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Watch: 2022 Nissan Proto Z Could Have Been Exciting Instead Of Derivative

Some are loving the 2022 Nissan Proto Z revealed yesterday. Others? Not so much. It’s a fine-looking car but not that kick in the head that the Z has stood for all of these decades. Each new generation was a leap from the previous. Each new model was exciting instead of derivative. Except for 2022. If you squint you can’t tell the difference between the 370Z and the Proto Z. 

The reason why it looks so derivative is that it retains the 370Z platform

2017 Nissan 370Z NISMO | Nissan

The reason why it looks so derivative is that it retains the 370Z platform. That arcing top that doesn’t transition at all is the telltale sign. In profile, the top doesn’t transition until it reaches the A-pillars. It is unique to the 370Z, and apparently to the Proto Z. 

But in an odd addendum to the Proto Z premiere, yesterday is this overview video of the design process for the Proto Z. It is essentially B-roll stuff that The Drive got a hold of. In it, you can see some of the other concepts that were rejected for what we have now. Odd because companies are normally not so free with concept ideas. Usually, you get the concept and that is it. But here we can see a lot, especially if you use Pause to check out what might otherwise race by quickly.

The design team speaks of “heritage and newness”

2022 Proto Z | Nissan

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The design team speaks of “heritage and newness” when describing terminology to use as guidance throughout the process. When you look at the Proto Z you can see many elements of the first 240Z applied to this more contemporary form. So in that regard, the design is a success. But it has no punch. It has nothing of the head-jerking reaction like past Zs as the 1990 300ZX Z32 architecture and the 2003 350Z.

Both of those Z examples were radical styling advancements from the previous models. And we’re still seeing a version of that 2003 350Z in the current 370Z FM architecture. Nissan says next Z is “extensively modified” FM architecture, it is nothing like previous generational jumps. When the 350Z design was being developed they coined the term “fusion of contrast” as the guiding mantra. 

Nissan Design was not hung up on doing a modern interpretation of the 240Z

The original 1970 240Z and Proto Z | Nissan

Nissan Design was not hung up on doing a modern interpretation of the 240Z. It felt that while Z enthusiasts liked that some styling cues hinted at the original, they wanted to see a bold, advanced design. The 350Z in particular was a design jump because it contrasted very organic forms with sharp edges and details. It really is a fusion of contrasts. 

Some of the fan renderings that have led up to the Proto Z reveal showed directions we would have loved to have seen Nissan pursue. They were fresh, interesting, and compelling. What we have now is a nice Z, but we wanted something more physically powerful.

Part of carrying over the former 370Z platform is a money thing. Nissan is bleeding and can’t flex its muscles much because it is constrained by neutered budgets. In some ways, it is fighting for its very survival. But what a punch of adrenalin an all-new Z could have shot into Nissan.