After two generations of heavier, rounder bodies, it was important that Nissan hired a careful artist to shape the latest addition to the Z stable. The Z Proto divorces itself from the recent past with a sleek, elegant, slimmer shape; a wider footprint, and, thankfully, a turbocharged motor.
The shape of the hood and the canted, teardrop-shaped LED headlights are both unmistakable reminders of the original Zs of the seventies. The proportions are reworked to give the impression of narrower hips, although the current Nismo 370Z’s width is only 0.8-inch wider.
The link to the original Z is most obvious from the silhouette of the Z Proto. The roofline flows from the nose to the squared-off rear. The signature transition from the rear quarter glass to the low-slung position of the rear tail adds to the effect. Rectangular taillights reminiscent of the 300ZX’s are another cue from the family’s styling library.
Bear in mind, this is essentially an artist’s rendering and the trim isn’t set in stone, but here it’s kept fairly quiet. Lightweight carbon fiber treatments on the side skirts, rear valence, and front lower lip sets off the skirtline, and 19-inch alloy wheels give it an athletic stance. The emphasis is kept on its clean shape without much in the way of badges.
Under the elongated hood is a twin-turbocharged V6 engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox with estimates of 400 horsepower. As capable as a built VQ engine is, the proposition of significant power gains with easy bolt-ons sounds refreshing—especially when there’s the Supra’s B58 engine to contend with.
If the current Infiniti Q60’s 350 pound-feet from 1,600 rpm is something we can expect in the new Z, the driving experience will be more muscle car than that of the outgoing, normally-aspirated Z34s. To make the power manageable, Nissan will fit the rear axle with 285/35R19 tires and a set of 255/40R19s up front.
Taking the retro route is a tricky thing to do. You’re bound to offend some purists, but when you’ve got the right shape and a decent amount of grunt, the stubborn may make themselves more amenable.