Nissan Z Proto points way forward to all-new Z coupe

Nissan has signalled its intent to launch an all-new generation of the iconic Z car. The Z Proto concept coupe gives us our clearest picture yet of what the next Nissan sportscar could look like.

First hinted at four months ago in a video named “Nissan A-Z”, the Nissan Z Proto pays respect to 50 years of Z heritage. At the same time, it’s designers and engineers say it is a thoroughly modern sports car.

Aimed squarely at enthusiast drivers, the Z Proto features a twin-turbo V6, rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission.  

Nissan has unveiled the Z Proto, signalling the company’s intent to launch a new generation of the legendary Z sports car. 

The prototype car features a new design inside and out, as well as a V6 twin turbocharged engine with a manual transmission.  

“The Z, as a pure sports car, represents the spirit of Nissan, it’s a key model in our Nissan NEXT transformation plan. As a Z fan myself, I’m excited to announce that the next Z is coming.

— Makoto Uchida, CEO, Nissan

Developed by the Nissan design team in Japan, the Z Proto boasts a fresh exterior design with a silhouette that communicates respect for the original model. It sports 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.  

The shape of the hood and the teardrop-shaped LED headlights are both unmistakable reminders of the original Z. The rectangular grille’s dimensions are similar to the current model with the addition of oval grille fins to offer an updated modern look. 

Combining the retro theme with one that also projected futurism was challenging, says Alfonso Albaisa, head of design at Nissan. 

Combining the retro theme with one that also projected futurism was challenging, says Alfonso Albaisa, head of design at Nissan. 

The LED headlights have two half-circles that hark back to the Japan market-only 240ZG of the 1970s. 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,” he says. 

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 ensure nimble performance. 19-inch alloy wheels and dual exhausts complete the Z Proto’s striking road presence. 

Similar in theme to the exterior, the Z Proto’s cabin seamlessly blends modern technology with vintage Z touches.  

The interior design team sought advice from professional motorsports legends to give the Z Proto an ideal sports car cabin, both for road and track. This can be seen in the Z’s instrumentation. All vital information is found in the 12.3-inch digital meter display and arranged to help the driver grasp it at a glance, such as the redline shift point at the twelve o-clock position.  

The new, deep dish steering wheel offers the driver quick access controls without losing its vintage aesthetic.  

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 centre of the seats to create depth. 

“The Z has always been a strong dynamic performer, making it easy for customers to enjoy its capabilities and feel as connected as possible to the car,” said Hiroshi Tamura, chief product specialist of the Z Proto.  

“This has been true through all its generations, and this is what drives our passion to innovate and challenge the norm.”  

Each new generation had a more powerful engine, although the Z is about more than power increases. Make no mistake though, the Z Proto does pack a powerful punch. Under the elongated hood is an enhanced V6 twin-turbocharged engine paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.  

As a prototype, Nissan says work is now underway on synchronising the power with the grace and control that has defined the Z for the past 50 years.