Nissan, I believe, have a real opportunity to reignite the Z brand like never before. The current Z car, the 370Z, is a competent GT car but never quite lit up the world in performance or sales. The styling was heavily derived from the previous 350Z and while it was challenging and interesting, it was never quite pretty enough to stay the length of course which is now coming on 10 years, or 16 years if you want to include the 350Z.
With so much adoration for the original 240Z now evident across the globe, it’s time Nissan drew upon its heritage and create a car which pays respect to the original both in engineering and design. I’m talking front engined, six cylinder, and rear wheel drive with iconic design cues like the fastback roofline and the boxed tail lights. Heritage is not something the Japanese typically dabble in preferring to work with a clean slate, however witnessing the power heritage has to play through the likes of Porsche, now would be the time to take an interest.
Let’s use the upcoming Toyota Supra as an example. It looks to have the right ingredients of Supra’s recent past but crucially there’s another factor at play, one which will potentially take sales away from the class leading Germans, and that is the right balance of performance vs cost. Where Nissan have elevated the GT-R to compete with the more capable in the 911 range, and Honda have thrown everything at the NSX at a massive cost, the really interesting whole to be filled for the Z car and Toyota’s Supra is that between hot hatches and the likes of BMW’s M2.
So what’s the formula for making a great Z car again?
- An in-line six cylinder front/mid mounted engine.
- Rear wheel drive.
- Manual transmission option.
- Original Z car proportions.
- GT oriented rather than lap time focused
Nissan already have a legendary car on their books which destroys lap times, wins races, and creates headlines. The GT-R is in a league of its own as Nissan’s halo car and trying to even get close to that level of performance in the Z would be pointless.
What they need to do is concentrate on real world driver involvement that doesn’t require doubling of the speed limit. Steering feel, chassis balance, playful dynamics wrapped up in a GT format which can be used for just about anything but at the same time not alienating buyers by being indifferent. It really has to hit each of those points to be a winner and would be a natural competitor to the Toyota Supra.