Nissan Z Proto rocks a twin-turbo V6, manual transmission and retro design

Nissan Z Proto rocks a twin-turbo V6, manual transmission and retro design

The Nissan Z Proto looks great. Now let’s set the performance and the price.

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With everything going on, 2020 is probably not a good time to introduce a new sports car. Of the Coronavirus Pandemic to the recession seemingly incessant Natural disastersIt’s proving difficult enough to bring a new model to market this year, let alone one in a shrinking niche segment. And that’s exactly what this Nissan Z Proto shows. With its debut on Tuesday, this is the upcoming seventh chapter of the brand 50 years of Z Auto History that began with the now legendary Datsun 240Z.

On the flip side, this Nissan 370Z Proto could be just the kind of upbeat distraction – if not revelation – that many driving enthusiasts crave right now. New at the same time, yet deeply familiar, imagine the Z Proto as a high-performance convenience food dish that comes at a time when we all need a familiar face and something to look forward to. Ready or not, world, it’s time to get excited.


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The Proto in Nissan 370Z Proto is short for prototype, and that means that the pale-yellow coupe seen here isn’t just a pure concept car, it’s about 98% of the production model that’s expected to debut next year before hitting dealers in 2022. 

I was actually fortunate enough to see the Z Proto briefly in person last October during a trip to Japan. I was sworn to secrecy at the time, and it’s been incredibly hard to bite my tongue and not share any impressions until now, nearly a year later. I saw a slightly earlier full-size version of the Z Proto in a courtyard full of other future wonders (which I’m still not allowed to talk about). But even then, the Z wasn’t just the center of the display’s gravity — if it weren’t an outdoor setting, the Z would’ve sucked all the air out of the room. Yes, I’ve got a weak spot for purist sports cars in general, but I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. This design has real presence.

Nissan Z Proto specs

Despite being unveiled at a ceremony in Yokohama, Japan, and paired with a simulcast celebration livestreamed from the model’s annual ZCon fan gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, there aren’t a lot of hard numbers to accompany the rollout of this new Z Proto. Right now, Nissan confirms that it’s powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 engine whose soul is stirred by a six-speed manual transmission. The company also released basic dimensions, so here’s how the Proto stacks up to the current 2020 Nissan 370Z range.

Nissan Z Proto vs. 2020 Nissan 370Z and 370Z Nismo

Nissan Z Proto 2020 Nissan 370Z 2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Length 172.5 in 167.5 in 170.5 in
Width 72.8 in 72.6 in 73.6 in
Height 51.6 in 51.8 in 51.8 in
Engine size TBD 3.7 liters 3.7 liters
Engine type Twin-turbo V6 NA V6 NA V6
Power TBD 332 hp 350 hp
Torque TBD 270 lb-ft 276 lb-ft
Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed manual or 7-speed auto 6-speed manual or 7-speed auto

Nissan Z Proto: A historic design

As you can see, the new Proto maintains the Z’s classic long hood and rear-wheel-drive proportions. The Z has an enviable design history, and to expect chief designer Alfonso Albaisa to sign off on something radically different would be to misunderstand how the company feels about this model. As Albaisa told Roadshow during a virtual media briefing, this car is “in the very fibers of our heart, as Nissan, and [designing the new car] is an enormous responsibility and honor. “With the possible exception of the 1990s Z32, which was something of a technological moon shot developed during the Japanese economic bubble, the Z has remained remarkably consistent in its mission and range over its five decades of life. The New Z Proto suggests that Nissan will try to maintain that continuity.

Interestingly, the prototype’s 19-inch diameter staggered wheels are a reasonable size and taller sidewalls than you’d expect from a modern sports coupe, let alone a show car. Also note the very deliberate inclusion of a six-speed shifter and the retention of a manual handbrake. With these details, Nissan telegraphs that the new Z will focus less on generating dazzling performance data than on creating a connection between the car and the driver. The Japanese automaker has its GT-R For fans of dazzling grip and boastful stopwatch numbers, keeping the Z as the more elementary driver’s car seems like a wise approach.

If the styling of this pearly yellow Z Proto sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a mix of design elements carried over from previous Z models. A series of LED peepers that are supposed to be reminiscent of the legendary sugar headlights of the S30 Fairlady Z – especially the glass-covered lights of the coveted 240ZG Japanese market – are reminiscent of a somewhat large and too square grille opening. Notice how the roofline is unusually high at its leading edge and tapers from the head of the windshield at the back, just like it is on today’s 370Z. At the rear, the horizontal LED taillights are reminiscent of the Z32 of the 90s. That the design of this Z Proto manages to incorporate all of these historical design elements without looking overly retro or cobbled together is an achievement in itself.

The Z Proto has a roof line that, like today’s 370Z, stands unusually high on the windshield head.

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Nissan Z Proto Chassis and Turbo Power

Nissan doesn’t say what’s under that body, but sources say the platform is actually a close relative of the current car’s unibody chassis. The 370Z has always been a strong and fun handler, but has never been overly refined, especially when it comes to noise, vibration, and harshness. If the new Z is indeed similar to the old Z underneath, it will be interesting to find out what kind of renovation might be needed to bring the underlying architecture up to date, including crash test regulations. It is also likely that the series Z’s electrical system will need to be updated not only to cope with advancing cabin technologies, but also to match the advanced driver assistance systems that Nissan is making available.

While the original S30 Fairlady Z had in-line six-cylinder power, Nissan does not currently have a suitable modern in-line six-cylinder engine in its portfolio. So it makes sense that the new car has a V6 motivation. The current 370Z is based on a 3.7-liter V6 with a naturally aspirated engine. However, for the next-generation model, the car is widely expected to displace a Skosh and take over a version of Nissan’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 as seen in the Infiniti Q60 Coupe. As befits the rumored 400Z name of the production model, the engine is expected to produce 400 horsepower – the same output that the engine achieves today Q60 Red Sport.

If exactly, that would be a bunch that brings more momentum than the 332 hp Nissan 370Z 2020 and even the more powerful 370Z Nismo that offers 350 hp. In addition, the forced induction undoubtedly brings with it much more torque at significantly lower speeds. (The Q60 Red Sport whips 350 pound-feet from 1,600 rpm, while the 370Z’s 270 lb-ft peak doesn’t show until 5,200 rpm.)

Expect the manual transmission to be standard and a traditional paddle-shift automatic transmission (like the Red Sport’s seven-speed power unit) to be optional.

A driver-oriented cab keeps it simple, but modern details such as a fully digital instrument cluster keep it contemporary.

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The interior of the Nissan Z Proto is familiar with better technology

Inside, the Proto’s booth is more openly modern than the candy-covered bowl, but that’s mostly related to the increased presence of screens. The redesigned dashboard not only includes a larger touchscreen infotainment display, but also a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster.

Additionally, there is a lot that Z-Believers will be familiar with, from three analog displays on the dashboard to simple, circular climate controls and clamshell door handles. (If these make it into production, I hope they feel better than the ones in today’s Z.) Though they include new features and amenities, Nissan’s designers seem to be telegraphing that the Production Z is still primarily one Will be a driver’s car, and that’s good news.

The taillights of the Nissan Z Proto are reminiscent of the powerful Z32 generation of the 90s.

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Nissan Z pricing and availability

The 400Z production is expected to be announced sometime next year, but an actual time frame for sales remains unclear, as does official prices. It will likely be 2022 before new Z-cars hit the road, so it’s still very early in the process.

It’s worth remembering that today’s sports car landscape has changed significantly since the 370Z was unveiled in 2008 – the same year Jay Z and Beyonce tied the knot and President Obama was elected into his first term. At that time you could still buy a new one Honda S2000, a Pontiac solstice or even one of the last Chrysler Crossfires. The next Z’s most natural rival will be that Toyota GR Supra, followed perhaps by V6 versions of Detroit’s pony cars. If Nissan produces a lower-performing, lower-cost iteration of the seventh generation Z, it could potentially compete with high-end versions of the next Z. Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 Twins who are also due around the same time.

Based on Roadshow’s sources, it’s likely certain that the base price of the Z starts with the number 3, undercutting the Toyota GR Supra. There will almost certainly be a not inconsiderable price hike from today’s surprisingly affordable base 370Z ($ 31,000) to reflect the added power and features of the new model. However, expect Nissan Plea to fall well short of the Nismo Z’s stunning $ 46,715 window sticker (including a $ 925 delivery fee). A starting price near $ 38,000 to $ 39,000 sounds about right, which would make the Z a game of values ​​alongside the GR Supra ($ 44,000 for the 2021 2.0-liter, $ 52,000 for the more comparable 3.0)).

What is old is new again.

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Nissan 400Z Nismo or Roadster variants?

There have been some thin rumors of a possibly more powerful Nismo version of the 400Z, and such a model would be a predictable development for a car that is likely to have a longer than normal life cycle again. As for a future Z Roadster Variation, ironically, that’s an open question. It’s probably also something I wouldn’t bet about hearing more anytime soon. Because if today’s coupe market is thin, the convertible market is absolutely emaciated.

While Nissan certainly won’t have a new Z at the dealership in time to round out the line’s golden anniversary, this Z Proto is a promising, tasty teaser at a time when we might all need a break. This also applies to Nissan. Remember, not only has the automaker weathered the same crises as the rest of us, but it’s also embroiled in a deplorable saga in which the CEO became an international refugee significant financial turmoil.

A new Z can’t cure Nissan any more than it can solve the world’s problems. Not least as a puristic gimmick and as a declaration of intent for a new sports car, this Nissan Z Proto is a welcome change.

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