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Z Proto: What you might have missed from Nissan’s reveal event

Nissan recently held a digital press event to finally show off the near-final design of the next Z-car. For now, it’s called the Z Proto, but we suspect the production name will either be “400Z” (to reference the expected 400hp output), or simply “Z,” as Nissan has toyed with simplifying the name in the past.

Nissan mostly used this event to talk about the design, and wax poetically about the necessary inclusion of the manual. Being that they also spoke a lot about customer feedback, I like to think we had some influence in that decision!

But other than that, they didn’t discuss much in the way of specs. But here’s what we either know for sure, or with reasonable certainty.

  • Powered by a VR30DDTT, the same engine found in the 16+ Q50 and 17+ Q60. It’s expected to be offered in the 400hp trim, but may also be offered in the 300hp trim. It’s unlikely we’ll see a non-turbo variant as Nissan toyed with this prior to the Q50 release and eventually scrapped the idea.
  • Available 6-speed manual transmission. We suspect it to be virtually identical to the 6-speed found in the 370Z; Nissan has been using the same guts since ~05. Hopefully it doesn’t use the internal concentric slave cylinder the 370Z uses, but we’ll make a kit to fix that if it does. We also know the 370Z transmission almost directly bolts up to the VR30, it will likely just get a different bellhousing.
  • Suspension will likely be exactly the same as Q50/Q60, which was just a revision to the 370Z.
  • No word on an LSD, we’re not holding our breath since Nissan likes to use some rear brake pad trickery to fake it on the Q50/Q60.

But there’s a lot Nissan didn’t talk about. We don’t know the price, horsepower, weight, etc. But I thought I would point out a few things you might have missed from the reveal and subsequent press releases.

De-branded Brembos on Z Proto.

The first thing I noticed: It uses what appear to be the Brembo brake calipers from the R35 GT-R. I actually don’t think this will make it to production. They’re extremely expensive, and the Akebono calipers they’ve been using since the 370Z/G37 are very inexpensive and they generally do the job very well. Owners of the new Z would also probably not be interested in dropping $2000+ on rotors every time they need to be replaced, since this setup uses expensive floating 2pc rotors.

Z Proto’s Z32-inspired tail lights.

This detail wasn’t exactly hidden, but wasn’t visible in most shots. The tail lights mimic the 300ZX’s in a very clear way. The 300ZX tail lights have a little bit of depth in each oval, and the Z Proto’s interpretation of this has a sort of 3D effect. Minor, but kind of cool.

Z Proto’s all-digital gauge cluster.

Moving to the interior, probably the most noticable change we’re seeing here is the transition to an all-digital gauge cluster. This is likely the same display used in the 2021 Rogue Platinum. In this shot, we can see the tach, a numeral-only speedometer, boost pressure gauge, engin oil temp and pressure, water temp, differential temp (bottom right), range/fuel, and a red bar at the top that illuminates when the engine approaches redline.

While it’s possible Nissan could cut this and revert to physical gauges for cost-cutting, it’s exciting to see them modernizing the Z in a way that even the “should-be-better-equipped” Q50/Q60 haven’t been.

The 2021 Rogue’s digital display.

The switch to digital offers a lot of obvious advantages, like the ability to customize the layout and what sensors/gauges are being displayed, as well as integrate navigation and infotainment with the main display.

The 3-gauge array is a throwback to the original 240Z.

At the top of the center stack are three physical gauges. These display turbo boost pressure, turbo RPM, and battery voltage, and we can actually learn a few things from the first two gauges here. The presence of a physical boost gauge in addition to the one on the digital gauge cluster seems to further indicate that the main display will have multiple display modes or some element of customization.

The turbo RPM gauge is also further confirmation that this engine is indeed the VR30DDTT in 400hp trim from the Red Sport Q50/Q60, as the turbo RPM sensors are only present on the 400hp trim.

Z Proto’s Manual Shifter

The manual shifter is obviously a big deal for a production car in 2020, even a sports car like the Z. Other than that, there’s not much to glean here other than we have Nissan’s current infotainment system found in several cars (so it will likely feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), and the climate control is essentially the same as the 370Z’s, but with sharper backlighting. It’s automatic climate control with sort of analog control knobs. Altima gets a more modern looking climate control array, but it would probably be unnecessary overkill for a car with single-zone climate control anyway.

The window switches and door handle appear to be directly from the 370Z.

Finally, off to the corners of the interior shots, we get some glimpses of the window switches, interior door handle, and vents. These appear to be lifted directly out of the 370Z with virtually no changes made at all. At this point, it’s hard to tell if this is just Nissan parts bin engineering for the sake of cost-cutting, or if it’s just a remnant of the new Z Proto being (obviously) based on the 370Z before it.

One clue that makes me think these leftover 370Z parts will be subject to change is the key receptacle just below the steering wheel. For the first era of Nissan vehicles with IntelligentKey, they had a hole in the dash that could be used in case the battery in the fob dies. You just put the entire keyfob in that slot, and the car will start and drive like normal. But with the Q50 (and probably some other Nissans around the same era), they did away with this backup method, and instead the ignition “Start” button itself has a simple RFID transponder inside. So if your battery dies, you just touch the keyfob to the button, and the car will start from there. It’s not very likely that Nissan would keep the old method around, unless they’re really serious about cost-cutting, so I think we’re likely to see this part of the interior change before release.

That’s about everything I spotted from the release photos/videos Nissan provided. What are some things you noticed?

Nick Letsom

3 Comments

  1. Nice write up on the Z Proto! I enjoy reading you guy’s blog! I’m debating if I should purchase one for a fun car. I already have a Q60, but that thing is a boat and a manual transmission would help a lot!

  2. This is a 370 on crack. We need analog instrument cluster. More of a wedge up front. Drop the weak six speed go back to five speed and up the power. 400 horse isn’t even enough to keep up with a new camaro or mustang nowadays.
    Use the gtr motor instead coupled with rwd drive train. 315 rear wheels stock.

  3. Very nice write-up, Nick. Pretty sharp on your observations. I watched the digital reveal, and while it was fun to watch, as you noted, it was hard to see the finer details in real time. I think the car has a lot of promise. I likely won’t be in the market for one, as my Z32 keeps me plenty busy and happy (most of the time), but I definitely look forward to seeing them on the street.

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