► Nissan mulling Z car's future
► Hybrid may have lost to turbo V6
► 370Z and GT-R are 'heart of Nissan'
Nissan has been almost as silent as an EV on the future of its iconic sports cars, the 370Z and GT-R, but new rumours suggest that's about to change. Information on a successor to the aging has come to light, and it appers to be good news for sports car fans.
How long has it been?
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. It's been a while, and this update couldn't come sooner, especially with the Toyota Supra here and a GR86 already on the horizon.
What will it look like?
A new report from Autoblog suggest the car will feature a retro-styling, much like the IDx – only this time the front-end inspiration could come from the Datsun 240Z. That sounds controversial to begin with, but it's a strategy that's proved successful for Honda: both its Honda e and forthcoming Sports EV use a retro-modern look to critical acclaim. There's no reason Nissan should fare differently.
The rear, Autblog reports, could be based on a 300ZX.
What about the engine?
When we spoke to product planner Ivan Espinosa last year, he admitted that the company was debating whether the next 370Z should be all-electric, as Porsche and Audi are mulling over for the 718 Cayman/Boxster and TT replacements. However, it looks that Nissan is now going for a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, and it'll be paired with a nine-speed auto 'box with a manual option also offered.
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?’ mused Espinosa. Not yet appears to be the answer.
It's possible we've actually seen the V6 destined for the new Z car already – we snapped a modified 370Z doing laps of the 'Ring last year, and it sports extra cooling...
Is it a viable project in 2020?
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 GT86 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.
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