It’s been over a decade since we’ve last seen a new Nissan Z car, so today is an exciting day. The automaker is finally showing their next-generation sports car, and this example is called the “Z Proto”. If your heart just sank a bit with that name, I don’t blame you. Nissan is identifying this car as a prototype, so this is not the production version just yet. What it is, however, is a strong sign of what’s to come.
While many of the technical details are still open to interpretation, there is plenty we can tell you right here and now. Obviously, this Nissan Z car is the direct replacement to the aging 370Z, and carries the torch forward into the new decade. It’s a front-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car that borrows inspiration from 50 years of ancestry, while also making its own mark on what a Nissan Z car represents.
Overall, the Nissan Z Proto is 5 inches longer than the current 370Z, but shaves off 0.2 inches in both width and height. This car has a long hood with two doors, a short rear overhang and — oh, happy day! — a six-speed manual transmission. Yes, an automatic is coming as well, but to the hardcore enthusiasts out there (I will always be in that crowd), that is welcome news.
2020 Nissan Z Proto dimensions:
|Length:||172.5 inches (+5.0 in. from 370Z)|
|Width:||72.8 inches (-0.2 in. from 370Z)|
|Height:||51.6 inches (-0.2 in. from 370Z)|
|Tires:||Front: 255/40 R19 (same as stock 370Z)|
Rear: 285/35 R19 (+10mm from stock 370Z)
The next Nissan Z will up its performance game
The Nissan Z Proto also previews the next powertrain for what journalists out there colloquially refer to as the ‘400Z’. Nissan has not confirmed that name just yet, as today’s announcement shows, but hopefully we will have more information on that within the next year or two. As it stands, there’s no official press launch or on-sale date for the 370Z’s ultimate replacement.
When the next Nissan Z car does arrive, though, it will not use the same old 3.7-liter V6 we’ve come to know over the past 10 years. Instead, the automaker did confirm a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 is at the heart of its next-generation sports coupe. Horsepower and torque remain a mystery, and engineers may tweak the car that will eventually reach customers between now and its release. It will have to improve upon the 332 horsepower and 276 lb-ft of torque we get now, as the Z by no means has the field to itself.
If anything, the next Nissan Z is under greatest threat from its own countryman: the Toyota Supra. Say what you want about the tie-up with BMW on that project — the end result with its 382 horsepower is nothing short of an astoundingly good package. It also offers a four-cylinder option to attract more buyers, and Japanese buyers can at least get it with a manual gearbox (here’s to hoping we’ll get that option someday).
Then there’s the style
Until we’re actually able to drive one, the most impactful argument over the Nissan Z will center around its styling. And frankly, the ball was in Nissan’s court to screw this up. With anticipation for a new sports car building up over the past decade, new competition and some folks’ clamors that the 370Z either grew stagnant in the meantime or strayed too far from what made the original Z car iconic, pressure mounted to produce a result that makes everyone happy.
Now, styling is always subjective. Whether Nissan actually nailed the look is up to you — let us know what you think in the comments below. In creating a modern interpretation of the Z car, though, the Z Proto hits on quite a few classic cues, in addition to its new unique elements.
Up front, the hood line that tapers downward toward the front and the grille harken straight back to the 240Z. You can see more of that inspiration in the headlights (despite the LED daytime running lights), and the fact that the “Z” badge has moved back to the rear quarter panel, away from the fenders, as they were on the 350Z and 370Z.
As for the taillights, Nissan cites direct inspiration from the quirky 300ZX there. Later versions of that car also housed a VG30DETT 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, so this won’t be the first time a Z car packed some forced induction under the hood from the factory.
What is a modern Z car interior?
Even if you were a huge fan of the old 370Z, the interior is one area where the car fell well behind the times. Sure, it received a more modern infotainment system in time. But here’s the thing: Even today, that “modern” system is an option. You have to get the Sport Touring or higher to get infotainment at all, let alone features introduced on this side of the past decade.
Fortunately, the Nissan Z Proto redresses that balance. A crisp, clear infotainment screen has been integrated into the center stack. While three gauges for boost, turbo speed and battery voltage still sit atop the dashboard, a configurable digital instrument cluster also replaces the outdated unit in the 370Z.
You do still get manual climate controls, but this next Z car will at least bring highly-demanded features to the table. What’s particularly noteworthy here is the absence of buttons for driver assistance features, apart from one to disengage the traction control. Nissan has sold its Safety Shield 360 system hard in its other models, though it’s not yet clear how the automaker will integrate parts of that system (or all of it) here.
Again, we will have more updates as Nissan reveals the production car. For now, though, see more of the Z Proto preview below: