By on January 28, 2018

Nissan’s 370Z is just shy of its tenth birthday and has really begun to show its age. While it remains a relative bargain if you’re seeking an imported rear-drive sports car, it loses that advantage if you’re willing to consider its domestic rivals. It’s a solid performance package by most metrics. But it’s capable in the same way a retired olympic athlete might be. It’ll still destroy your chubby neighbor in a foot race but not his teenage son, who just happens to be captain of his high school track team.

The company needs a replacement. However, back in October, Nissan’s chief planning officer Philippe Klein was extremely noncommittal when it came to naming the 370Z’s successor. “It’s an interesting question because there is a lot of passion people [have for] this vehicle,” Klein said at the Tokyo Motor Show. “This vehicle is still very alive but at the same time it is in a segment that is gradually declining, so that is making the [business] case more difficult.”

So that’s it. The Z is dead. Case closed… or is it? Apparently, Nissan hasn’t given up on the Z after all. 

While the ultra-expensive sports car market seems to be where the real money is, Klein said it hasn’t abandoned the idea of building another Z-badged automobile entirely. “We’re working on it and it’s very present, but I have no indication to give you,” Klein told Automotive News this month at this month’s Detroit auto show.

“The Z is a difficult market,” he continued. “It is rather shrinking worldwide. But we still believe there is a place for the Z and we want to keep it alive, and that’s what we’re working on”

“That’s for the midterm,” he said. “For the long term, there are other considerations. If we do a complete new vehicle, what should it be to keep the passion alive? And we’re working very seriously on this — how we can keep the Z alive and refreshing and what would be the next generation?”

I’m sure our resident Z fanatic, Chris Tonn, has a few ideas. However, Nissan claims that the popularity of crossovers has shifted consumer interest away from things like “speed, acceleration and cornering.” While that probably doesn’t assure subsequent Z-cars will be high-riding hatchbacks, it also doesn’t mean that’s not a terrifyingly real possibility.

Klein has previously discussed how the GT-R still had “potential” and the Nismo could be “another way to offer excitement to our customers leveraging the more conventional side.” That doesn’t make a lot of sense to us. The GT-R is in an entirely different league and slapping a Nismo badge on normal cars isn’t the same as providing a purpose-built sports car.

Perhaps the next Z would tap into the nostalgia of Generation Xers the same way domestic muscle did for Boomers a decade earlier. Nissan could create a lightweight grand tourer inspired by the 300ZX, keep it practical enough not to be a deal breaker for cash-conscious enthusiasts, and ensure it’s at least competitive from a performance standpoint. It won’t outsell the Nissan Rogue but, surely, there has to be enough wistful adults in Japan and North America to make it worth the automaker’s time.

It’s not too late to pitch ideas like this at Nissan either. Based on Klein’s statements, whatever Nissan is working on is probably still in the very earliest stages of development. It hasn’t figured out how to approach this Z-related problem and may be looking to the enthusiast community to help it make the right decisions.

“The passion is there,” Klein said. “The question is how can we refresh it and what will be the breakthrough for the long term?”

[Image: Nissan]

 

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46 Comments on “Nissan’s Z May Not Be Dead Yet...”


  • avatar
    carguy

    As a former owner of a 240Z I can certainly understand the passion associated with those line of cars so here is my soapbox rant:

    The relatively poor 370Z sales number should not be entirely blamed on public’s shrinking appetite for performance cars.

    Buyers still want fast and fun cars but they do also want those cars to be compatible with their daily lives. For one, the 370Z simply sacrificed too much in the way of utility and comfort to be a daily driver for many. The interior is cramped, it barely fits a small bag in the trunk and visibility is beyond terrible.

    If you want Camaro & Mustang buyers to stop by the Nissan lot they will need to fix those things. Start with the Q60 coupe platform, give it new Z-inspired sheet metal, keep the redsport engine and remove all the useless electronic gimmicks like drive by wire steering. If you can keep this around $35-45K you will find a lot more buyers than the current 370Z.

    This may sound like a stripped Q60 because it is. But the Z brand actually means something to a lot of buyers while the Q60 badge means absolutely nothing. It’s just another luxury wannabe stuffed with questionable technology.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “Buyers still want fast and fun cars but they do also want those cars to be compatible with their daily lives. For one, the 370Z simply sacrificed too much in the way of utility and comfort to be a daily driver for many. The interior is cramped, it barely fits a small bag in the trunk and visibility is beyond terrible.”

      Which is why GTI (and Golf R) still sells. History AND practicality on top of the performance.

      Notice that VW got rid of the 3 door models here in the US. They simply admitted defeat in that arena.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Well, the Q60 is on the same FM platform as the 370Z, as dwford correctly stated below. So what you’re asking for is a new bodystyle, on the same chassis, but with better performance.

      I suppose that’s better than what we are more likely to get, a FWD/CVT equipped, “aggressively styled” Juke-but-bigger pile of disappointment.

    • 0 avatar
      gmichaelj

      I think if they want a nostalgic 240/260/350/370 look they are going to have to get rid of the Kim Kard rear end and shorten the wheel base:

      https://tinyurl.com/ybjhswcw

      http://dsportmag.com/word/wp-content/uploads/159-009-Feat-240Z-SideProfile.jpg

  • avatar
    dwford

    So is there never going to be a replacement for the FM chassis? All these Nissan/Infiniti cars have had successive generations on this platform for over a decade.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I really like that particular white paint, pretty sharp. They get pricey in a hurry and have less equipment than comparable Rustangs and Camaros. A fully decked out Nismo can get you in the $45k neighborhood, waaay better choices just around the corner.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    The 370Z is actually not a 2+2 but a 2 seater. While not spacious enough for adults on a long trip, those back seats in a Camaro or Mustang can be used for short trips, or for kids, or extra storage, etc. It makes the ponycars a lot easier to live with for anyone but a single person.

    There is also the power. Back when the Z was new in 2008, a Mustang GT had 300 hp and there was no Camaro or Challenger. A 330 hp 370Z was pretty competitive. Now when all the domestics offer 450+ HP for under $40k, it’s tough to compete with only a V6.

    I don’t see how another generation will be competitive without a pretty thorough re-imagining. Either make the car lighter and smaller, competing with the 86/BRZ, or try to duke it out with the domestics on power for the money. Either way is a tough task.

    • 0 avatar
      nvinen

      It wouldn’t be hard to bolt a turbo on and make it competitive. Kia has done it. (For the first time in my life I would happily buy a new Kia).

      Given that they’ve been selling this model for nearly 10 years (longer if you include the 350Z) and we aren’t sure if it’s dead or not, perhaps Z stands for zombie?

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      There was a 2+2 version offered on various generations for decades before the 350Z became exclusively a 2-seater.. I’d be interested if they offered it again. Because: kids.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    They’ll just screw it up like Maxima, these fools still haven’t learned. Z is unfortunately dead.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    On paper, the Z is still a pretty decent deal. You can pick one up around here for $30,000 or so, it still looks good, and it racks up pretty solid performance numbers. But Nissan let this model get OLD. Take a look at this picture of the dashboard of one not too far from here.

    https://www.cstatic-images.com/supersized/9/3/9/9f/e16124b647c8b9d7910fc243660.jpg

    https://www.cstatic-images.com/supersized/7/4/8/5b/dc7c2a0712dbef2e57d9f41ceb5.jpg

    That’s some circa-2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse s**t going on there. They aren’t even trying.

    Who else here thinks Nissan could have had a small but enviable market – think “poor man’s Corvette” – all to itself if they’d just kept the model fresh?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’ve never driven one, but it does sound good on paper. Naturally-aspirated 300+hp V6, RWD, a mechanical limited-slip, and sporty car styling for under $35K.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      That is an atrocious interior. Truly, epic levels of bad.

      That said, I remember when I first drove a 300ZX in the late 80’s (Z31 gen). I loved everything about it. Powerful, small, light, it was my dream car as a teenager. Then they had the 1990’s models (Z32 and I was blown away with how awesome they were). When the 350Z launched (Z33) it was like a dream come true. It was a beautiful, small, light, powerful, RWD true 2-seater sports car. And you could get a base trim for $26kk.

      Now you’re looking at $30k+ just to get in the door, and what you get is a bigger, fatter (but not roomier), slightly more powerful (with 10% more HP than the top trim had in the 1990s) variant. It’s just lost it’s charm and hasn’t kept up with the Joneses. And it suffers from being Lamborghini-ized (i.e., 30 different flavors of special editions).

      Get back to basics, give it 400HP, and see what happens.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I had a 240 Z in 1973 as did about 5 friends of mine. We are now too old, fat and/or arthritic to get in and out of this type vehicle. When I had this car, gas was $.25/gallon and the traffic on the freeways at 0600 was light enough that I could do 70-75 regularly. The traffic consisted of almost all cars, with a few trucks in the commercial districts; I could see ahead down the road. Times have changed. I rarely can reach the speed limit on the freeway. 35 mph is the new 70. Also I feel like a belly crawler in anything but an SUV. When I bought my Z it cost about $5K, but I was earning $13K/year with the rent on a one bedroom of $150/month. Now this Z would be $40K and that apartment rents for over $2K. The economy ate my disposable income. I assure you that the job I had in 1973 doesn’t pay $130K. The 240/260/280/300 Zs used to swarm over Los Angeles. However I think there is NO chance of this vehicle ever having decent sales numbers again.

  • avatar
    silentsod

    They should come out with a world first ZUV.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Oh the Z is dead. It’s quite dead. It may be the walking dead, but it’s dead.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      *Ding* “Bring out’cher dead!”
      *Ding* “Bring out’cher dead!”
      “Here’s one.”
      “I’m not dead.”
      “What?”
      “Nothing.”
      “I’m not dead!”
      “Hey, he says he’s not dead.”
      “Yes, he is.”
      “I’m not.”
      “He isn’t?”
      “Well, he will be soon. He’s very ill.”
      “I’m getting better.”
      “No your not. You’ll be stone dead in a moment.”

      I’d put money on the next Z being a performance-oriented hatchback.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    I think affordability should be a goal. You hook the next generation of hoonigans by making a well-built, solid performing sportscar. It won’t be a huge seller but it could pay dividends down the road by creating a loyal customer base.

    A base model 240Z (basically, a successor to the 240SX) with a lift-back and the MR16DDT out of the Juke for $25k.

    For the top-spec 300Z, put in the VR30DDTT from Infiniti and price it starting at $30k.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I would make a car sized between BRZ and Mustang. Long hood, where I can put mid-engine. 4 cyl would start just above 20K for stripper. And 6 cyl just under 30K.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      Replying to self…

      Or, give up on the 2-door coupe form factor and build a real hot hatchback. Hot hatches really seem like the new sports car.

      If Nissan can cram the VR30DDTT from the Infiniti Q60 into the Juke-R, they can do the same with an ab initio design for a hot hatch that isn’t an ugly duckling crossover.

      Do some engineering magic so that the RWD system doesn’t significantly compromise cargo space or packaging. Make AWD optional. Make the base engine the MR16DDT from the Juke for $20k and the VR30DDTT the top-end option at $35k.

      Keep the height less than 0.95x the track width for the autocrossers and wannabe racers.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Just as peak MQB is the 4 door GTI, peak FM is the sedan. I had a 350Z, hated the impracticality and tire noise resonance of the cabin. Got a G37 and have been very happy with it.

    Truthfully, Nissan would do better to follow up on the discontinued FX.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    All of the tooling, development, and service equipment for that car is fully amortized, there’s nothing regulatory that forces its replacement, the segment is declining, so here’s an alternate solution.

    Keep the car, change the market.

    Sell the base-model car for $19,995 or $21,995.

    It doesn’t compete with anything else you sell, and at least you’re keeping the line running that way.

    • 0 avatar

      Car makers will never willingly break the informal pricing cartel….I expect, if they ever make it, the Chinese will break the pricing tiers that currently exist. Your idea is good…just won’t happen.

      They still make the Z ? I was wondering what, if anything, was below the mighty GT-R, a great performer that sounds and feels like a box of rocks….

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      Nissan/Infiniti already did this when they kept the G37/Q40 alive after introducing the Q50/Q60.

      I think just dropping the base price to $25k would be enough to attract a significant number of buyers. Especially if they brought the VR30DDTT to a $35k model.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    You guys forgot the recent tie up with Mitsubishi.

    Rebadged Eclipse Cross (Z-Cross) for EVERYONE!

  • avatar
    ragnarlothbrok

    Forget the Z. Make the IDx as an EV on the new Nissan Leaf platform.


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