Giving hope to automotive enthusiasts that niche models will remain in at least some automakers’ lineups, Nissan this week revealed the Z Proto, “signaling the company's intent to launch a new generation of the legendary Z sports car.” The production-intent Z Proto likely bears close resemblance to the production model that will replace today’s 370Z, a model that has been little changed since its introduction in 2003 as the 350Z.
“The Z represents the joy of driving in its purest form and has helped shape Nissan's DNA as a passionate, innovative challenger,” said Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida in a release coinciding with the Z Proto’s unveiling. “Ever since the first generation, it has captured the hearts of car enthusiasts all over the world. That's why we're so excited today to be able to say to them: ‘Yes, the next one is coming!’” the CEO continued. He did not confirm when the new-generation Z-car will be in showrooms; some enthusiast media outlets indicate that will be in 2022.
Twin-turbo V6, more length
Key for any sportscar is the powerplant, and although the first Datsun 240Z in 1970 featured an inline 6-cylinder engine – and inline sixes are experiencing a resurgence – the Proto Z indicates the next-generation Z car will be powered by a V6 that displaces 3.0 liters and is twin-turbocharged.
The company offered no output figures, saying only, “As a prototype, work is now underway to synchronize the power with the grace and control that has defined the Z for the past 50 years.” The current 370Z’s normally-aspirated 3.7-L V6 makes 332 hp and 270 lb-ft (366 Nm), but engineers currently are deriving what seems an easily-attained 400 hp from the 3.0-liter V6 in the high-performance variant of the Infiniti Q60.
Nissan also promised yet another totem of enthusiast-buyer credibility: the next-generation Z-car will offer a manual transmission – a man-machine interface not currently available for the recently reincarnated Toyota Supra, a longtime rival of Nissan’s 2-seat sportscar. The six-speed manual certainly will be joined by the choice of an automatic transmission, but Nissan did not mention details during the Z Proto unveiling.
Nor did Nissan offer details about the upcoming Z-car’s (possible new moniker: 400Z) chassis or suspension. It is widely believed the new car will be derived from the longstanding rear-wheel-drive FM (front-midship) architecture that underpins the current 370Z. The company did provide the Z Proto’s basic dimensions, however: overall length is 172.5 in (4383 mm), some 5 in (127 mm) longer than today’s car, while its 72.8-in (1849-mm) width and 51.6-in (1311-mm) height are nearly identical to the 370Z.
The Z Proto’s design is an amalgam of cues from several Z-car generations, the most obvious being the rear section’s homage to the ZX models of the ’90s. Its headlights recall the original Z’s predominantly round shape. The roofline that creases and drops radically at the leading edge is a hallmark of the current model’s profile.
“Our designers made countless studies and sketches as we researched each generation and what made them a success. Ultimately, we decided the Z Proto should travel between the decades, including the future,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s head of design.Continue reading »