Nissan Z Proto previews upcoming 400Z

Twelve years since the launch of the 370Z, Nissan is close to unveiling an all-new next-generation Z sports car, which is previewed today in the form of a Z Proto.

Unwrapped at a virtual event in Yokohama, Japan, the Z Proto is not a concept, as pointed out by Nissan. Rather, it’s a near-production prototype, hinting that the new Z – rumoured to be officially called the 400Z – will debut as early as in the first half of 2021.

The two-seater sports car was first teased in a video named “Nissan A-Z” in May, in which the Z Proto was shown as a key model in Nissan’s NEXT transformation plan that will see the Japanese automaker launch no less than 8 all-new or updated models in the next 18 months.

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

Penned by the brand’s design studio in Japan, the Z Proto boasts a modern silhouette that communicates respect for the original Z 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 bonnet and the canted, teardrop-shaped LED headlights are both unmistakable reminders of the original Z, while 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 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 fibre treatments on the side skirts, front lower lip and rear valance hint at the Z’s sporting potential, while 19-inch alloy wheels and dual exhausts add to the Z Proto’s road presence.

The two-seater cabin blends modern technology with vintage Z touches. A 12.3-inch fully digital instrumentation display is the highlight of the cockpit, prominently featuring the rev meter in the centre with the redline shift point at the twelve o-clock position.

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.

A twin-turbo V6 is confirmed as the powerplant for the Z Proto, though technical details remain under wraps. According to previous reports however, the new Z will receive the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 donated by the Infiniti Q60.

With 298kW on tap, the boosted V6 is good for a 0-100km/h time of 5.0 seconds in the Q60 but since the Z will be lighter, it is expected to be quicker. Also confirmed for the new Z is a six-speed manual transmission which will definitely be welcomed by enthusiasts.

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