A Heritage-Rich Preview of the 400Z
- The Nissan Z Proto is a preview of the retro concept of the 400Z, close to production.
- The 2022 Nissan 400Z goes on sale in America in the spring of 2021.
- The Proto has a twin-turbo V-6 which will hopefully produce 400 horsepower in the 400Z.
The Nissan 370Z seems to be such a permanent part of the Nissan lineup that you’ve probably stopped wondering how long it’s been around. Well, we’re going to tell you that anyway because it matters: the current Gen Z launched in 2008, and 12 years is pretty long even for a sports car. In fact, there were doubts if a successor was ever going to materialize, and between the flood of negative press that Nissan has received in recent years and the current economic climate, you would be forgiven for giving up hope.
But Nissan swore the Z was in its very DNA, and a new one was on the way. Now the wait for what we think is called the 400Z is over. Almost. The Z Proto is a thinly disguised concept version of that car, and with its global debut squinting at underexposed silhouettes and replaying teaser videos can end. Indeed, what you see here is close to the production version of what will hit dealerships across America in the near future.
We had the exclusive opportunity to spend a day with the prototype at Nissan’s “Grandrive” proving ground in Oppama, just south of the company’s headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. While Nissan keeps a tight lip on tech info, we got a lot out of our time with the car.
The new Z cribs of the original 240Z – and its friends
The design of the new Z is one of the best-executed retro tributes we’ve seen, meaning it harkens back to its ancestors without being indebted to them, and in this one car you can easily identify nods to two very distinct generations of Nissan’s iconic sports coupe. That said, the look of the car produced mixed feelings in the currently virtual theaters of. MotorTrend, and we’ll admit that it doesn’t look spectacular in the photos. The car’s folds, curves and sculpted lines are more dynamic when seen in person, where they appear more aggressive and imposing. But when redesigning an icon, not everyone will walk away happy.
The front of the Z Proto is dominated by a massive rectangular vent reminiscent of the similar, albeit much smaller, air intake on the original 1970 Datsun 240Z. The grille insert of the new Z features an elongated oval pattern that helps give depth to its gaping mouth, but the crisp, clean lines that make up the rest of the front fascia are more interesting.
Clearly the front is a modern remix of the low, elongated muzzle of the 1971 240ZG, a special homologation for the Japanese market, right down to the folds of the hood. The headlights have an angular frame while sporting curved internals that also listen to this older model. Taking it a step further, according to Nissan, the curved daytime running lights suggest semi-circular reflections that could be seen in the headlight covers of this long-nosed 240ZG.
“We felt this type of ‘eureka’ moment where the silhouette of the 240 [could still] generate a modern, cool and efficient design [look for a] sports car, ”said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice president for global design MotorTrend in an exclusive interview. “When a car is 50 years old and you’re designing in the modern age, I think it’s healthier to use memory than [to be] literal, “Albaisa added.” Yes, it’s a 240, in memory of you. But in fact, the gesture, the hood and the power are good of modern times. It’s a very wide position [with a] very weak feeling. “
Nissan had a generation S30 “Fairlady” Z – the Japanese domestic name for the US 240Z – on hand for us to compare. It’s clear that Albaisa guided his team to take inspiration from this model, as there are obviously some strong key touches that create an instantly recognizable bond with the first-generation car. But Albaisa also wanted the new Z to tap into his love for the 1990’s Z32-generation 300ZX and his “Tylenol pill perimeter,” as he calls it. To be sure, the shape of the rear hatch, tail lights and bumper area scream Z32.
There are also more modern inspirations, as the Z Proto’s profile is reminiscent of the model it replaces, the 370Z, but the bulging, bulbous rear fairing of the outgoing Z has thankfully been banned. Instead, the Concept Z’s rear window intersects with a short, flat panel that houses a retrolicious Fairlady Z badge. (A retro cool Z logo also appears on the rear pillars.) A blackened panel houses the elongated oval lighting elements as well as a backlit Nissan logo in its center. From some angles, the rear also hints at other iconic Nissan sports cars such as the S13 Silvia and the RPS13 180SX, sold as the 240SX in the US market. Take a few steps back, and the Proto Z even manages to hint at exotic cars like the Aston Martin Vantage, but in less luxurious proportions.
Albaisa said the yellow paint color chosen for Z Proto takes a non-metallic hue from the original 240Z and adds the pearlescent paint technology used for the 300ZX: “There’s so much pigment in yellow. It’s so deep, it looks an inch thick. The second you roll it in the sunlight, you see that this thing is almost plugged into an electrical outlet. It comes alive. “
The split five-spoke bronze wheels contrast sharply with the light metallic yellow, which is also applied to the meaty six-piston front and rear brake calipers borrowed from the GT-R. The basic models of the new 400Z are unlikely to have such strong binders, but they seem achievable for a possible higher-performance NISMO variant – a model we see as inevitable.
Inside, the interior looks production-ready, as it’s filled with vents, switches, rods, and controls that we know from other Nissan models. New interior features include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, as well as a new dash design that locates the infotainment screen under elongated oval air vents that echo the shape of the rear lights.
The Z Proto features a powerful twin-turbo V6 engine
When it comes to technical specs, the Proto is just that – a prototype – and, as mentioned, Nissan doesn’t say much about what that means for the production 400Z. This confirms that the Proto packs a biturbo V6, and if the road car’s engine is what we think it is and the 400Z badge becomes a reality, it will change the Nissan Z tradition of indicating engine displacement in the name of the car. model. The engine in question would be the 3.0-liter VR30DDTT used in the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400, which makes – you guessed it – 400 horsepower, so “400Z” would rather refer to the horsepower of the vehicle. An emphasis on the forced nature of the engine is found in the sizable “Boost” gauge displayed on the digital cluster. We weren’t able to peek under the hood to confirm our suspicions about the powertrain, but we can say that the Z will continue to be available with a six-speed manual, as shown in the Proto. An automatic option is under development for those who don’t want or can’t row theirs.
Dimensionally, the Z Proto measures 172.5 inches long, 72.8 inches wide, and 51.6 inches tall; For reference, the 2020 Nissan 370Z is 167.5 inches long, 72.6 inches wide and 51.8 inches tall. The proximity of the numbers suggests there may be more kinship between the two than shared design elements, but all Nissan is saying is that the Proto uses a new version of the FM platform that under -extends the current Z and several Infiniti products. The only other specifications announced reveal an offset 19-inch-wide wheel and tire configuration: 255/40 in the front and 285/35 in the rear.
When it goes on sale in spring 2021 as a 2022 model, the new Z will reignite the car’s traditional rivalry with the Toyota Supra. While we can’t wait to just take a look at the 2022 400Z, we really can’t wait to pit these Japanese sports car icons against each other. After all, like this reimagined Z, such a rematch has been a long time coming.