Nissan has lifted the lid on its hotly-anticipated Z Proto concept car – the latest step in its plan to reinvigorate its lineup with a host of new models, with this sporty coupe giving us our first proper glimpse at what the next Z car, supposedly dubbed the 400Z, may look like.
With the 370Z it will replace having been on sale since late 2008 in its home market of Japan, some feared the next Z car may depart from its roots as a six-cylinder bruiser and instead go hybrid, become an SUV, or perhaps not even come to fruition at all.
However, the Z Proto makes it look pretty clear that Nissan is keen to ensure there will still be a Z car in its lineup, and that it’s taking making it a strong rival to the likes of the Toyota Supra seriously as well.
Featuring a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 believed to be sourced from the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport, in which makes 298kW and 475Nm, the Z Proto concept features one thing the new BMW-based Supra does not which enthusiasts have been crying out for – a six-speed manual gearbox through which it sends the power to the rear wheels alone, of course, with a locking diff expected to feature on the production version.
Of course, one would expect to see an automatic transmission feature as an option in a full production version of this thing, although it’s yet to be seen whether it will utilise a torque converter auto like in Z cars past, or switch to a dual-clutch unit.
With those power outputs from its twin-turbo donk, let alone even higher numbers if Nissan decides to turn up the wick on this engine for the 400Z, it marks a big increase in performance over the 370Z’s 3.7-litre naturally aspirated V6 which makes just 253kW and 371Nm.
With the last Z car to feature a 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine being the Z32 300ZX, its not the only nod to the car famously one of the first to be designed using CAD software, with the Z Proto giving a nod to it with its taillight design.
The bonnet and headlight design are also a nod to the Datsun 240Z as well, while the side profile shows some clear similarities to the 370Z. This styling journey through the decades is all deliberate, of course, with Nissan design boss Alfonso Albaisa saying, “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.”
As for the big squared-off grille at the front, it calls to mind the original 350Z Concept, as it was something that was shrunken down for the production version – something that would be likely here, too, with the need to put a front number plate on the car for most jurisdictions.
Circling back to the 370Z side profile look, though, there’s some speculation the Z Proto may be based on the current and ageing Z car, with not only the unique door handle design on the outside giving it away, but similarities on the inside such as the door cards, transmission tunnel design, and handbrake level placement.
However, the rest of the interior looks thoroughly modern, with a bang-up-to-date infotainment system from the new X-Trail, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and an attractive new steering wheel design, along with a trio of gauges on top of the dashboard.
Measuring in at 4382mm long, 1850mm wide, and 1310mm tall, the Z Proto is slightly longer and narrower than the 370Z Nismo.
Although Nissan is yet to officially confirm whether or not the ‘400Z’ will enter production – although with how production-ready the Z Proto looks, it seems Nissan isn’t far from that point – the words from the company’s CEO Makoto Uchida sound promising.
“The Z, as a pure sports car, represents the spirit of Nissan. It’s a key model in our Nissan NEXT transformation plan, and it’s proof of our ability to do what others don’t dare to do, from A to Z,” said Uchida.
“As a Z fan myself, I’m excited to announce that the next Z is coming.” Promising words, indeed.