Home / Business / Nissan Z Proto sports a twin-turbo V6, manual gearbox and retro design

Nissan Z Proto sports a twin-turbo V6, manual gearbox and retro design

The Nissan Z Proto looks good. Now, let’s evaluate its performance and its price.


With all that’s going on, 2020 probably isn’t a great time to unveil a new sports car. From coronavirus pandemic a recession a seemingly incessant natural disasters, it̵

7;s proving quite difficult to launch any new model this year, let alone one in a shrinking niche segment. Still, that’s what this Nissan Z Proto anticipates. Debuting on Tuesday, this is the brand’s seventh upcoming chapter 50 years Z Car story that began with the now iconic Datsun 240Z.

On the other hand, this Nissan 370Z Proto might be exactly the kind of cheerful distraction, if not revelation, that many driving enthusiasts want right now. At the same time new, yet deeply familiar, think of the Z Proto as a comfortable, high-performance plate of food, coming at a time when we could all use a familiar face and something to look forward to. Ready or not, world, it’s time to get excited.

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Nissan Z Proto: the next chapter of the Z Car looks fierce …


The Proto in Nissan 370Z Proto is short for prototype, and that means the pale yellow coupe seen here is not just a pure concept car, it is about 98% of the production model that is expected to debut next year before reaching dealers in 2022.

I was actually lucky enough to briefly see the Z Proto in person last October during a trip to Japan. At the time I had sworn to keep it a secret, and it was incredibly difficult to bite my tongue and not share any impressions until now, almost a year later. I saw a slightly older full-size version of the Z Proto in a courtyard filled with other future wonders (which I am not yet allowed to talk about). But even then, the Z wasn’t just the display’s center of gravity – if it wasn’t an outdoor environment, the Z would have sucked all the air out of the room. Yes, I have a soft spot for purist sports cars in general, but I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. This design has a real presence.

Nissan Z Proto specifications

Despite being unveiled during a ceremony in Yokohama, Japan, and paired with a simulcast celebration streamed from the model’s annual ZCon fan gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, there aren’t many tough numbers to accompany the launch of this new Z Proto. At this time, Nissan confirms that it is powered by a twin-turbo V6 engine whose soul is stimulated by a six-speed manual gearbox. The company also released the base dimensions, so here’s how the Proto stacks up to the current 2020 Nissan 370Z range.

Nissan Z Proto against 2020 Nissan 370Z and 370Z Nismo

Nissan Z Proto Nissan 370Z 2020 2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo

172.5 in

167.5 in

170.5 in


72.8 in

72.6 in

73.6 in


51.6 in

51.8 in

51.8 in



3.7 liters

3.7 liters

Engine type

Twin-turbo V6





332 cv

350 hp



270 lb-ft

276 lb-ft


6-speed manual

6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic

6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic

Nissan Z Proto: a historic design

As you can see, the new Proto retains the Z’s classic long hood and rear-wheel drive proportions. The Z has a design history that is enviable and to be expected chief designer Alfonso Albaisa to sign something radically different would be to misunderstand how the company feels about this model. As Albaisa told Roadshow during a virtual media briefing, this car is “in the fibers of our hearts, like Nissan, and [designing the new car] it is a huge responsibility and honor. “With the possible exception of the 1990s Z32 which was a kind of tech launch conceived during Japan’s economic bubble, the Z has remained remarkably consistent in its mission and has reached its five decades of life. The new Z Proto suggests that Nissan will try to maintain this continuity.

Interestingly, at 19 inches in diameter, the prototype’s offset-width wheels are reasonably sized and feature higher sidewalls than one might expect from a modern sports coupe, let alone a show car. Likewise, note the very deliberate inclusion of a six-speed manual gearbox and the maintenance of a manual handbrake. With these details, Nissan is telegraphing that the new Z will be less focused on generating blinding performance data than on creating a bond between car and driver. As did the Japanese carmaker GT-R For fans of the jaw-loosening grip and bragging-worthy stopwatch numbers, keeping the Z as a most basic driver’s car seems like a smart approach.

If the style of this pearly yellow Z Proto looks familiar, it is because it is a melange of design cues taken from previous Z models. Completing what looks like a slightly large and overly square grille opening are a set of peepers a LEDs designed to evoke the iconic sugar ball headlights of the original S30 Fairlady Z, especially the glass-covered lights of the sought-after Japanese 240ZG market. Notice how the roofline opens unusually at its front edge, tapering from the windshield head to the rear, just like the current 370Z. At the rear, the horizontal LED taillights recall the Z32 from the 1990s. The fact that this Z Proto’s styling manages to incorporate all these historic design cues without looking overly retro or cobbled is an achievement in itself.

The Z Proto features a roofline that peaks unusually at the height of the windshield header, just like today’s 370Z.


Nissan Z Proto chassis and turbo power

As for what’s underneath that bodywork, Nissan doesn’t say, but sources indicate the platform is actually a close relative of the current car’s unibody chassis. The 370Z has always been a strong and fun driver, but it has never been particularly refined, especially in terms of noise, vibration and harshness. If the new Z is indeed similar to the old Z below, it will be interesting to find out what kind of revamp, if any, might be needed to bring the underlying architecture up to modern standards, including crash testing provisions. It also seems likely that the production Z’s electrical system will need to be upgraded, not only to cope with major cabin technologies, but also to accommodate any advanced driver assistance systems that Nissan decides to make available.

While the original S30 Fairlady Z featured the power of the straight six, Nissan does not currently have a suitable modern straight six engine in its portfolio, so it makes sense that the new car will feature the V6 motivation. The current 370Z is based on a naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V6, but for the next-generation model, the car is expected to downsize a skosh, adopting a version of Nissan’s corporate 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. as found in Infiniti Q60 Coupe. As would align with the production model’s 400Z name, the engine is expected to reach 400 horsepower, the same horsepower that the engine achieves today Q60 Red Sport.

If accurate, it would be a huge help compared to the 332 hp of the 2020 Nissan 370Z and even the high-performance 370Z Nismo, which delivers 350 hp. Furthermore, forced induction will undoubtedly bring with it substantially greater torque at significantly lower revs. (The Q60 Red Sport increases 350 lb-ft from 1,600 rpm, while the 370Z’s 270 lb-ft peak doesn’t show up until 5,200 rpm.)

Expect the manual gearbox to be standard equipment, with a conventional steering wheel-shift automatic gearbox (like the seven-speed unit found in the Red Sport) as an option.

A driver-centric cabin keeps it simple, but modern touches like a fully digital instrument cluster keep it contemporary.


The interior of the Nissan Z Proto is familiar, with better technology

Inside, the Proto’s cabin is more overtly modern than its candy-coated shell, but it’s largely a function of the increased presence of screens. Not only is there a larger touchscreen infotainment display in the redesigned dashboard, there’s also a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster.

Beyond that, there’s a lot that Z faithful will be familiar with, from the trio of analog gauges atop the dashboard to simple round climate controls and shell-shaped door handles. (If these make it to production, I hope they feel better than the ones in today’s Z). While incorporating new features and conveniences, it seems Nissan’s designers are telegraphing the production Z to be a racing car first and foremost, and that’s good news.

The rear lights of the Nissan Z Proto are reminiscent of the powerful Z32 generation of the 90s.


Nissan Z pricing and availability.

400Z production is expected to be revealed next year, but actual timing to sale remains blurry, as are official pricing. It will likely be 2022 before the new Z Cars hit the road, so it’s still very early in the process.

It is worth mentioning that today’s sports car landscape has changed significantly since the 370Z opened way back in 2008, the same year Jay Z and Beyonce got married and President Obama was elected at his first. mandate. Back then you could still buy a new one Honda S2000, to Pontiac Solstice or even one of the latest Chrysler Crossfire. The next Z’s most natural rival will be the Toyota GR Supra, followed perhaps by the V6 versions of Detroit’s pony cars. If Nissan produces a lower-power, lower-cost iteration of the seventh generation Z, it could perhaps even go hand in hand with the higher-end versions of the next. Subaru BRZ is Toyota 86 twins, also due around the same time.

Based on Roadshow sources, the base price of the Z is likely to start with the number 3, undercutting the Toyota GR Supra. There will almost certainly be a not insignificant price hike from today’s surprisingly affordable 370Z base ($ 31,000 delivered) to reflect the new model’s additional power and equipment. That said, expect Nissan’s request to start very shy of Nismo Z’s great $ 46,715 window sticker (including the $ 925 delivery fee). A starting price of between $ 38,000 and $ 39,000 seems fair, which would make the Z something of added value alongside the automatic-only GR Supra ($ 44,000 delivered for the 2.0-liter 2021 model, $ 52,000 for the 3.0 plus comparable).

What is old is new again.


Nissan 400Z Nismo or Roadster variants?

There have been some subtle rumors about an eventual Nismo version of the high-performance 400Z, and such a model would be a predictable development for a car that is likely to once again carry a longer-than-normal life cycle. As for the future Z Roadster variant, ironically, this is an open question. It’s also probably something I wouldn’t bet to hear more about soon. After all, if today’s coupe market is small, the convertible market is absolutely emaciated.

While Nissan certainly won’t have a new Z in dealerships in time to crown the model line’s golden anniversary, this Z Proto is a promising and tasty teaser at a time when we could all take a break. This also applies to Nissan itself. Remember, in addition to enduring all the same crises as the rest of us, the automaker has been embroiled in a deplorable saga of international fugitives turned CEOs, as well as significant financial turmoil.

A new Z can’t cure Nissan any more than it can solve the world’s problems. If nothing else, however, as a purist’s trinket and a mission statement for a new sports car, this Nissan Z Proto is a welcome diversion.

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