What Nissan’s Z-car did next, CAR+ October 2015 | CAR Magazine

What Nissan’s Z-car did next, CAR+ October 2015

Published: 16 September 2015 Updated: 16 September 2015

► What happens next for the Zed family
► Nissan plan to combine crossover and sports car
► 390Z? Don’t get your hopes up  

Remember the Nissan iDX concepts from 2013? A pair of accessible rear-wheel-drive coupes so perfectly formed they spoke deeply to the petrolhead of the soul. Sadly, despite a wildly positive generation-bridging reception, there’s no buisness case, as there aren’t enough potential buyers to justify the bespoke platform required.

Since Nissan likes to think of itself as a sports car company, this has left it in a bit of a jam. Enter the Gripz – aka, ‘get the kids interested in cars again, round two’. Another concept, but one that builds on the stupendous success of Qashqai and Juke, and thus could get a free platform ride from the second-gen version of the latter. That’s a could; is there a should?

The premise takes high-riding 2+2 crossover practicality, with all the access and visibility advantages that entails, and marries it to a low-slung coupe shape that launches Nissan’s new ‘emotional geometry’ design language while attempting to capture some of the ‘timeless’ automotive passion iDX evoked so effortlessly. Retro? Clearly not, but squint and there really is something of the 240Z Safari Rally car about it, the official inspiration and cleverly retrieved precedent for the elevated stance.

Nissan thinks this combination is the key to cracking open a whole new market of youthful buyers – a car that can commute in comfort yet still forge a true high-octane enthusiast connection on the weekend; multi-purpose in the manner of a BMW X4, but even closer to a sports car, and more affordable. ‘High-octane’ is also outmoded here, though, as the concept’s wheels are driven by electric motors, the petrol engine demoted to generator.

How seriously do we take all this? The 370Z has always felt like a dinosaur, and Nissan’s chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura is already suggesting there won’t be a 390Z, saying ‘Z needs more revolution than evolution.’ Gripz hasn’t been spelt with a Z on the end by accident…

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Digital Automotive Hub and former Associate Editor of CAR. Road tester, organiser, reporter and professional enthusiast, putting the driver first