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The Nissan Z Proto Has Us Cautiously Optimistic About The Upcoming 400Z

Nissan Z Proto

Last night, Nissan unveiled the Nissan Z Proto, a prototype that Nissan officials claim is 98% production ready, giving us a pretty good idea of what the upcoming Nissan 400Z should look like. Given that the last generation Z dropped over a decade ago, most of us weren’t sure if the iconic Z car would live on, given now niche the market is.

Now it’s no secret that Nissan milks a car model for as long as they can, with the 370Z, GT-R, and Frontier all seriously long in the tooth. The 370Z came out back in 2009, and it’s a dinosaur by today’s standards. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support? Advanced safety features? Yeah, right, keep dreaming. But it was (relatively) cheap and went fast. So on it went, selling in rather low numbers (only 2,384 cars were sold in 2019).

Needless to say, Nissan had a decision to make. Kill off the Z car once and for all, or give it a much-needed update. From the looks of the Nissan Z Proto, it looks like they’ve gone with the latter. Of course, they fooled us once before with the IDx NISMO, so who knows. I freaking loved that little car and totally would have bought one! 🙁

Nissan Z Proto

Last night’s webcast was a pretty cringeworthy affair, but at least we got to finally see the car in the flesh. And my first impressions… It’s not bad, but I think they can definitely make it better looking with some work. The Internet wasted no time firing up Photoshop and fixing the worst parts of the car in short order. More on that later.

Dimensions wise, I think it’s perfect, 172.5 inches long, 72.8 inches wide, and 51.6 inches high. It’s suspiciously similar to the outgoing 370Z, making me wonder if this is just a big refresh or an “all-new” car as they’re supposedly billing it. I wasn’t the only person who came to this realization, with Car and Driver layering the old 370Z overtop the Z Proto. What do you know, it’s a perfect match. Hmm…

Either way, the real star of the show is under the hood, in the form of a twin-turbo V6 that is rumored to be the same 3.0-liter VR30DDTT found in the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400, where it puts out 400 horsepower. That would make it competitive with the ’21 Supra 3.0, which puts out 382HP and has a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds. Heck, even the 2021 Supra 2.0 is pretty quick.

Nissan Z Proto

Of course, weight is the big question mark here. If they can keep it lightweight, it should be an absolute rocket with that much power. But if it’s 3,800+ pounds, that changes everything, and it’s not going to be the nimble sports car that fans are hoping for. The fact that they’re offering it with a 6-speed manual is pretty cool as well, even though only 5% of buyers will opt for it.

For me, the elephant in the room is the styling, as it’s just not really a striking car in any way. Instead, it sounds like the designers were more interested in mimicking styling elements from previous Z models. Car and Driver put it best, calling the car’s detailing “somewhat of a grab bag of the best of past Z-cars”, with 240Z-inspired headlights, 300ZX-esque taillights, etc.

The whole Internet seems to be in agreement that the gaping square front grille is just not a good look, inspired by the 240Z or not. Some people have photoshopped a piece to bisect it (much like the 240Z’s chrome bumper did), and that seems to help quite a bit. And honestly, I just don’t love those headlights. The taillights, they’re interesting, but I don’t love them..

Nissan Z Proto

Inside, you see a whole lot of modern technology, with a huge 12.3-inch digital meter display up front and center. But designers tried to include a few vintage Z touches, like the 3 gauges on the dash, positioned towards the driver. It’s an odd combination that most definitely does NOT “seamlessly blend” as Nissan claims. Give us a mechanical speedo and tach.

All in all, I wish that Nissan had gone their own way, rather than constrict themselves with this notion of “heritage”. But with a few tweaks, I think they can really bring it together. Assuming they price it right (please keep it under $40K!) and stick with the twin-turbo V6, they should have a hot seller on their hands.

Fingers crossed! 🤞

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