Debate rages within Nissan about whether next 370Z should go electric

Published: 23 October 2019

► Nissan debates future of sports cars
► They could be all-electric
► Time is running out 

Nissan has been almost as silent as an EV on the future of its iconic sports cars, the 370Z and GT-R. But product planner Ivan Espinosa admits that the company is debating whether the next 370Z should be all-electric, as Porsche and Audi are mulling over for the 718 Cayman/Boxster and TT replacements.

Nissan needs to make a call soon, with both cars ageing. The R35 GT-R all-wheel drive supersaloon first appeared at the 2006 Tokyo Motor Show, 13 years ago. Its brawny baby brother, the front-engined/rear-drive 370Z coupe showed its face a couple of years later.

Ivan Espinosa, Nissan corporate vice-president for product planning, said an electric 370Z was under discussion ‘all the time’. But he added: ‘We need to be careful. Is the consumer ready for an electric sports car? We have endlessly debated this.’

It’s a difficult balance because Nissan may end up with something that’s neither fish nor fowl. ‘The more traditional buyers, are they 100 per cent there? And then there’s the technology question: when will it be ready to deliver the performance expected of a sports car?’ muses Espinosa.

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‘EVs have many beautiful attributes but you have to carry a battery which is carrying weight. A sports car is not just about the horsepower you put in, it’s about the kilogrammes you remove.’

Range is also a problem, which has vexed McLaren as it contemplates electric supercars: their owners are certain to tap the performance, which will naturally compromise the range. 

Nissan faces another challenge with the sports car segment shrinking. Its big rival Toyota has been forced to collaborate with Subaru and BMW for its sports cars. Only by working with partners could Toyota realise the GT-86 four-cylinder coupe and six-cylinder Supra.

CAR asked Espinosa if Nissan could find the necessary volume within its alliance of brands, and whether it would be open-minded to a collaboration with external partners. ‘There are no golden rules to making sports cars,’ he replied. ‘I’m open. But there are elements we cannot [compromise on], because these are brand icons. There is a limit to what we can share and commonise: we need to be very careful not to go beyond what the customers are expecting.’

Espinosa described the two cars as being at the ‘heart of Nissan’ and promised developments. ‘We are actively looking at this, working on this, and we will come up with something on this some time soon.’ For car enthusiasts, probably not soon enough – but this is a time of tough choices, with electrification and autonomy draining engineering and investment resources.

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine