Nissan reveals stunning new Z sports car prototype

Enthusiasts buzzing as Nissan teases latest iteration of its iconic Z sports car.

Nissan has set the global sports car community abuzz with the reveal of its Z Prototype, providing a clear glimpse of the design direction and some of the technology set to appear in the next iteration of the brand’s iconic sports coupe. 

The launch was beamed around the world from the Nissan Pavilion in Yokohama, Japan, and connected with the 33rd ZCON enthusiast meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Held in the shadow of Nissan’s North America HQ, ZCON is the largest Z car gathering in the world and the reveal of the new Z Proto was celebrated with a cacophony of tooting horns and flashing headlights lights from the assembled crowd of enthusiasts. 
 
Stepping out of the slinky sports coupe, Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida described the Z “as a pure sports car (that) 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. As a Z fan myself, I’m excited to announce that the next Z is coming.”

The prototype car features a new design inside and out, as well as a new twin turbocharged V6 engine with a six-speed manual transmission. 

Nissan Z prototype

Speakers at the event made a point of highlighting the retention of the manual gearbox as a key attribute of the sports car experience, despite many brands including Porsche largely moving to automated dual clutch transmissions.   

Chief product specialist of the Z Proto, Hiroshi Tamura, said the experience of changing gears and physically engaging the driver in the business of synchronising engine revs and gear shifts is vital to the Z experience. 

The new model will be the seventh generation of the legendary Japanese sports car, which traces its lineage back to the original Datsun 240Z of 1969. The company claims more than 1.3 million Z cars have been sold worldwide over the model’s six generations.

Nissan’s head of design Alfonso Albaisa said the Z Proto drew design inspiration from various Z sports cars over the model’s 50-year history, notably the 240Z and the 300ZX. Though described as a prototype, Mr Albaisa made it clear the design provided a clear pointer to a forthcoming production version.  

Penned by the Nissan design team in Japan, the Z Proto boasts a fresh, dynamic exterior design with a silhouette that communicates respect for the original model, Mr Albaisa said. 

Its bright yellow pearlescent paint also plays tribute to a paint scheme popular on both the first-generation Z (S30) and the 300ZX (Z32). 

Nissan Z prototype

Combining a retro theme with one that also projected futurism was challenging, said Mr Albaisa. 

“Our designers made countless studies and sketches as we researched each generation and what made them a success,” he said. 

“Ultimately, we decided the Z Proto should travel between the decades, including the future.”

The shape of the hood and the canted, teardrop-shaped LED headlights are reminders of the original 240Z, while the rectangular grille’s dimensions are similar to the current 370Z, with the addition of oval grille fins for a more modern look.

“The LED headlights have two half-circles that hark back to the Japan market-only 240ZG of the ’70s,” Mr Albaisa said. 

“The ZG has clear dome lenses over the headlight buckets, which under light give off two circular reflections over each headlight. We liked that unique characteristic and discovered that it naturally fit with the Z’s identity.”

Nissan Z prototype

The link to the original Z is most evident when viewing the Z Proto from the side. The car sits planted on attractive 19-inch alloy wheels, with a classic long bonnet, steeply raked windscreen, and low slung cabin silhouette.

Mr Albaisa called out the way the hood bulge and front guards sit higher than the trailing edge of the roofline, creating that distinctive first-generation Z poised-to-pounce posture.

The rear design takes inspiration from the 300ZX (Z32), with dual exhaust tips and LED taillights set within a rectangular black section that runs across the rear of the car and wrap around the outer edges.

Lightweight carbon fibre on the side skirts, front chin spoiler and rear valance have a functional as well an aesthetic purpose, helping to keep weight down which facilitates nimble performance. 

Inside, the Z Proto’s cockpit fits snugly around driver and passenger, once again blending modern technology with vintage Z touches. All vital information is found in the 12.3-inch digital meter display, including the redline shift point at the 12 o’clock position.

The deep dish steering wheel offers quick access controls without losing its vintage aesthetic, while the sculpted sports seats picks up the exterior colour with yellow accents and stitching that is also found throughout the cabin.

On the technical front the Z Proto features a new twin turbo V6, which Nissan declined to offer further details on, but which will is undoubtedly top the 253kW/371Nm figures of the current 3.7-litre V6 powered 370Z Nismo. 

Nissan Z prototype

No engine capacity details were provided, but looking at Nissan’s current range it’s possible the engine could be a newly detuned or smaller capacity iteration of the GT-R sport coupe’s 419kW/632Nm 3.8-litre twin turbo V6. The GT-R effectively harnesses its epic horsepower via a sophisticated all-wheel drive system, and such outputs would be far too much for the rear wheel drive Z car, but even a detuned version remains a tantalising prospect.

However, some online reports have suggested the new model will be dubbed the 400Z and be powered by the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 that propels the Infiniti Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe. That engine is available in 224kW and 298kW versions, which seems a more logical step for the new Z car.   

“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 Mr Tamura. 

“This has been true through all its generations, and this is what drives our passion to innovate and challenge the norm.

“Z is a balance of power and agility,” Tamura continued. “It is a vehicle that creates a connection with the driver not just on the physical level, but emotionally, and responds to the driver’s impulses.”

Z Proto specs

Engine: V6 twin turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Length: 4382mm
Width: 1850mm
Height: 1310mm
Wheel and tire size:
Front: 255/40R19
Rear: 285/35R19