Nissan reveals its long-awaited new Z car today – and with a modern twist to its classic looks, V6 engine, manual gearbox and rear-drive, it’s all that many Z car fans have been dreaming of. But a dream is all this car will ever be for the UK.
Despite the teaser publicity and “It’s coming!” hype of the digital reveal beamed around the world from Japan today, this reborn icon of the affordable sports coupe market is not on its way to us.
Nissan has confirmed to GRR that the as-yet-unnamed new model won’t be offered for sale in the UK or Europe. The company says a “shrinking European sports car market and specific regulations on emissions” mean it is “unable to build a viable business case” for the car’s European release.
A spokesman told GRR that UK sales of the now-out-of-production 370Z had dwindled from a high of 817 to 119 last year, and that electric crossovers like the coming new Ariya were more important.
The news will be a blow to fans of the Z – and fans of the affordable sports coupe genre that the Z car has championed ever since the first Datsun 240Z of 1969. The decision also contrasts with other reborn Japanese classics like the Toyota Supra, and reports that Honda (with the S2000) and Mazda (with the RX7) are looking to reprise their own sporting icons.
Make no mistake though, the car you see here is designed for production, for sale in markets like the US where the Z has always done best. Officially it’s still the Z Proto but it is virtually ready for the showrooms. It is tipped to be called 400Z and go on sale – where it is going on sale – in 2021.
Believed to share components with the top Infiniti coupe – also now not available in the UK or Europe – the Z Proto is powered by that most traditional of Z-car engines, a six-cylinder mounted in the nose and driving the rear wheels through a manual (six-speed) gearbox. In the top Infiniti GT60 this engine gives 400PS.
Many will find such a muscly, old-school spec with its accent on raw driving appeal very appealing in an increasingly electrified and autonomous world. That’s particularly so when it comes packaged in a car that strays little from signature Z-car proportions and size, and comes with an unmistakable Z-car vibe in the styling.
Nissan design chief Alfonso Albaisa says the look honours 50 years of Z cars. That’s difficult to disagree with when you see the long bonnet, raked back screen, sharply descending roofline and short and low-slung tail.
The large and very rectangular front air inlet and new LED lights present a fresh face to the world, but the shape of the lights, the bonnet contours, glasshouse, Z-car badging and wheels are all redolent of Z cars past, as is the prototype’s yellow paint job with black roof. Inspiration for this unabashed retro-ness comes from many of the six previous generations of the Z.
Inside the retro mixes with the hi-tech so that along with a strict two-seat cabin, well bolstered sports seats and a deeply dished steering wheel, you get modern essentials like a 12.3-inch digital display.
“For more than 50 years we have been creating the legend of Z together,” says Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida. "It's a key model in our Nissan Next transformation plan. I'm glad you're with us for the next exciting chapter. The new Z is on its way."
Er, it appears it’s actually not...not if you’re in the UK at least.