Currently reading: Nissan Z Proto previews retro-inspired V6 sports car
370Z successor borrows elements from past Z cars, but won't be coming to Europe
3 mins read
16 September 2020

Nissan’s hotly anticipated new generation of the Z sports car has been previewed with the Z Proto – a prototype with a twin-turbo V6 and manual gearbox.

However, there’s bad news for the UK and mainland Europe: the as-yet-unnamed new model won’t be offered for sale here. In a statement sent to Autocar, Nissan cited a “shrinking European sports car market and specific regulations on emissions” as the reasons why it was “unable to build a viable business case” for the car’s European release.

The Z Proto plays on the sporting sub-brand’s 50-year history, with a silhouette that “communicates respect for the original model”, the 240Z. The launch car’s yellow pearlescent paint is a tribute to the first-generation Z as well as the Z32-gen 300ZX of the 1990s.

Nissan also cites retro references in the bonnet profile and teardrop-shaped LED headlights – the latter meant to conjure up the Japan-only 240ZG of the 1970s. The link to the original Z is clearest in side profile, with the long bonnet and cab-back proportions. The 300ZX references reappear in the design of the tail-lights.

However, it’s not all backward-looking. Details such as the rectangular front grille, 19in alloy wheels and carbonfibre side skirts aim to modernise the look.

The bootlid appears to feature a Fairlady Z badge – a name used for the original in Japan and the US. It’s possible that name will be used for the production car, but Nissan claims it simply represents the prototype’s name in Japan.

At 4382mm long, 1850mm wide and 1310mm tall, the Z Proto is 142mm longer than the outgoing 370Z but no wider and slightly lower.

The blend of old and new continues inside, where Nissan claims the Z Proto “seamlessly blends modern technology with vintage Z touches”. Input from racing drivers helped ensure a clear driver focus for the major controls and 12.3in digital instrument display.


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Body-colour accents also link to the exterior and the pod gauges on top of the dashboard (one for turbo boost pressure) and door handles are clear links to the 370Z.

Nissan hasn’t released details of the twin-turbo V6 powertrain, although Autocar understands that it’s effectively a reworked version of the 3.0-litre unit used in the flagship Infiniti Q60 coupé. There it produces 400bhp, but given the new Z car should be significantly lighter than the 1825kg Q60, it should be a fair bit faster. Expect it to have substantially more torque than the naturally aspirated V6 used in the 370Z, too.

Chief product specialist Hiroshi Tamura claims the car is about more than speed. “Z is a balance of power and agility. It’s a vehicle that creates a connection with the driver not just on the physical level but also emotionally,” he said.

Key to this includes the use of a six-speed manual gearbox in the prototype, bucking the wider industry trend towards automation. Even so, an auto option is likely for the US.

No date has been provided for the launch of the production Z car. However, given the prototype’s seemingly finished interior design, a debut during 2021 is likely.

Where the inspiration came from

The Z Proto’s link to the 50-year history of the Z car is obvious. “We explored two directions,” said Nissan’s global design head, Alfonso Albaisa. “One with a strong homage tone and one with a futuristic feeling throughout. Our designers made countless studies and sketches, researching each generation to better understand what made it such a success… Ultimately, we agreed this new Z Proto should travel between the decades, including the future.”

Various references to the 240Z and 240ZG can be seen, but there are also nods to the 1990s 300ZX. Why?

“The 300ZX represented a technological breakthrough for Z and Nissan,” Albaisa said. “The seamless surfaces and absence of bodylines gave it a river stone-like, smooth quality,” hinted at on the new car.


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16 September 2020

I like it from some angles but definitely not the straight front. That straight square grille is quite off-putting. 

It looks heavily underpinned by the 370z, not necessarily a bad thing - just hope they haven't skimped as Nissan is strapped for cash right now. 

Shame it won't come to Europe due to stupid emissions regs. Hopefully the most immediate influence we'll see is the addition of a manual to the Toyota Supra lineup; which I imagine is its main competition. 

16 September 2020

Well, that is shockingly bland from the front, almost like a student drew it. I know it's just a render so maybe the real thing is better? In a former life, I was there with Nissan when it relaunched the Z in the early 2000s, and remember how it invigorated the brand. I get it – sports coupes are irrelevant today – but this thing seems to be almost willfully lacking in spirit. 

Maybe it sums up the directionless mess that Nissan has turned into?

16 September 2020

front end looks like a rough development mule, but the rest is nice

16 September 2020
I didn't like the 370Z that much.
Because despite the S30 style silhouette it carried over from the 350Z, it looked terribly fat and ugly.
But the 400Z will be one of my beloved Zs. The design hints at the Z's of the past, but above all it is simple and beautiful.
There's nothing like the myriad intakes that look like cartoon robots, no vulgar and excessive canards, no flashy stripes that only a 12-year-old would appreciate.
There's a plain beauty that today's sports cars have forgotten.

And the fact that this car has a stick shift and classic side brakes also makes me smile.
This car isn't designed for meaningless top speeds or Nurburgring lap times.
It's a sports car for everyday use.

In a time when the majority of sports cars are designed for 12-year-olds kids, it's great to see these simple cars back on the scene.
Hopefully, other manufacturers will remember the beauty of these simple sports cars.

16 September 2020
Front grill aside, I think it looks great, it's a simple and elegant shape that looks quite muscular in its stance, it's just that large perfectly rectangular gaping hole at the front that ruins it for me. That it won't come to Europe is a shame, expect to see grey imports like with previous Z's.

16 September 2020

Acres of shiny plastic in the rear, 14cm longer, F-Typeish looks

16 September 2020

 It's a bit 911 looking in overall shape, but it's a nice update on the previous Z car.

16 September 2020

Overall the design from my perspective is great, it's all well resolved apart from the ridiculous rectangular intake at the front. Apart from that they should have made it electric so that it is future proof, they have the technology from the Leaf, so I think it's a missed opportunity 

16 September 2020

Yes to Porsche Cayenne V8 for city use but no to this, if they banned all cars over 150g then I would say fair enough but this is illogically. Nissan seem to be dodging the bullet too, how come Toyota manage to sell the Supra

Is this the beginning of the end.

16 September 2020
xxxx wrote:

Yes to Porsche Cayenne V8 for city use but no to this, if they banned all cars over 150g then I would say fair enough but this is illogically. Nissan seem to be dodging the bullet too, how come Toyota manage to sell the Supra

Is this the beginning of the end.

Supra sell because it's a BMW underneath basically.


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