New Nissan 350Z: the lowdown
It’s not been long since Nissan facelifted the 350Z endowing it with an extra 13bhp, but now we've scooped what looks likes the next-generation car, tipped to wear the 400Z badge. CAR Online snapped this odd-looking 350Z mule on test in Germany, where it was being benchmarked against some pretty fine competition in the shape of the Porsche Cayman. But Nissan is also preparing a production version of the Urge - a smaller sports car to challenge the MX-5. Could this mule, a cut-about 350Z, be a prototype of that car? Read on to find out more...
Hang on a minute, a Nissan rivalling a Porsche? Have they got ideas above their station?
You’d think so, but it might not be as absurd as it sounds. The current 350Z outsprints the top-spec Cayman S, despite undercutting it by £17k. It seems that Nissan is aiming its sights somewhat higher for the next-gen car. Don’t expect a complete overhaul of the 350Z, though. Nissan is expected to adopt the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix' school of thought. It sold 1322 of the coupe and roadster in the UK in 2006, and nearly 2000 the year before; figures with which Nissan says it is happy.
So what will change on the new 350Z?
The next-generation of Z-car will keep the same basic shape of today's car, but the roofline will be more steeply raked. Black cladding hides more major revisions around the lights and slimmer versions of the chunky metallic door handles are planned too. Reports in Japan claim the new car could be badged 400Z, hinting at a growth in capacity to around 4.0 litres. However, Nissan has only just fettled today's 3.5-litre V6, claiming 80 percent of parts are new, so it could well stick with the six-pot. Engineers are currently working to improve the ride and NVH - weak points on the 350Z - but they insist the driving experience will remain as stimulating as ever.
And what's this about a supercar above the 350Z?
Nissan will continue to pit the 350Z against the likes of the Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Porsche Cayman, but it also has its sights set on an even loftier target: the Porsche 911. The new Skyline, called simply the GTR this time around, will be shown at the Tokyo Motor Show this autumn and is aimed squarely at the 911 Turbo. CAR Online snapped the GTR giving the 911 Turbo a hard time at the Laguna Seca and Sears Point circuits back in March.
And what's this about a new MX-5 rival?
Nissan is keen to raise its profile as a brand - broadening its remit as a purveyor of cheap family transport and 4x4s. Buoyed by the global success of the 350Z, especially in America, Nissan now is intent on improving its sporting image. In addition to the 350Z and GTR, Nissan is planning to produce the Urge concept, previewed at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2006. It's a small, lightweight sports car with the same front-engine, rear-drive layout as the 350Z. We're not sure exactly what will power the Urge, but talk is it will use a high-revving and small displacement unit; expect it to be aimed squarely at the affordable roadster market, especially the market-leading Mazda MX-5.
Enough titillation... When will we see these sports cars in final production form?
No word on the arrival of the next 350Z yet, but the GTR will be unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in October, with sales starting in 2008. The Urge is still in the early design stages, but Nissan has confirmed that its British engineering division, in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, will play an active roll in the car’s development. Porsche had better keep its guard up.