A redesign is finally coming soon for Nissan’s iconic sports car, and it sounds promising.
This story originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Car and Driver as part of our 25 Cars Worth Waiting For package. Our sneak preview of the most exciting cars coming in the next few years draws on knowledge from leaked product-development plans, spy photos, and loose-lipped insiders mixed in with information that has already been officially released. The reporting for this story was completed in February and early March before the auto industry began feeling major effects of the coronavirus pandemic. As many automakers are now delaying or pausing development programs, the debut and on-sale dates reported here may change.
The sports car that everyone forgot—including Nissan, apparently—is still alive, though hardly doing well. Judged against today’s sports cars, the 11-year-old Nissan 370Z is about as competitive as a bicycle. Later this year, though, Nissan will finally give the Z-car the attention it deserves by introducing a successor.
The new Z, code-named Z35, won’t be a ground-up rethink. It will continue on the latest version of Nissan’s FM platform and share components with the Infiniti Q60 coupe. The twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 that makes up to 400 horsepower in the Infiniti Q50 and Q60 seems like a shoo-in. A seven-speed automatic is the only transmission available in those Infinitis, but we’re hopeful that a stick shift will be offered as well. Nissan already hinted that such a thing is possible when it bolted a six-speed manual to the twin-turbo engine for a modified 370Z SEMA concept in 2019. The engine and architecture can accommodate all-wheel drive, but we doubt Nissan will go that route. The Z is a front-engine rear-wheel-drive sports car, and this one should stay true to that heritage.
The 300Z name (or 300ZX for nostalgia’s sake) would make the most sense given the engine’s displacement, but we predict that Nissan will instead choose 400Z to assert the new car’s superiority over its predecessors. The original Datsun 240Z is said to serve as a styling inspiration. We hope that means the 400Z will present simple, clean lines rather than the busy, borderline-tortured look seen on some recent Nissan concepts and production cars. Roundish headlights and 300ZX-style taillights will reportedly serve as key retro touches.
The old-school theme won’t extend inside; that’s a good thing because the Z’s interior is in need of a modern makeover. The cabin should retain its cozy two-seat atmosphere, but it’ll benefit from the latest Nissan infotainment system and fresh dashboard design.
Today’s 370Z starts at $31,015, making it a decent performance bargain despite its age. When it goes on sale next year, the new model will see a price uptick but start somewhere in the $40,000s to undercut the Toyota Supra.