Nissan unveils a new retro-styled Z sports car

Nissan had been dealing with struggling sales due to an aging lineup and the arrest of its chairman, Carlos Ghosn in 2018. Nissan designers were already working on redesigns of the company’s mainstream models when talk of a new Z sports car came up.

“At the time, we were looking at who we are as a company,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s global head of design. “Like myself, a little bit depressed. I was disgusted.”

Creating the Z helped pull everyone through, he said, both in the design studio and in other parts of the company

The new Z’s design is clearly reminiscent of the 240Z, the very first Z car, unveiled in 1969. It has a long hood and a roof that curves down toward the back. It looks very similar to the Nissan Z Proto concept unveiled in September of last year, but with subtle sculpting differences, Albaisa said, due to being stamped out of real metal instead of formed in carbon fiber.

“This car, being a little bit 240, is a metaphor for a company that was looking to find itself again,” said Albaisa.

One radical change is the name. Instead of Z followed by a 3-digit number, this car is just called the Z.

The two-seat rear-wheel-drive sports car is powered by a 400-horsepower turbocharged V6 engine. A six-speed manual transmission will come standard, but a nine-speed automatic transmission will be offered as an option as well.

There is an 8-inch touchscreen in the dashboard, but there are also three old-fashioned analog gauges with needles showing turbo speed, turbo pressure and electrical system voltage.

The interior of the new Nissan Z has three analog gauges that, designer Alfonso Albaisa said, are a nod to the car's early roots. The center console has a digital touchscreen, though.

The Z will initially be available in two versions, Sport and Performance. Horsepower will be the same in both, but the Performance version will have a rear spoiler, leather sets, Launch Control, which automatically provides maximum acceleration from a stop, and a few other upgrades.

Nissan’s Z cars have long had a passionate following and early models have become collectibles. Original 240Zs that are in good condition are worth about $20,000 today, according to collector car appraisers at Hagerty. But an extraordinary 1971 model with only 21,000 miles sold on the auction website last January for $310,000.

The last production version in the Z line, the 370Z, was introduced in 2009 and it was available through the 2020 model year. It was never substantially redesigned during that time.

The tail of the Nissan Z slopes downward and flared rear fenders give it a wide look.
The original Datsun 240Z, is widely credited with changing Americans’ perceptions of Japanese cars. There had been Japanese sports cars before, including ones from Nissan, but the 240Z was different. It was relatively affordable, unlike Toyota’s beautiful but expensive 2000GT, while it offered compelling performance for its time.

The Datsun 240Z was a version of the Nissan Fairlady Z coupe, as the model was called in Japan, but it was engineered especially for the US market. Two important changes were made for the American version. First, the American Z got a larger, more powerful engine and the Fairlady name was dropped in favor of a number. The Fairlady name continues to be used in Japan.

The new Z will go on sale in the spring of 2022. Pricing for the car will be announced closer to when it goes on sale. Prices for the current model, the 370Z, start at around $31,000.

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