Ladies and gentleman, here is the new Nissan Z Proto, the most important sports car of the year.
Why? It’s simple. As we move into a decade that will be remembered for the automotive industry’s major shift to electric propulsion, the new Z enters the fray thinking it’s 1992.
This is an analogue sports car, an honest 2-seater powered by a twin-turbo V6 which sends drive to the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox. Sure, it features the latest tech, safety and engineering solutions you’d expect to see on a car produced in 2020, but it takes us enthusiasts back. Way back.
And that’s a good thing.
Nissan knew very well that this was a car they couldn’t possibly mess with. Much like the GT-R, the Fairlady Z moniker – or just ‘Z’ around the world – is a halo model for the brand, and as I touched on in yesterday’s retrospective, its history goes right back to 1969. Even further if you take into account the Datsun Sports.
Halo cars have a direct link to enthusiasts, so what do you do when you want to celebrate an iconic model that has been around for more than 50 years? You give the people what they want.
The Z Proto brings in a heavy dose of retro styling, starting up front with an obvious tip of the hat to the original S30/240Z.
The main headlight bulbs are deeply recessed into their housings, and Alfonso Albaisa, Vice President of Global Design, says the accent semi circles resemble the reflections the 240ZG’s clear light covers gave off under lights.
The scooped-out bumper section in front of the headlights and the gaping center rectangular air dam just scream S30, too. It’s a bold move that dominates the Z’s face, but seems to be naturally in tune with the rest of the front end.
All of the details form a very coherent and elegantly integrated 240Z treatment, and they continue right onto the hood where the crease lines are again S30 in nature.
The Z Proto sits on a set of bronze 19-inch wheels that show off a braking system borrowed from the R35 GT-R – 6-pots up front and 4-pots in the rear.
Nissan have built this new car on Z34 underpinnings, something you can sort of see from the roof line. You have to give it to them for creating such a distinct and fresh profile; the new Z is lower and sleeker and looks sexy from pretty much any angle, much like the S30 it pays homage to.
The rear, however, is pulled straight from the ’90s. Alfonso’s love of the 300ZX is easy to see, and gone are those awkward rumps of the Z33 and Z34. Now there’s a lower, flatter hatch area that meets a dark taillight panel.
The 3D LED backlit oval elements are a modern interpretation of the Z32’s taillights that seemingly float in the darkness of the flat rear section. These oval elements are echoed at the front with the grille inserts as well as inside the cabin on the main central air vents.
The angle of the ‘Fairlady Z’ emblem on the back is straight off the ’69 S30’s blueprints, something enthusiasts will surely approve of.
Further down, the lower portion of the bumper has a very Z32-inspired cutout, finished in carbon fiber, where the dual tail pipes sprout from.
Look carefully and you’ll see the old school ‘Z’ logo has made a comeback, albeit refined for 2020.
The cabin receives an almost complete redesign. There’s a new dash, a massive center multimedia screen, and many cool retro details to lust over.
But the big thing for me is the 12.3-inch digital instrument panel. It’s a great fusion of new and old, and if you look carefully there’s an analogue boost gauge to the left of the big central tachometer – confirmation of forced induction under the hood.
When the Z Proto evolves into a finished production car, it will be powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, which as rumors for the last couple of years have been pointing to, can only be the VR30DDTT. With 400hp and 475Nm on tap, this will be the craziest Z ever, and we all know how easy it is to extract more power from the baby VR.
And all of this is why the Z Proto is the most important car of 2020. The production version can’t come quick enough.
Dino Dalle Carbonare