Next Gen Nissan Z Proto Unveiled Today

Enthusiasts rejoice, the new Z still has a manual transmission. 

Believe it or not, the Nissan 370Z has been on the market for 11 years already. Debuting way back in 2009, Nissan’s ageing sports car has soldiered on amongst more modern, better performing competition. Today however, the Japanese auto manufacturer has finally unveiled the successor to the 370Z and the next in line to the iconic Z-car name, in the form of this new Nissan Z Proto. 

A prototype of Z to come for the moment, if the Z Proto were to make it into production, the next-gen Z car seems to have all the right ingredients for a bonafide sports car. Twin turbocharged V6 up front, manual gearbox in the middle and drive to the rear, while clothed in a svelte coupe body stays true to the Nissan Z mantra. As it should be as Nissan claims that ‘Nissan Z Proto pays full respect to 50 years of Z heritage. At the same time, it’s a thoroughly modern sports car.’

On that note, it has been made clear that the design of the Z Proto has been heavily influenced by the previous iterations of the Z cars. The front end design with its sharply creased hood and teardrop shaped LED headlights were meant to invoke the front end of Nissan’s first Z car the 240Z. It is also from the 240Z where the Z Proto derives its rather gapingly large black rectangular front grille. 

The side profile of this two-door coupe meanwhile apparently continues deriving inspiration from the OG Z car. 19 inch wheels add a touch of modernity to a vintage-inspired design, as does the carbon fibre usage on the side skirts, front lower lip and rear valance. In-set vertical door handles are also a nice feature, not to mention the iconic Z badge on the hump that is the most stark reminder back to the Z cars of the past. 

Round the back, hints of Z cars from more modern times are obvious. A slab-sided rear end contains LED taillights in the form of strips housed in a black panel that spans the width of the Z. Much like what was seen in the Z31 300ZXs of the 90s. While the twin exhausts sticking out below the aggressive black rear diffuser is right out of the 350Z. 

It may seem to be all the greatest hits from all the Z cars melded into one car. Despite that, it is no denying that the next-gen Z is a great looking car. This sentiment continues too onto the interior, where a mashup of Z cars blends to produce a decent interior. 

A digital instrument cluster and a 12.3 inch central infotainment display might bring a touch of modernity into the cabin of this Japanese sports car. However there are still plenty of signs that show the Z is still very much an old-school machine, in a good way. A six-speed manual gear-lever poking out of the transmission tunnel is indication enough, but the Z goes one step further by reintroducing the three dash-top instrument pods seen in previous generation Z cars. 

Door-mounted air vents would also lead to the assumption that the Z cabin will probably be a cocoon-like experience. That said, the driver should have no qualms slotting into the bucket seats and gripping onto the sporty steering wheel proudly displaying the Z logo. 

Too long has Nissan gone without a proper Z car that can take the fight to its competitors. In the course of 11 long years, the current 370Z has went from a cutting edge sports car to a car bought by people who want to remember the good old days. And while this new Z Proto does certainly do a look of looking back to the past, it would seem too that there is enough modern technology within the package to be a serious competitor to its contemporaries. 

Sports cars like the Toyota Supra, Porsche Cayman, Alpine A110 better watch out, the Z is back, and it may be back for blood. 

PRESS RELEASE: The new Z is coming.

Nissan today unveiled the Z Proto, signaling the company’s intent to launch a new generation of the legendary Z sports car. Shown at a virtual event beamed around the world from the Nissan Pavilion in Yokohama, the prototype car features a new design inside and out, as well as a V-6 twin turbocharged engine with a manual transmission.

First hinted at in a video named “Nissan A-Z” in May, the Nissan Z Proto pays full respect to 50 years of Z heritage. At the same time, it’s a thoroughly modern sports car.

“The Z, as a pure sports car, represents the spirit of Nissan,” said Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida. “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.”

A global community of fans young and old attended today’s virtual unveiling. Members of the Z Club in Japan, ZCON participants in Nashville, Tennessee, and enthusiasts in various other markets tuned in for the event.

Exterior: past meets future

Penned and developed by the design team in Japan, the Z Proto boasts a fresh, attractive exterior design with a silhouette that communicates respect for the original model. It sports a bright yellow pearlescent paint – a tribute to a popular paint scheme on both the first generation Z (S30) and the 300ZX (Z32) – and a black roof.

Combining a retro theme with one that also projected futurism was challenging, said Alfonso Albaisa, head of design at Nissan.

“Our designers made countless studies and sketches as we researched each generation and what made them a success,” Albaisa 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 both unmistakable reminders of the original Z. The rectangular grille’s dimensions are similar to the current model with the addition of oval grille fins to offer an updated modern look. The form continues to exude both sportiness and elegance.

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

The link to the original Z is most striking when viewing the Z Proto from the side. The roofline flows from the nose to the squared-off rear to create a distinctive first-generation Z profile whose rear edge was slightly lower than the front fender height giving the Z its unique posture. The signature transition from the rear quarter glass to the low-slung position of the rear tail adds to the effect.

The rear takes inspiration from the 300ZX (Z32) taillights, reinterpreted for the modern world. Set within a rectangular black section that runs across the rear and wraps around the outer edges, the LED taillights convey a sharp glow.

Lightweight carbon fiber treatments on the side skirts, front lower lip and rear valance ensure nimble performance. 19-inch alloy wheels and dual exhausts complete the Z Proto’s striking road presence.

Interior: modern tech with a vintage touch

Designed to fit driver and passenger like a glove, the Z Proto’s cabin seamlessly blends modern technology with vintage Z touches.

The interior design team sought advice from professional motorsports legends to give the Z Proto an ideal sports car cabin, both for road and track. This can be seen in the Z’s instrumentation. All vital information is found in the 12.3-inch digital meter display and arranged to help the driver grasp it at a glance, such as the redline shift point at the twelve o-clock position.

The new, deep dish steering wheel offers the driver quick access controls without losing its vintage aesthetic.

Yellow accents are found throughout the cabin, including stitching on the instrument panel. The seats feature special yellow accenting and a layered gradation stripe in the center of the seats to create depth.

Sports car joy: an exhilarating, dynamic performer

The original Z was built to bring the joy and excitement of sports car ownership to as many people as possible.

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

Each new generation had a more powerful engine, although the Z is about more than power increases.

“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.”

Make no mistake though, the Z Proto packs a powerful punch. Under the elongated hood is an enhanced V-6 twin-turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. As a prototype, work is now underway on synchronizing the power with the grace and control that has defined the Z for the past 50 years.

“With the launch this summer of the groundbreaking Ariya EV, we’ve started a new era of electrification and autonomous driving technology,” said Uchida. “With the Z, we’re bringing drivers the excitement of a pure sports car. For more than 50 years we have been creating the legend of Z together. I’m glad you’re with us for the next exciting chapter. The new Z is on its way.”

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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