At long last, Nissan has finally taken the sheaths off the next Fairlady Z sports car, albeit in the Z Proto concept guise. The new vehicle is still in its prototype phase (hence the Proto), with production tipped to begin sometime in 2022 before being sold in early 2023.
What you’re looking at is an amalgam of the Fairlady’s forebears – they weren’t kidding when they said the Z Proto will wear a “heritage-inspired” design. Nissan design chief Alfonso Albaisa said combining a retro-futuristic theme was a challenging task, but decided ultimately that the Z Proto should “travel between the decades, including the future.”
Penned and developed by the design team in Japan, the Z Proto features teardrop-shaped LED headlights with dual curved LED DRLs per side. This is a nod to the original 240Z (or more specifically, the circular reflections on the 240Z’s headlights), and between them is an upright, rectangular radiator grille with oval fins, the dimensions of which are apparently similar to the outgoing 370Z.
Its cab rearwards profile is distinctly Z. The roofline flows from the nose to the squared off rear end, a look very much reminiscent of the original Z. This is further amplified by how the rear quarter glass transitions into the tailgate.
The LED tail lights – clearly inspired by the 300ZX – continue to feature the same oval design motif seen in the front grille, whereas the one-piece rear bumper gets an integrated lip with two sizeable exhaust exits. There are Z roundels just above the haunches, too, plus a Fairlady Z badge at the back.
Finishing things off are the carbon-fibre side skirts, front lower lip and rear valance, as well as bronze 19-inch alloy wheels shod with mixed profile tyres. The bright yellow pearlescent paint pays tribute to the popular paint scheme introduced on both the S30 240Z and Z32 300ZX, which is contrasted with a black roof, black low-profile spoiler, and black wing mirrors.
The modern retro design approach continues into the cabin. Interestingly, the interior looks pretty much production ready, complete with a deep dish three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with a redline shift point at the 12 o’ clock position. The driver also gets a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and a trio of gauges (angled towards the driver) atop the centre dash.
Look closely at the content on the display and you’ll spot a nice easter egg – the “1969 km” mileage counter points towards the year the S30 (or original Fairlady Z) was first introduced, while the “370 km” of range refers to the most recent Z car. Neat touch, Nissan.
Other notable features include a canted touchscreen display, yellow contrasting elements used throughout the cabin, and a six-speed short-throw stick. There also appears to be a rev-match button on the right (just like on the 370Z), as well as a USB type-C charging port just in front of the shifter boot.
Now, Nissan says this A90 Toyota GR Supra rival was built to “bring the joy and excitement of sports car ownership” to as many people as possible. Throughout the Z’s history, each new generation is more powerful than its predecessor, and the same should apply here with the Z Proto.
The automaker has yet to reveal technical details of the car, but reports suggest that it will be built on the front-engine, rear-drive FM chassis, with power derived solely from a 3.0 litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine with no electrification whatsoever. Its purported 400Z name indicates that it will at least produce 400 PS and 500 Nm, with drive sent to the rear wheels through the standard fit six-speed manual transmission.
Nissan’s chief product specialist of the Z Proto, Hiroshi Tamura said the Z is measured more than just its output figures. “Z is a balance of power and agility. It is a vehicle that creates a connection with the driver not just on the physical level, but emotionally, and responds to the driver’s impulses,” Tamura said.
Lastly, for dimensions, the low slung Z Proto measures 4,382 mm in length, 1,850 mm wide, and just 1,310 mm tall. During the digital unveiling, Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said the Z is a pure sports car that represents the spirit of Nissan. “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,” he said.
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