The Nissan Z Proto was unveiled as a production-ready preview of the new-generation Z sports car.
A twin-turbo V6 engine will power the next Z car, while a manual transmission will still be offered.
The Z Proto’s design is inspired by previous generations of Nissan’s iconic sports coupe.
The 370Z is one of the few remaining, affordable true sports cars left in the market, but it’s getting admittedly long in the tooth. However, a replacement is finally on the way, as evidenced by the new Nissan Z Proto that has just been officially unveiled.
The reveal is actually not a surprise, as the Japanese brand has been teasing us for some time now about a new-generation Z sports car. For now, we get the Z Proto, which foreshadows what the next-generation model will look like.
From a design perspective, the Nissan Z Proto draws styling cues from pretty much all previous generations of the Z car. The overall profile is reminiscent of the current 370Z and the 350Z before it, but also the 240Z/260Z/280Z, known in Japan as the Fairlady Z. It also boasts slim, horizontal taillights with rounded-off extremities, as seen on the second-generation 300ZX that was produced from 1989 to 2000. The front end also pays tribute to the first two Z cars’ pocketed round headlights, but with modern, flush lenses. The decklid also rocks a Fairlady Z emblem, just like the first home-market Z. The square-jaw grille is an evolution of the one found on the 370Z.
“Our designers made countless studies and sketches as we researched each generation and what made them a success,” said Alfonso Albaisa, head of design at Nissan. “Ultimately, we decided the Z Proto should travel between the decades, including the future.”
If the production version of the next-gen sports car will be cloned on the Z Proto’s design, it will be slightly longer than the outgoing 370Z (172.5 inches vs. 167.5), but about as wide and with a similar roofline height. The prototype rides on 255/40R19 front and 285/35R19 tires, which are slightly meatier than the 370Z’s optional set of 19 inchers—although the current NISMO edition wears the same rear tire size.
The Nissan Z Proto’s cockpit looks production-ready, with sport seats dressed in a mix of leather and microfibre, along with contrast stitching and accenting. In addition to the infotainment touchscreen—which looks about eight inches in diameter—the driver instrument panel gets a 12.3-inch, fully digital display. That’s quite a step up from the current-generation Nissan 370Z’s dated, amber-backlit instrumentation.
And then there’s that round-shaped object sticking out from the centre console. Sports car enthusiasts will be happy to know that the next-generation Nissan Z car will still be available with a manual gearbox. Obviously, there will be drive modes, including Sport, and a rev matching function should be carried over from the 370Z as well.
That manual transmission will be connected to a twin-turbocharged V6 engine, and we’re assuming the current Z’s seven-speed automatic transmission will be carried over as well. No word yet on engine displacement, but we’ll guess that the next Z car will be equipped with a derivative of the twin-turbo, 3.0L V6 found in the Infiniti Q50/Q60. In the latter, it produces 300 or 400 horsepower, according to the chosen trim level, and we’re expecting a number closer to 400 in the new Z.
Available features presented in the Nissan Z Proto include adaptive cruise control, single-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable seats and navigation—the usual stuff we find in today’s cars.
“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. “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!”
No word yet on when the production version of the Nissan Z Proto will be unveiled, or when it will go on sale. Nissan has announced that it will debut nine other new vehicles for the North American market in the next 20 months, which excludes the new Sentra, the redesigned 2021 Rogue as well as an upcoming fully electric Nissan Ariya crossover.