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New Nissan Z sportscar standing in the wings

The Nissan Z Proto hints at the next Z sportscar

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Nissan has pulled the wraps off its Z Proto (Prototype) concept car at a virtual show held at the company’s Pavillion in Yokohama, Japan, which signals the company’s strong intent to launch the new generation Z sports car. Z fans rejoice!

Of course, the company had in May this year hinted that it was working on a 370Z sports car successor and that its unveiling would be imminent. Here we are,four months later, and the concept model of the vehicle in its full glory gives us an overall view of what the production version of the car will look like. 

The Z sports car history harks back to 1970 when the first model to bear the Z nameplate, the 240 Z Fairlady (codenamed S30) and introduced to the US market as an alternative Japanese sports car to the then crop of American offerings.It proved a masterstroke move for Nissan and has since created a legion of cult followers the world over. 

For many TopGear Magazine SA enthusiasts, it was arguably the 300ZX (Z32) that thoroughly etched the Nissan Z car in mind. And since then, the likes of the 350Z - still my favourite modern-day Z model to date - offered a proper driving experience, a robust clutch and equally heavy six-speed manual gearbox. It also looked the part and sounded glorious with the normally aspirated, 3.5-litre V6 thumping under the bonnet. 

Then in 2009, the 370Z came about and, to be frank, the lesser mentioned about that model the better, because it never quite lived up to its predecessor’s reputation of a well-engineered, great-to-drive and relatively inexpensive tasty recipe. 

Penned and developed by the design team in Japan, the Z Proto boasts a fresh, attractiv eexterior design with a silhouette that communicates respect for the original model. It sports a bright yellow pearlescent paint – a tribute to a popular paint scheme on both the first-generation Z (S30) and the 300ZX (Z32) – and a black roof.

Combining a retro theme with one that also projected futurism was challenging, saidAlfonso Albaisa, head of design at Nissan.

"Our designers made countless studies and sketches as we researched each generation and what made them a success," Albaisa said. "Ultimately, we decided the Z Proto should travel between the decades, including the future."

The cabin, meanwhile, is said to be driver centric with little in the way of frills.While detailed engine specifications are yet to be announced, the Z Proto is powered by a new V6 twin-turbo powerplant driving through a six-speed manual transmission – preferably to the rear wheels, but that is still to be announced. Shoe wise, the Z Proto spots 255/40/R19 and 285/35/R19 takkies front and rear respectively. Dimensions, meanwhile, measure 4 382 mm in length; 1 850 mm in width;and 1 310 mm in height – hinting at a well-proportioned sports car disposition.

As the GT-R continues to headline the marque’s performance repertoire, it is reassuring to see that the company still has intentions to appease the compact sports car market with the Z car.

So, from my viewpoint, I sincerely hope that the engineers have done enough to jettison the Z car back into the annals of driving nirvana. Only time will tell, though.

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