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The New Nissan Z Proto Is Pretty Much Exactly What I Wanted: Old School

Sep 16, 2020 at 07:46. 11 comments

The Nissan Z Proto, an official forerunner for a tentatively promised next-gen Z car, has bowed and it incorporates some features I like. Namely a cool, long-looking body that’s built around two supportive seats and a real three-pedal manual transmission. So far, so good.

I imagine what you want to do most is look at it, so, here:

Nissan Z Proto Virtual Walkaround

I think it’s pretty clear that the original 240Z was a strong piece of inspiration. The new car’s not full-on retro, but it kind of feels like the 2006 Mustang in the sense that it seems similarly old-school inspired but decidedly fresh.

The taillight and black plastic tail section is vaguely reminiscent of the Z32 300ZX, as earlier teasers have suggested.

Nissan’s designers definitely got the silhouette right. I’m on board with the side Z emblem moving from the fender to the pillar, too. The open-mouth front end though, I’m just not sure how I feel about it. It certainly feels like a loud callback to the original car but I can’t quite put my finger on how I’d improve it. A little refinement would go a long way though, which is why I’m glad this “Proto” is still being flagged as a work-in-progress.

I can’t say I’m blown away by this car over the current 370Z, which still looks great after its long stint in service. But I’m into the major design elements in the lighting and body.

Nissan Z Proto Interior

Triple gauge pod on the dash, good, and it looks like the tachometer is still central even though the main gauge cluster has gone digital. Nice steering wheel, too. OK, I’m generally satisfied with the look of the cockpit based on what we can see here.

The main shapes, down to the door cards, pretty much just look like a 370Z.

Nissan Z Proto Specs

While stopping short of making any production promises, Nissan released a few specifications for the Z Proto which you can study here.

  • Engine: V6 twin turbo
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual (an automatic option would be “in development”)
  • Length: 172.5 inches (370Z is 167.5)
  • Width: 72.8 inches (370Z is 72.6)
  • Height: 51.6 inches (370Z is 51.8)
  • Wheel and tire size: 255/40R19 front; 285/35R19 rear

No EV or hybrid tech, which I don’t mind for this application myself, though I’m sure others will feel differently.

The closest Nissan’s official literature gets to describing the power is: “an enhanced V6 twin-turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.” Most commentators think that means the next Zs will run Nissan’s VR-series engines, which are currently being used in Infiniti vehicles and turning out as much as 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.

There are also lower-output versions, so I think it’s reasonable to guess that if there is a new Z it might have multiple power options for different price points.

Since Nissan is hedging very carefully, and not guaranteeing us anything, there’s not much to discuss in terms of driving dynamics or performance. Though, of course, if it really does use that old VR engine, people who were hoping for new hotness will have something to complain about.

I’m more of the mind that, if the tech’s been around, it’ll be cheaper to run and easier to keep alive. And 400 HP is plenty.

But, again, we don’t really know what this car will be like to drive or if it will end up being built and sold en masse at all.

That said, I have to imagine the automaker wouldn’t bother developing a design this complete and trotting it out if it weren’t at least somewhat committed to creating a successor for today’s 370Z.

That happens to be

one of my favorite cars at the moment, and what grips me about it is pretty much the same reason the car’s often written off: It’s dated.

The current Z, the “Z34” as its sometimes known, does indeed seem primitive compared to many other current-gen cars. The gauges that aren’t analog look like an old calculator, there aren’t too many driver-aid features, and the drivetrain is a pretty common non-turbo V6 with rear-wheel drive and an optional manual transmission.

In other words, it’s a simple and mechanically practical sports car. A breed of vehicle that gets rarer every year. I love these things. The Z is also really pretty, which I would not say about the FR-S/BRZ/GT86 or ND Miata. Good looking cars both, but not... pretty.

There’s definitely an elegance to the Z Proto too, even in the intense hot yellow they decided to spray this one in.

With that, I’ve said my piece about this design exercise so now I’m looking forward to reading the comments over the course of the night. I’ll leave you with the rest of the official photo gallery pics, tucked into a mini slideshow so you don’t have to load a wall of jpegs if you don’t want to.

More Nissan Z Proto Pictures

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