The Nissan Z Proto Is Retro Done Right

While the current 370Z is an old-school performance bargain, that’s also part of the problem with Nissan’s sports car. Compared to rivals like the Toyota Supra, Ford Mustang, and the Mazda Miata, it’s fallen somewhat behind. Which is a shame, given the Nissan 240Z was more advanced than the original Mustang in several ways. However, where the 370Z falters, the newly-revealed Nissan Z Proto Concept may succeed. That’s because the 400Z preview makes better use of nostalgia.

How the 2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept recalls the 240Z and Z cars past

We already knew the new Nissan Z would feature a retro design. Admittedly, the Nissan Z Proto isn’t precisely the new 400Z, The Drive reports. But Autoweek reports it’s “far closer to production than a mere show car.” Roadshow pegs it as being “about 98% of the production model.” Therefore, many of the concept’s design elements and features will make it to the production car.

A purple 1970 Nissan 240Z next to the yellow 2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
1970 Nissan 240Z (left) and 2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept | Nissan

And those elements tie the Nissan Z Proto directly to its Z car ancestors, Road & Track reports. The most prominent is the grille. It’s essentially an updated version of the Nissan 240Z’s grille, minus the chrome strip. It even has a similar pattern. And the hood itself is creased like the 240Z’s hood is, Motor Trend reports.

The headlights mimic those found on the JDM 240ZG. The rear pillars have a Z badge almost identical to the one on the original Nissan 240Z, Autoblog reports. And in another nod to the first Z-car, the trunk doesn’t say ‘400Z’; it says ‘Fairlady Z.’

The rear 3/4 view of the yellow 2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept rear 3/4 | Nissan

But the Nissan Z Proto references more than just the 240Z, Car and Driver reports. The taillights mimic the ones on the 1990s Z32 300ZX. In fact, the Z Proto’s designer, Alfonso Albaisa, was hugely inspired by the 300ZX, MT reports.

Even the interior has past Z car inspirations. Like the 350Z, the Z Proto has 3 gauges mounted separately on the dashboard. One of them even monitors the same thing: battery voltage. The other 2, though, tie into the new things the Nissan Z Proto brings to the table.

The modern touches and features

Nissan hasn’t revealed exactly how much power the next-gen Z will develop. However, we do know that under its hood is a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6, R&T reports.

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That V6 is also found in various Infiniti models, making either 300 or 400 hp, Car and Driver reports. In comparison, the outgoing 370’s 3.7-liter V6 makes 332 hp—the new model will likely have more than that. But it’s possible the production sports car will offer an even more powerful Nismo model, Motor1 reports, and even a hybrid. Also, while the 400Z will offer the same 7-speed automatic as Infiniti, it’ll still have a 6-speed manual.

The yellow-striped 2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept interior
2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept interior | Nissan

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Also, the Nissan Z Proto shows off an updated interior. The Z will have modern infotainment, Motor1 reports, as well as a 12.3” digital gauge cluster. The infotainment touchscreen is likely the same 9” unit found in the Rogue. And it’s definitely more advanced than what the 370Z offers, Automobile reports.

Is the 2020 Nissan Z Proto too much retro and not enough new?

Nissan hasn’t discussed the Z Proto’s chassis, suspension, or any further mechanical details. It’s likely, Car and Driver and Motor1 report, that the 400Z will ride on a modified version of the 370Z’s platform. And MT claims that, when placed side-by-side, the Z Proto shares many features with the 370Z.

2020 Nissan Frontier parked in grass
2020 Nissan Frontier | Nissan

If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be the only new Nissan vehicle to do so. The 2021 Frontier pickup, for example, will ride on a modified and updated version of the 2020 model’s platform. And it’s not just Nissan doing this. The 2020 Toyota 4Runner’s platform dates back over a decade. There’s also the Dodge Challenger and Charger, whose platforms originated in the 90s.

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So, is it hypocritical to praise the retro design of the Nissan Z Proto and critique the 4Runner and Frontier? Maybe, maybe not. R&T and Automobile liked the 370Z’s old-school design—up to a point. The problem wasn’t the basic concept of a RWD six-cylinder sports car, Car and Driver explains. It’s just that cars like the Supra, Mustang, and Miata offered the same performance with more refined powertrains and better technology.

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The Nissan Z Proto Concept, though, is a bit like that Volvo P1800 Cyan restomod we recently featured. Or like stepping from the 2020 Morgan Plus 4 into the more modern 2021 model. It has vintage style with upgraded tech underneath. In other words, it’s retro done right.

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