Why The Z Proto Is The Most Important Car Of 2020

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
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare



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Holy cannoli that is a good looking car, the proportions are perfect


If they make a kit to make the front and rear RETRO like a original Z. I think I will be IN. The side profile. I can see the s30. I’d be interested to see a Yankee bodykit for it. In the right direction

Dino Dalle Carbonare

That's what the aftermarket will take care of ...

Daniel P Huneault

I'd love to see a rocket bunny kit on it!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I'm sure Miura is sculpting already!


I would like expect a few rolling chassis being sent out to few shops for TAS 2021. Or 2022. Hard to say if they will go full gas now or wait till production comes out


the overall shape of the car is great... but the head and tail lights makes me feel confused ( why nissan why.. )... definitely they can do better IMHO...


Not completely sold on the body; it still looks good though. I’m more excited about that twin scroll V6!


Am I the only one who thinks it's a cop-out to put a fake gauge cluster behind the steering wheel? Seems to miss the point of what this car is supposed to be...
Anyway, other than that (relatively minor) issue, the Z looks great. BIG ups to Nissan for making it manual too!


From what I heard, digital dashes are a lot cheaper in production and it's just plain more modern in this day and age, even when I am not a fan too. In my opinion, they should get rid of all touchscreens in cars as they are a heavy distraction while driving.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

It's digital


It's digital

- exactly like the "analogue" boost gauge you speak of


It's a no from me.


They nailed it! Another nice little touch i noticed is the s30 inspired gauges in the center of the dash. Albeit angled towards the driver this time instead of facing straight ahead. I can't wait to see what the aftermarket comes up with now.

I gave up on Nissan making cool cars for a long time. And in one fell swoop. They've grabbed my interests and attention again.


so uninspiring )-8


I genuinely love this design. It's got so much potential and can't wait to see a full production unit! I can only imagine all the after markets for it too. Definitely Most Important Car Of 2020.


The close photos for singular parts/sections are amazing but there is something that it's not right for me when seeing the full "package", I'm getting confused feelings. Let's wait for the production version.
Anyway good big step for Nissan.


I like what it stands for, you know sociologically...
But man is that a badly styled car. Lacks cohesion, and even saying that, it is made up of so many individual misses.
The flat line of the roof that lacks convexity, and the awkwardly undersized greenhouse. The aftermarket is going to struggle to fix that. Maybe a shaped lip spoiler on the roof before the back window? Could you blend in a double bubble moulding going forward?
The front grill with a shape that so completely doesn't fit, is 3/4 fake blocked off anyway, and that incredibly tacky grill texture. Aftermarket has to fix that and can.
The overall front clip shape is fine.
Headlights are "meh"- when cars right down to Suzuki Swifts (non US market) have had great design headlights for 10 years, and the design team had the Infiniti Coupe to crib off, what is their excuse?
Hood lacks character lines, in direct contradiction to the author's claim that it has them????
The awkward roof colour contrast...busy and pointless, an amateurish gimic that draws away from the car.

The rocker colour contrast does build a sense of motion, acceleration, muscularity.

The rear view is OK, but desperately needs a spoiler. I don't understand how you over-decorate a car with details, then forget that, on a concept/intro feature car.

So Aftermarket-radically different front bumper, paint in a mono colour, some trick to make the green house look bigger, rear spoiler... It has potential, but as it stands, this is a weak design department offering.
The designer being quoted, flatly doesn't know his trade.


I'm with you on most of the styling. Its great from the side, but needs some changes on front and back.

The front grill opening looks like it was done by an intern. Though I appreciate what they were trying to achieve, they should've modified the design direct once they actually saw it. It's not like it needs a complete redesign, but a slight curve on the sides or more rounded corners would make a world of difference on the overall shape of the opening. And the just need to ditch the weird oval grill. as simple slat or honeycomb would look so much better.

For the back, I think a duckbill spoiler would solve a lot of its look. Its just got a weird edge line on the black to green transition on the hatch. It looks great from the side, but really odd from the back. Also not sold on the blackout section between the taillights. Together they just make the backend very soft and undefined. It just feels blah. It needs a sporting element to it. A hard edge that isn't strictly a color change.

Its funny that the front and back have the opposite issues now that I think about it. The grill opening it to square and needs some curves to give it a sportier feel. The back end has no edges and needs some harder edges added to give it a sportier feel.


I like the side view. But the front and back of the car....I don't like to crap all over someone's hard work, but it just doesn't look good at all. The original Z looks fantastic from ANY angle. This one? Only one angle works for me.

Swing and miss, unfortunately.


Here's the biggest problem stylistically: the highest point of the side glass is at the top of the A-pillar and then drops off sharply toward the rear.

It's the same mistake Nissan made with the R35 and the 370, and it looks terrible.

That single design element is the reason I've never liked the R35.

Not the excessive weight, not the V6, not the slushbox-only powertrain, not the visual mass of the car.

Just that stupid peaked door window.


I came here to say the same thing as this. I was so looking forward to the retro styling, but they didn't deliver like I thought they would. The proportions are all off too me, and the car seemingly can't decide whether it is a homage or a new car. The massive front grill isn't at enough of an angle, and as such seems to lack flavor. The promo and are had me excited, but as it stands, no matter how much I want to, and as much of a Z enthusiast I am, I just don't like it. Seems like a lot of other people do though, so hopefully it'll grow on me.


Couldn't disagree more... this is a hit and light years better than the Supra. Bravo Nissan.


Yeah, but beating the Mk VI Supra aesthetically ain't exactly a tall order.


To each their own, I think the new Supra looks fantastic. I keep coming back to these photos and the Z is not growing on me.


We went from the Zupra Mk5 to a new Mk6 in less than two years? Whoah! When did that happen? Have links?


Toyota made the Mk V Supra years ago.

They just called it the LFA.


If it looks so much better if they painted the roof and the silver things the same color as the rest of the car.


I imagine this car has a couple of options on it, I'll bet the base model doesn't have those brakes, carbon or two tone.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Friend that works at Akebono brakes has confirmed the car is getting 6-pots. Not the GT-R licensed Brembo ones that have been around since 2007 but a whole new caliper

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Dino, I think it's using 19 inch wheels, not 20 inch.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

You're right!


I'll wait for the G-nose version. Who's with me?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

The aftermarket will have a ball with this car. ZG style nose etc. Maybe Nismo can do a 432Z and drop a VR38 in there :D


good god i hope so, bring back sports option!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Wishful thinking?


I think it's amazing, the design team definitely knew what they wanted, i'm unsure on the square grille from front on but i'm sure it will grow on me, i'd love to see it with a ducktail similar to the s30 aswell but those can both easily be solved with a bit of aftermarket help


Dino, you continue to have the best pictures and narratives BY FAR compare to the rest of the internet! I love this Z, agree with everything you said.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thank you so much Jeff!


Good God this is an utterly stunning car. The design is soo on point, unlike so many other vintage callbacks that seem very contrived. I hope this is a light car, even if not exactly Alpine light.
Can't wait to see SH articles on modded versions coming up when the real thing launches!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

It'd say it will be pretty much on point with Z34 weigh


Love the term "Halo car".


The car looks amazing. I just hope it doesn't receive the "Toyota FT1" treatment. It is going to be interesting to see what the final product looks like and I hope the changes are minimalistic.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

As the CEO said, it's pretty much all there. I'd say forget all the carbon, addition of license plate recesses/mounts. the grille inserts, more production type hedlight & taillights inserts etc ...


I must have quickly read over that fact. Good :) !


So will we see a EV version with nissan ariya running gear?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Maybe the next gen?


Sorry, the front end & the headlights look all wrong. Personally I find the tire lettering has to go too, but that may just be a prototype thing.


OK, loving it, mostly. I particularly like the nod to 300ZX at the rear, but the whole greeenhouse is just a 370Z. I presume this was due to it being one to start with as you said Dino. Fingers crossed the production car gets just a little more shape to the roofline. Still excited for it though.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

The roofline is part of the chassis, don't expect it to change


I can understand the hype about a new Z car, I was hyped, and I love this car from the rear right up until where the front wheel stops, everything ahead of the front wheels is just absolutely and amazingly lazy design work. I don't even understand how other people are impressed by that front facia. It's just completely uninspiring.


Also the front profile reminds me of a Honda CRZ that's exactly how uninspiring it is.


Nissan did what Toyota did not. This is the result when you put in the honest effort in for a halo sports car. Nissan has a hit on their hands. If priced right, they won't be able to keep them in showrooms. Despite their internal issues, they did the Z justice. The aftermarket is going to have a field day with this car.


At least Toyota were able to do what Nissan can't do and get the Supra to meet the regulations to be sold in the UK and EU.


given you can buy the Q60 with the same engine in the UK, you're chatting out your arse, it's not regulation holding this back it's corporate restructuring, sales are down and nissan need to cut costs


Right now you can't buy a new Infiniti Q60 in the UK as they withdrew the brand earlier this year.


Both the Q60 and Supra are euro 6 compliant, euro 7 is coming but if you know anything about emissions, neither of those cars hit the standards at all bringing fleet average up, the OEMs are charged per g/km over the target, they factor this into the cost of the car to the punter and tax bracket. So it's not like they couldn't sell it. Which is how toyota are selling the supra in the first place. To put this into numbers the target is 130g/km, the supra is 188g, yet they're still selling it. Funnily enough you don't have to pay ULEZ in london if you have a supra, go figure. Nissan could sell it, it's just their overall rating is too high and the fee as a result would be massive because they sell too many jukes and qashqai, not enough leafs and micras, if the micra and other smaller cars were big hits the balance would be more in our favour. Toyota did nothing special to the supra to achieve this, other than sell a shit load of economical cars


Hell yeah, the lighting in these shots highlight a lot of details you just can't see elsewhere, the grille actually looks great, I thought the rear looked a bit plain in other shots but now I can tell its carbon not just black plastic. I'm in. FINALLY a new sports car that doesn't have fake as F grilles.

Dino Dalle Carbonare



looks sexy from pretty much any angle

I'm sorry.....are we looking at the same car? The back is pretty cool and the sides are nice enough but the entire front end looks terrible. That one shot from directly head on, it's practically just a perfect rectangle. It might just be the colour but I doubt a better one could make up for that terrible grille. Maybe a facelift in a couple years will sort it out.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

It looks really nice up close...

Marius Engen Skinnes

I love it!


Collection of nice details that don't work as a whole


I like the taillights and rear end a lot. They bring me back to 1999 and wanting a 300zx twin turbo desperately.


No mention of this not being sold in the EU or UK markets?

Big shame that the emissions regulations over here stops this, but we have a multitude of 2+ tonne SUVs with 500hp that apparently are able to meet the requirements.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

#becauseeurope hardly any brain cells being used there when it comes to this sort of stuff. Diesels were the best choice up until the other day. Now they all want EV but are decades behind in creating an infrastructure.


Toyota, are you watching this?!?!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

They're all at dinner eating wrist and sour krauts ;)


I can see the potential to be a really cool platform

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Man that's sick. I need this car!


I love it. Hopefully it makes it to production with its design intact. I feel the same way as Dino about this car and truly believe this is the thing that could pull Nissan back out if the ditch from an enthusiast's perspective. Here's hoping.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

After the responses around the interwebs, I think it may have well done so already. Let's hope they share all they can when it comes to chronicling the path to a production version. We are still a long way away from seeing one at the dealers.


damn nice but that roof that it inherited from the 370z looks sooo bad. Doesnt matter if it's quick though.


I was so, so, so excited for this car, as the original Z and the Z32 are some of the best looking cars ever. The first time I saw either of those, BOOM, I loved it! This concept though.... not so much. I'm not going to say it's terrible, but I will give it an honest critique.

- The rear end is great. The fake diffuser is a bit lame; they should either give it a real diffuser or simplify it and just put some vents.... going 'half way' is the main issue with this car. Taillamps look modern and interesting, and overall rear end proportions are great.
- Side profile is also well done. Looks muscular, has some hints of the 350Z, even some GTR, it's simple and that is honestly fine with all the overdesigned BS around lately. Door handles are a bit odd.... but.... overall side of the car looks fresh and fairly timeless.

CONS: THE HEADLIGHTS. It's like some marketing douche was in charge, and said he wanted a blend of the attractive, original headlights, and the attractive, squinty headlights found in the Z32. The designers were confused, so he used a free morphing tool to take the round headlight and the Z32 headlight, and stopped it at the midpoint, halfway morphed. "It's a modern interpretation of the original headlamp, because it's half modern and half original!" yeah except it looks TERRIBLE. I cannot get over these headlights. A regular round headlight would look great here. So would a squinty headlight, but they felt like they were forced to try to do something unexpected. Well. Congrats. Doing a half way round oval half squinty blob is unexpected and looks terrible. By avoiding either obvious solution, the result is something that really looks like it's TRYING to avoid the obvious solution, and now it looks like an unlicensed car from grand theft auto.

I really hope they revise the front end. Rest of it is really solid, but that front end does not work at all.


Having owned a Z32 for 5 years, I certainly wouldn’t call the headlights “squinty”.. It’s just a clean, simple headlight design, that’s proportional to the rest of the car - whether it be a 2+0 or 2+2.


A round headlight would look awful with the current shape of the front. They would need to change a few things to make the round light fit and look like part of the car.


I love the whole concept about it in a great package!
But it seems like it won't make it to Europe :( Damn emission standards!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yep. #becauseeurope. But diesels were ok up until a short while ago. Riiiiiight.


Add rear wiper and I'm sold

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Not like you can see much out of there to start off with...

Maybe Nissan's digital rear view mirror might work better, you know the thing everyone is copying 5 years after Nissan came up with it...


They mix every other Z into this defective Miata.
Btw, Le Yang Bai design is way more Z.


G-Nose and I am sold. She looks stunning.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

The aftermarket won't disappoint. I bet Kato and Miura are already working on a Kaido Racer conversion lol



Dino Dalle Carbonare

I'd guess they will add the flappy winglet thingies for production?


I have mixed feelings about this. I like the overall shape. The curves are much better than the 350/370. Don't like the squared grille. The DRL LEDs are not very interesting. I know there are a lot of nice DRLs already out there. I would've liked to see something similar to what Acura/Honda has done with the NSX etc. Or even have them follow the shape of the car. I like the rear LEDs as a subtle call out to the 300ZX. The biggest thing that concerns me is the greenhouse. I had a 370Z and the visibility was terrible. I was always twisting around like a pretzel to see out the right rear. I get the low center of gravity seating position but that sloping roof cuts into visibility. Seeing past the humped hood left something to be desired too. I like the updated dash. I would like to see more interior shots too. I hope the weight doesn't take too much away from the twin? turbos That and the manual hit the home run.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

"I would've liked to see something similar to what Acura/Honda has done with the NSX etc"

Do you mean created an awesomely bland car with zero link to the thing it's named after?


It looks production ready. Probably some aspects will change. The carbon diffuser will become FRP. The front grill might be softened, but ultimately it looks finished. I’m not a Z guy,(I prefer an S chassis) but it looks good. It’s like if singer did a 350z. The best parts of all the Zs put into one chassis with modern running gear.

I'll have the tuna

I really enjoy the overall concept, though i personally would like a little more attitude out of the head lights, and a little less happy Miata. That being said, they look just fine on the Jon Sibal rendering.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah I think Jon has really emphasized the fact that with a few simple additions, you can really toughen the thing up


It's awesome they are bringing back the old style maybe they will move forward with the idx concept would be cool to see the idx and 400z in there lineup

Dino Dalle Carbonare

We can only dream!


Looks electric, imagine if it sounds as good as the classic VQ engine.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Did you use "sound as good" and "VQ" in the same sentence? lol




Excuse me, it can sound good if you don't just drop a straight pipe on it


A bit of forethought goes a long way in making the VQ sound good


That was supposed to have an emoji on the end. hahah


Yes! Most excited I've been for a new "affordable sports car" in at least a decade. It's a good mix of old and new, but also leaves a LOT of room for aftermarket love.

Here's hoping for actual gauges and a throttle cable.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Well there are 3 center dials that will stay analogue. That digital instrumentation will no doubt stay. Throttle cable? Yeah not happening


Throttle cables are trash anyways, modern ETB's are so much better when tuned properly (here's hoping for a proper sport mode throttle map).


as if this current horde of vato straight pipes wasnt enough, here comes the blow off loudeners

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I'll take wooshing and flutter over eardrum-piercing NA farts ;)


I've recently said that I thought the design was lazy, but I think I'm coming around to it after seeing it all over. It certainly blends the previous generations' highlights together.


gotta say thanks Dino for the close ups of this car...i generally liked the design of the car but wasn't sold on some angles like the front end but it's growing on me. Little bummed i guess about the Z34 underpinnings but with Nissans financial troubles i understand it and after the turbo mule seen at the 'ring some years back it really shouldn't be a suprise. the looks will be subjective and i'm quite happy to see most complaints are about the looks not the drivetrain or package as a concept. Hopefully tuners have gotten very used to playing with the VR30 and we can expect some good tuning options in the near future....i definitely wouldn't mind replacing/adding a Z35 next to me Z32


Seriously, that's the best Nissan designers could do on the front and rear end? Try this, copy the original, just change the older light and replace it with a round LED light.

This looks like a 12 year old try to copy the original 240Z. If you took the original 240, widen it, added flared fenders it would be perfect.


lol sorry about the d*cktail misspell, dont know where to edit the post


holy jesus, havent seen dis many comments in ever.Not even when speedhunters first was a thing.I like the car, nice cut and everything.Not really a fan of da rear but ok.


at first sight of the picture i was like "oh cool new miata, might as well check dat out."Until i saw the Z letter i was like "nah man dis aint it, it cant be."Not against it though, just thought it was a little bit early to release a Z ya know.Cool car though.


This new Z looks a perfect modern interpretation of the 240Z front with the new pedestrain rules....


Too loud headline for a another concept car. A few years ago, Nissan showed a concept that looks like a modern-day Hakosuka. And where is he?
Toyota made the GT86, Supra and even the Yaris while Nissan pretended to be still-in-the-game.


There's one problem with it... it reminds me TOO much of the 350Z and 370Z, and for me thats a big problem...


Exterior and specs are fantastic. Best edition since the S30. Dash/gauges should have followed the original signature shapes. Big colour screens are over done here and something elegant and not gawdy might have worked better


When I first saw the prototype, I thought it wasn't really impressive or amazing. But now I realize I was totally wrong. At certain angles, you could really capture and sense the essence of the old cars the 400Z is paying homage too. Let's hope this car is worth a powerhouse! :D


I am just sad that I won't be able to afford one of these for the foreseeable future ... Same with the GT-R. They make them bigger, better and bader, but somewhere along the lines, they lose the average Joe.


It's not going to be sold in the UK according the Evo.


Where did my comment that it's not available in the UK go?


This is like a 'best of' album of Z :) I like it a lot, though they could have gone a bit wilder with the styling. However it's really sad that due to EU regulations it won't be offered in Europe :( And even if it will, the price will be ridiculous thanks to laws favouring unreliable german shitbox SUVs