in the US-market Infiniti G37 coupé, to which the Z is closely related. That’s a useful improvement on the 309bhp of the current 350Z, and torque increases slightly from the 264lb ft of today’s car to 270lb ft at 5200rpm. It’s possible that the 370Z will have a tune of its own, however, with figures that slightly improve on this. The engine will probably prove more torquey than this figure suggests anyway, thanks to its variable valve timing and lift mechanism, which delivers a broad spread of torque across the rev range. Expect a six-speed manual gearbox, as before, and the option of a seven-speed automatic with paddle-shift control.Nissan will undoubtedly work hard to eliminate the most significant drawbacks of the current model, which include an interior finish that falls short of the class standard and excessive road noise. The company’s European engineering team, based at Cranfield in the UK, will have had input into the car’s detail finish and road behaviour, as it did with the 350Z.The coupé will undoubtedly be followed by a roadster version, as before, but a potential new addition could be a diesel, once production of the V6 oil-burner that the company is developing comes on stream. A diesel version would usefully improve the Z’s competitiveness in Europe and give Nissan a rival to the Audi TT TDI. The 370Z will be unveiled this November at the Los Angeles motor show and go on sale in the UK in the first half of 2009.

Richard Bremner