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Nissan debuts Z Proto pre-production sportscar

Nissan tears covers off Z Proto coupe pointing to next-gen sportscar legend

16 Sep 2020

AT LONG last, Nissan has finally given the world its first proper look at its 370Z replacement, dubbed, for the time being at least, the Z Proto.


Having first been teased in May and rumoured long before that, the Z Proto features styling cues taken directly from the past and given a few dashes of modernity to create the striking, very yellow and sleek body shell.


According to Nissan head of design Alfonso Albaisa, designers conducted countless studies and drew endless sketches as they researched all the previous generations of Z car, opting for a design that blended features from every previous model.


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


Fittingly then, it comes as no surprise to see the Z Proto retain the classic cab-back silhouette pioneered by its predecessors, especially the original 240Z of the 1960s.


Other cues taken from the original Z car include the teardrop-shaped headlights, pointed nose and bright yellow pearlescent paint, a colour Nissan says was a customer favourite on both the 240Z and Z32 series 300ZX.


“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.”


Another defining feature of the front end is the gaping rectangular intake taken almost directly from the front of the 350Z and proceeding 370Z, perfectly fitting the designers’ vision of blending the past and present.


With no foglights to speak of, the only other features of note at the front of the car are some subtle crease lines complementing the square grille and helping to protrude the chin of the car out to be almost in line with the pointed nose.


A subtle carbon splitter – another feature borrowed from the original 240 – completes the look.


Viewed side on, Nissan says the link to the original Z is at its most obvious with the flowing roofline cut of squarely at the rear with the bootline sitting ever so slightly lower than the bonnet line, recreating the original car’s “unique posture”.


“The silhouette is so important … we wanted this long bonnet and this slid-back cabin,” Mr Albaisa said.


“We wanted to make sure that the rear end of the car is lower than the hood of the car, which we feel if you really analyse the 240, is emblematic of this car.”


The subtly flared but curvaceous rear wheelarches of both the 240Z and 370Z make a return, helping to give the coupe a definitive hip line while simultaneously adding an extra sense of muscularity, especially when viewed from a three-quarter angle.


Integrated doorhandles add another injection of modernity while deep body contouring low down on the doors helps to emphasise the proportions of the rear wheelarches.


Tracing along the roof and window lines meanwhile is a silver ‘katana sword’ trim piece which extends down to the rear haunches of the body.


At the rear we find a modern take on the horizontal tail-light arrangement of the Z32 300ZX, once again contrasted against a black trim insert running the full width of the body.


The rear bumper meanwhile is dominated by a new carbon-fibre diffuser from which protrude a pair of silver exhaust tips, another styling cue first seen on the 350Z back in the early 2000s.


Designed to “fit the driver and passenger like a glove”, the Proto Z’s interior is one of simplicity with very few buttons and switches to be found.


Instead, the majority of functions are controlled via a large, centrally mounted touchscreen infotainment system, however Nissan does not quote a specific diameter.


It has however detailed the 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster which has been arranged specifically to display all key driving information – for both road and track use – to the driver “at a glance”.


While it remains to be seen if the system is configurable or customisable, the tachometer takes precedence over everything else, sitting squarely in the middle with the red-line shift point being tactically placed at the 12 o’clock position.


To the left of the tacho is a boost gauge while to the right are the oil pressure and temperature gauges along with the water and differential oil temperatures.


Speed is shown only via a conservatively sized readout above and to the right of the tacho.


Three auxiliary gauges adorn the top of the dash board in classic Z style, displaying boost pressure, turbo speed and a voltmeter.


Very few details have been released regarding the Z Proto’s powertrain, however Nissan has at last confirmed the long-standing rumours that it will be powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine, with power being sent exclusively to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.


“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,” Z Proto chief product specialist

Hiroshi Tamura said.


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


Mr Tamura went on to cite the upcoming launch of the Ariya EV and how it marked the start of a “new era of electrification” before referencing the “next exciting chapter” of the Z car, possibly hinting that the new Z may feature some form of electrification.


Further evidence can be drawn from Nissan’s description of the Z Proto’s drivetrain, namely “an enhanced V6 twin-turbocharged engine…”, begging the question of if this means mechanical enhancements from the Nissan parts bin or if it is referring to electrification.


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


“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.”

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