The Nissan 370Z is still one of the most dynamic two seat sports cars that money can buy thanks to its sharp handling and responsive V6 engine. However, it’s also the oldest sports car you can buy, with the 370Z being around in some shape or form since its introduction back in 2009. That’s an eternity in car years, and the 370Z is way behind rivals that have seen their fair share of updates and revisions. Nissan is at long last creating a new Z offering, and it has formally unveiled the Z Proto concept.
We’ll get one thing off our chest, and admit that we’re not big fans of the yellow hue that adorns this concept, but look past the odd color choice, and the rest of the car does emerge as a very handsome canvas. The front fascia is very clean and simple, and reminds us of some of the classic Z cars that defined the 1970s. A set of sharp looking rounded headlights flanks the squareish front grille, and the elongated hood reinforces the Z’s commitment towards the long hood short rear deck layout that is almost mandatory in a sports car. The rear of the Z Proto is arguably its strongest asset, with a bold piece of black trim that runs along the entire length of the trunk lid, and even over some of the fenders. The way it artfully conceals the taillights is a tasteful nod to the 1990s era 300ZX which featured a similar styling element. As a bonus, there’s even a retro style “Fairlady Z” badge on the trunk lid which pays homage to the legendary line of tuned Zs that helped the Nissan be a hit among tuners especially in its home Japanese market.
But while the Nissan pays a tasteful tribute to the past, it has also not sacrificed the progress that the future has bestowed upon it, with the car featuring splashes of carbon fiber trim especially on the side skirts, rear diffuser, and other spots. New alloy wheels also help create a modern profile, and are made out of a lightweight material that helps shed excess weight.
With the strong retro vibes generated by the exterior, the interior embraces a simpler motif that’s modern and is also a massive improvement over the 370Z. Shoddy plastics have been banished, and the dashboard features a clean layout, adorned with multiple screens, including a big infotainment screen that appears to be shared with the Rogue CUV. An all new deep dish style steering wheel greets the driver’s hands, and the center features a prominent Z logo with satellite controls mounted on both of the spokes. The seats themselves are a tasteful mixture of leather and Alcantara inserts, with splashes of yellow stitching and accents helping it mesh with the exterior paint.
The analog gauges of the 370Z have been pitched, with the units being replaced by an all new 12.3 inch screen that promises vibrant displays of information, though it remains to be seen if it can be moved alongside the steering wheel which was a welcome feature of the outgoing 370Z. Like Zs of the past, the Z Proto is a pure two seater, with rear passengers either taking turns riding in the front seat, or staying home while the car is out on a spirited drive.
Performance for the Z Proto is somewhat of a mystery at this point in time, but we do know that it’s powered by a twin-turbocharged V6. With the Toyota Supra boasting over 330 horsepower when equipped with its optional 3.0 liter inline six, the Nissan could have an edge in muscle, especially if it’s using the same V6 that also sees duty in the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport. That engine could allow the Z to make about 400 horsepower, which would not only give it an edge over the Supra, but also be a noticeable improvement over the 332 horsepower wielded by the 370Z. Along with having the firepower advantage among its Asian rivals, the Z would also be a renewed threat to more powerful muscle cars like the Chevrolet Camaro SS, and even the Dodge Challenger.
All of this muscle travels to the rear wheels through a distinctly analog source, with a six speed manual transmission being a welcome friend to enthusiast drivers. The company also revealed that an automatic is currently in development, and that a spicier Nismo variant is in the pipeline. We look forward to seeing the latter, especially since Nismo has still managed to make a good amount of magic happen with the 370Z despite the car’s age.
As mentioned, the Z Proto is only a near production concept at the moment, but look for the production version of the car to make its way to the U.S. later this year where it could be sold as a 2022 badged model. We hope to hear more about pricing, exact performance figures, and fuel economy estimates when that does happen. Pricing in particular will be a very key metric for the new Z, especially if it manages to succeed in undercutting the Supra by a few thousand dollars. Look for the bulk of the concept’s design to also make the jump to production ,with perhaps a few changes to help it comply with safety regulations. But we’re excited with what we see here so far, and look forward to perhaps seeing for ourselves just how well it does out on the road in the near future.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.