By Steve & Tamami Laser
Update: Nissan introduced the production models of the 2023 Z for the U.S. market during a presentation from New York. See our story here.
Nissan unveiled its new Ariya EV all-electric crossover at the automaker’s new Nissan Pavilion in Yokohama in July. Now, the excitement of “Nissan Next” continues with the long-awaited reveal of the Nissan Z Proto, a prototype of the next Z sports car (called Fairlady Z in Japan).
For more than 50 years, the Nissan/Datsun Z car has captured the hearts of enthusiasts across the globe. For its world premiere, the new Z Proto joined historic Z models, from Nissan’s collection, outside the Pavilion in Minatomirai.
Inside, Nissan executives, engineers and designers were on hand for the virtual unveiling event. Meanwhile, thousands of fans watched online, including members of the Z Club in Japan, ZCON attendees near Nissan’s U.S. headquarters in Nashville, and auto enthusiasts everywhere.
“The Z, as a pure sports car, represents the spirit of Nissan,” said Makoto Uchida (above), CEO of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “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.”
“The Z badge has special meaning to sports car lovers, and special meaning to me, because my very first car was a Fairlady Z,” said Uchida. “The Z was love at first sight, it looked so cool, so desirable. And when I had driven it, I felt the connection, I knew I wanted to own one. This was 1993, I finally bought a Z … it came with a T-bar roof, and of course, manual transmission. I am delighted to unveil our Z Proto.”
Instead of calling it a “concept car,” the Z Proto is thought to closely represent what Nissan plans for the next-generation Z (and Fairlady Z for Japan). While the launch timing has not yet been announced, our best guess is that the new Z is likely to go into production sometime next year in Japan, with U.S. market versions called 2022 models.
The Z Proto features a completely redesigned exterior and interior with styling cues inspired by its legendary predecessors. We really like the look of the new Z Proto, plus the selection of bright yellow pearlescent paint, that pays tribute to the first 240Z (S30) and 300ZX (Z32).
Albaisa pointed out that the teardrop-shaped LED headlights, as well as the shape of the hood, are inspired by the first generation Z. The rectangular grille, said to exude sportiness and elegance, is similar to the current Z, while adopting oval grille fins for a modern touch.
Retro design cues inspire the silhouette, with a roofline that flows from the nose to a sharply tapered and angular rear. Z Proto features carbon-fiber accents on lower surface trims, plus 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped with custom 255/40R-19 tires up front and 285/35R19 in the rear.
Unique taillights take their cue from the horizontal elements in the 300ZX (Z32). However, they’ve been transported into the future with LED lighting set in a rectangular black space that really makes them stand out.
The Z Proto sports a two-passenger cockpit that also blends the past with the future. There’s a 12.3-inch digital meter display, a center infotainment screen, a new deep-dish style steering wheel, and a trio of hooded gauges on top of the dash.
Deeply bolstered bucket seats are trimmed with yellow accents found throughout the cabin. We expect that production models will include an array of the latest high-tech connectivity features that Nissan has to offer.
In these days of paddle shifters, DCTs and electrically assisted transmissions, we’re thrilled to see that Nissan endowed the Z Proto with a 6-speed manual gearbox. And while production models are sure to offer an automatic, we hope that the M/T carries over for enthusiasts who crave three-pedal driving.
While Nissan is charging full-speed ahead with an expanded lineup of electric vehicles and hybrids, we’re glad to see that this futuristic Z Proto is fitted with a twin-turbo gasoline V6 engine. Specific output and performance specs will have to wait until Nissan provides more info about its upcoming production models.
With a huge array of collectible models, we tried to determine our favorite Nissan/Datsun Z to wrap up this story. After a long discussion, we finally decided, that we like them all. And in the spirit of Nissan Next, we’re looking forward to the next generation Z.
Note: Prototype vehicles are shown. Nissan says that Z Proto is a development study vehicle.
News source and photos courtesy of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., and Nissan North America, Inc.
Story (commentary) © 2020 CarNichiWa.com