The Z Proto is Nissan’s retro-fantastic blueprint for its next sports car
|driving.ca 16 Sep 2020 at 00:04|
Nissan’s old Z car has been with us for more than 10 years, which explains why enthusiasts have been screaming for a new version. Well, here it is, in concept “Z Proto” form, featuring real throwback styling that dates all the way to 1969.
“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!”
The headlights are obviously a big part of what made the original 240Z so distinctive. With inset headlights – and plastic covers in some markets – the car looked sleek and aerodynamic, like a Jaguar E-Type. The new Z mimics that style with a similarly-shaped headlight profile, with dual half-moon-shaped daytime running lights.
The taillights will follow a different vehicle’s style, that of the Z32 300ZX of the 1990s (even though that car’s elements were just an homage to the original 240Z as well) with horizontal red lines laid flush with the body.
Obviously one of the most striking elements of the Z Proto is the grille; the designers elected to stick a completely square opening on it, just like the original wore, creating a truly retro design.
Other retro-Z-inspired touches include the badge on the C-pillar with a ‘Z’ on it, as well as — well, basically the entire shape of the body. Although the original 240Z had a straight-six and a long hood to match, the similarly styled Z Proto will feature a twin-turbocharged V6, but placed far back in the engine bay for better weight distribution. Still, Nissan wanted more of that classic look, so the designers chose to include the classic creases of the 240Z hood.
The interior is similarly retro, with a classic triple-gauge pod in the centre and a central 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster for the speedometer and rev counter (which by the way, is rotated so the red-line is right at the 12 o’clock position).
“The Z has always been a strong dynamic performer, making it easy for customers to enjoy its capabilities and feel as connected as possible to the car,” said Hiroshi Tamura, chief product specialist on the Z Proto. “This has been true through all its generations, and this is what drives our passion to innovate and challenge the norm.”
Nissan seems to have saved the best for last, however, because the Z will be available with a six-speed manual transmission, something that’s been a staple of the sports car since its beginning.
This Datsun 240Z just sold for over US0,000 on Bring a Trailer
The Z has grown in size from the previous generation, and is now 172.5 inches long, up from 167.5; and 72.8 inches wide over the 370Z’s 72.6. It’s a hair’s breadth lower, at 51.6 inches tall, down from 51.8.
The tires are a reasonable 255/40R19 in size on the front; and 285/35R19 on the rear. While most new vehicles are going to 20-inch tires and larger, the engineers at Nissan have a good reason for keeping the wheels smaller. The increased air volume means the suspension can make better use the sidewall of the tire, negating the harsh ride of a smaller-profile hoop. This is a sports car, after all.
“Every time we design a car, it’s an honour, but with the Z being in the very fibres of our heart, so many passionate members have Z running through their veins, the same can be said by millions of people who have been touched by this car,” head designer Alfonso Albaisa told us on a Zoom call with the Z’s stylists. “We are super-happy, we’re super-excited.”
Hiroshi Tamura, “Mr. GT-R,” said on the call “this is our DNA. Many say Nissan is dying, but, no, we are the phoenix that is rising.”
If Tamura’s not bluffing, we feel pretty good about the brand and its sports car aspirations. Let’s hope when the production Z comes out, it sets the world ablaze.