NISSAN Z PROTO UNVEILED: THE NEW NISSAN 400Z?

It’s been a long time coming but the Nissan Z Proto, the next in the line of Z sports cars from Nissan, has finally been unveiled. But there’s a catch, it’s not coming to Europe!

First of all, this is a prototype, but it looks near as dammit production ready as we expect it to be called the Nissan 400z when it does arrive. It features a striking design that takes cues from Z cars of old, with a fastback, sloping coupe body that emanates that of the original Datsun 240z.

Nissan Z ProtoNissan Z Proto

Alfonso Albaisa, head of design for Nissan, said: “Ultimately, we decided the Nissan Z Proto should travel between the decades, including the future. The shape of the hood and the canted, teardrop-shaped LED headlights are both unmistakable reminders of the original Z. The rectangular grille’s dimensions are similar to the current model with the addition of oval grille fins to offer an updated modern look. The form continues to exude both sportiness and elegance.”

Nissan Z ProtoNissan Z Proto

There are no official tech specs but we do know that it features a twin-turbo V6 engine, likely the VR30DETT found in the Infiniti Q50 (also known as the Nissan Skyline in Japan) and in that form in produces a healthy 400hp, taking the fight to the likes of the Toyota GR Supra and Porsche Cayman.

Nissan Z ProtoNissan Z Proto

Crucially, that V6 engine is paired up to a six-speed manual, although we have no doubts that a paddleshift auto will be put in place as an option, too, when the production car is ready.

Nissan Z ProtoNissan Z Proto

Elsewhere, the wheels are likely to be that of Rays like previous Z cars and those come in 19inch spec. Tyres are 255/40R19 and 285/35R19 (front and rear) making us more hopeful of that 400hp power figure. Behind those wheels, at the moment at least, is the brake setup from the Nissan GT-R; whether they will be in place on the production car is hard to say given the cost of said setup.

Nissan Z ProtoNissan Z Proto

Inside, Z car fans will be pleased to hear that it gets rid of the dated interior from the Nissan 370z and comes with a 12.3-inch infotainment screen and digital cluster, with leather dominating the dashboard. Thankfully, that old school Japanese tuner vibe lives on inside, with a host of gauges including a boost gauge, featuring prominently in the cabin.

Nissan Z ProtoNissan Z Proto

Sadly, though, this all means very little to us here in the UK, with Nissan admitting that this car won’t officially come to Europe. That being said, with the UK recently signing a free trade agreement with Japan, perhaps importing an RHD JDM example to the UK won’t be as expensive as you might think. Either way, it’s nice to see the Z car return to the automotive industry. What do you think of the Nissan Z Proto?

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Nissan Z Proto previews next-generation sports car with twin-turbo V-6, retro-modern design

The Nissan Z car has inspired generations of sports car fans since it was released in 1969. It has been an upstart, a disco-era style statement, an upscale sports car, and a long-in-the-tooth coupe just trying to hold on. All the while, it aimed for driver engagement and a sense of style. The Z Proto Nissan showed on Tuesday combines all of those elements, along with elements of design from the car’s six generations.

The prototype appears to be a thinly disguised version of the Z35-generation production model due in the next 18 months to two years, at least from a design standpoint.

Nissan provided sparse information, so let’s start with what we know. The Z Proto combines styling elements from past Zs with an eye toward the future.

Nissan Z Proto

Nissan Z Proto

“Our designers made countless studies and sketches as we researched each generation and what made them a success,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s head of design. “Ultimately, we decided the Z Proto should travel between the decades, including the future.”

The first-generation car, the 240Z, inspired the shape of the hood, the canted teardrop LED headlights, and the long-hood, short-deck profile with the cabin pushed back. The current model’s rectangular grille sits up front, and the Z32 300ZX of the 1990s can be seen in the taillights and the shape of the rear end, especially above the rear diffuser. The pearl yellow paint is a tribute to a popular color on both the 240Z and Z32 300ZX generations.

Nissan Z Proto

Nissan Z Proto

But the Z is modern, too. Carbon-fiber trim is used for the side skirts, front lower lip, and rear valance to reduce weight and fit a modern aesthetic.

The Proto Z is 4.7 inches longer than the current car, likely due to longer overhangs. It’s also marginally taller and wider. It rides on 19-inch wheels, while the current model has 20s. Chief engineer Hiroshi Tamura said the 19s give the car enough tire for a reasonable ride quality.

Under the long hood sits a twin-turbocharged V-6 hooked to a 6-speed manual transmission in a rear-wheel-drive layout.

Nissan Z Proto

Nissan Z Proto

Inside, the Z Proto features an exclusive dished steering wheel that sits in front of a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster with the tach in the middle and the 7,000-rpm redline at the 12 o’ clock position. The one picture Nissan shared shows boost and water and oil temperature gauges in the cluster, though analog versions of those gauges also line the top of the dashboard.

The Z Proto’s black upholstery features yellow contrast stitching on the seats, instrument panel hood, dashboard, and door panels to play off the exterior color. The seats appear to be upholstered in a combination of leather and synthetic suede with yellow stripes. A center screen, likely an 8.0-inch touchscreen, on the dash provides infotainment functions.

What we don’t know starts with the engine. Nissan hasn’t confirmed how much power it will create or what size it is. Infiniti has a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that makes 400 horsepower. That’s likely the setup for the next Z. In fact, we expect the car will be called the 400Z.

Nissan Z Proto

Nissan Z Proto

We also don’t know what changes will be made to the structure and suspension, though we suspect not many. Nissan only shared that “work is underway to synchronize the power with the grace and control that has defined the Z for the past 50 years.” It appears that the next Z will use the same platform as the current car and Tamura said it will drive like a dance partner. The switch to 19-inch wheels could also reduce unsprung weight, which improves handling. Tamura told us last year that the next-gen Z might not be much lighter, but its suspension should help it drive like it is.

In addition, we don’t know what model year the next Z car will be, its trim levels, standard and optional equipment, available safety features, and pricing. Will the new Z offer a higher-performance Nismo model? Will it stay in line with the current model’s roughly $32,000-$48,000 pricing structure? When will it hit the market?

We’ll learn more about these and other questions as Nissan prepares the next-generation production Z, perhaps by the end of 2021 as a 2022 model.

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DRAG IMPREZA STI: PANIC AT THE DEEP STAGE

It took a while for Wayne Durose’s drag Impreza STI to come together, thanks to a variety of inexpert tuners messing it about. But with the expertise of Scoobyclinic coming to the rescue, the Subaru named ‘PANIC!!’ is ready to cause sweaty palms around the paddock…

In Greek mythology, Pan was the god of the wild; a humanoid entity with the legs and horns of a goat, a huge sex drive and a penchant for making occasional loud noises. It’s from his name that we derive the word ‘panic’ – the story goes that Pan was, in general, a pretty chilled out and relaxed sort of character, who would amble through the woodlands playing a pipe and being at one with nature… but when he awakened from his midday nap, he’d wake with such a start that he’d yell out incredibly loudly and cause all the local flocks to stampede.

Drag Impreza STIDrag Impreza STI

It seems rather appropriate that this raucous drag Impreza STI should be wearing its nickname, PANIC!!, so boldly and broadly. Sure, it’s relatively calm when it’s at a standstill, as any car is, but when Wayne Durose fires up that mighty drag-spec motor, all hell immediately breaks loose and the local fauna scarpers for the hills. It’s a potent and virile machine, packing huge swells of power and clear animalistic tendencies, and the manner in which it’s been engineered to trebuchet itself from point A to the hazy point B a quarter-mile away is liable to startle the livestock and make all sorts of unexpected loud noises.

Now, it’s in the bones of a drag build to meet the odd hurdle and stumbling block along the way, because the very essence of piecing together such a machine inherently urges those in question to push the boundaries of what’s possible; if it was easy then everybody would do it. However, in the pursuit of these high-octane thrills, Wayne encountered perhaps more setbacks than most. Kev Knight at Scoobyclinic picks up the story: “Wayne brought the car to us after three years of being messed around by a so-called ‘specialist’; they couldn’t get the car running so they farmed it out to another so-called ‘specialist’, and they in turn passed it on to somebody else, until ultimately Wayne brought it here for us to undo everything that had been done and start again.”

Drag Impreza STIDrag Impreza STI

Let’s just take a moment to consider the nature of Scoobyclinic, and why they’re such a wise choice to entrust a build like this. The company was set up thirty years ago, way back in 1989, to restore and tune cars, and in 1993 the decision was made to focus on the Subaru brand. Since then their prowess has grown in line with their expertise, and the Scoobyclinic name has been involved in more feature cars and motorsport builds than we can count; Time Attack, rallycross, ice racing – you name it, they’ve had a hand in it. “We love the Gymkhana Grid and Fueltopia Challenge, winning year-on-year and competing with the big boys like Ken Block and Petter Solberg,” says Kev. “And of course there’s the dragstrip work; our own drag car held the record as the fastest four-cylinder manual Subaru in the world, and we aim to get that record back.” Fair to say these guys know their onions when it comes to the Stars of Pleiades then, and Wayne was definitely on to a winner when he trailered in his non-functioning drag project with a pleading look in his eyes.

Drag Impreza STIDrag Impreza STI

“The car was in pretty poor condition when it arrived with us,” Kev continues. “There was damage to the offside front wing, countless scuffs and scratches, and most importantly it wasn’t running! After those various other garages had been messing with it, it was nowhere near ready to run – we had to start again from the beginning. The first job was to remove the turbo and pour half a litre of water out of it! Once that was removed – which wasn’t hard to do as it was only held on with two out of the four bolts – it was clear to see that it was butt up against a plastic sensor on the sequential gearbox; if it had been fired up it would have melted the sensor immediately, so a decision was made to relocate the turbo.” This required a certain amount of ingenuity, but creative engineering solutions are very much Scoobyclinic’s modus operandi. You’ll also have spotted reference to the unusual transmission there; the fact of the matter is that, despite those previous garages’ ham-fisted attempts to get the car running, the spec Wayne had cherry-picked for drag duties is formidable. The gearbox is a Modena six-speed close-ratio sequential affair, while the engine itself is an EJ22 that’s been stroked out to 2.35-litres. It’s fully forged with a closed deck block, and Kev and the team have crafted a custom CNC-machined fuel manifold with 8-injector setup and twin fuel pressure regulators and sensors. Managed by a smart Syvecs S6+ ECU, the current power figure is a meaty 730bhp – although this is conservative, and there’s plenty more to come.

Drag Impreza STIDrag Impreza STI

Indeed, the drag Impreza STI specs are a work in progress which should prove thoroughly interesting to watch unfurling over the coming months. The chassis sports a variety of tasty upgrades, including some substantial bracing and a bunch of adjustable goodies from Hardrace, but a simple coilover setup is in situ for now while the car’s testing; there’s a possibility of Yellowspeed (via Tegiwa) throwing their hat in the sponsorship ring with some drag-spec coilovers, although this will all be addressed following shakedowns and electronic setup at Santa Pod. The car’s at the stage whereby everything’s being very carefully monitored and subtly tweaked and uprated with scientific efficiency; it’s almost funny to think of a car running 730bhp to be in its base state of tune, but that just speaks volumes of what a monster this blobeye Scoob is finally becoming. “The Syvecs ECU running the engine and sequential gearbox has all sorts of sensors streaming in,” says Kev. “Oil pressure, oil temp, water temp, air temp, fuel pressure – all programmed to set RPM trips in the event of any sensor going out of our pre-set parameters.” It’s a machine of pure focus, and that’s particularly evident in the interior.

Drag Impreza STIDrag Impreza STI

Open the passenger door and peer through, and you’re confronted by a scene similar to the one in Family Guy when Stewie and Brian transport themselves outside of the space-time continuum (or the ‘White Christmas’ episode of Black Mirror) – essentially, a clinical and featureless white void with just one sole focus point: in this case, a lipstick-red Cobra bucket seat. Scan slightly to the left and you spot the towering sequential shifter; to the right, and you see an incongruous splash of colour in the form of a swathe of zombie-themed stickerbombing – a theme which continues to the exterior in assorted details along with the custom paintwork. Focused it may be, but this build is also a riot of detail.

Drag Impreza STIDrag Impreza STI

“The car already has a huge following,” Kev grins. “Wayne plans to drag-race it at every possible opportunity, hence the test-and-tune day at Santa Pod where we did one of the two photoshoots – so we can get the car ready to compete as soon as possible. If we don’t break it!”

There’s a lot of testing to be done to get the car perfect, and Wayne will need plenty of seat time in order to learn its ways and be able to exploit it to the full – but after three years of being messed about by inferior tuners, Wayne doesn’t mind the extra lead times at all. Scoobyclinic will get this done right, and then we’ll be seeing PANIC!! dominating dragstrips up and down the country. It may not have a soothingly melodious pipe or the horns of a goat, but this drag Impreza STI is very much living out the idiosyncrasies of its mythological Greek namesake: one unexpected burst of noise, and everybody scatters. By the time they regroup, they’ll almost certainly find that Wayne’s posting some world-class quarter-mile times. We just can’t wait to see what he does.

Tech Spec: Drag Impreza STI

Engine:

EJ22 2.2-litre boxer – stroked to 2.35-litres, fully forged, closed deck block, custom fuel manifold with 8-injector setup, twin FPRs and sensors, relocated Garrett T04 turbo, Syvecs S6+ ECU, custom fuel setup in boot, Modena six-speed close-ratio sequential transmission

Chassis:

15-inch drag wheels, 26/9 Hoosier drag slicks, stock Subaru 4-pot brakes and basic coilover setup for testing, chassis bracing, Hardrace adjustable arms

Interior:

Fully stripped, Cobra bucket seat and harness, weld-in rollcage, custom control panel, Toucan touch-screen display

Exterior:

Custom green, carbon bonnet intake, carbon foglight blanks with turbo intake, carbon mirrors, custom headlight/taillight graphics, de-spoilered rear, hydro-dipped stickerbombing and custom PANIC!! Graphics

Feature taken from Banzai magazine. Words: Joe Partridge. Photos: Chris Presley & Adam Rous

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