Electric crossovers are all the rage, but they might not get blood pumping the way a rear-drive sports car can. Especially one with a heritage like Nissan’s Z.
The subject of much rumor and speculation, the successor to today’s remarkably aged 370Z was already known to be in the works, carefully pored over by a team of fastidious Japanese engineers eager to do the model’s lineage proud. Expected to carry the name 400Z, a prototype is headed our way in just a short time.
Almost exactly a decade after the 370Z went on sale in North America, Nissan has confirmed that the convertible version of the aging sports coupe will disappear from the company’s lineup after the 2019 model year.
News of the discontinuation comes as anticipation builds (it’s had a long time to build) for a next-generation Z car — a yet-unseen vehicle at the center of years of rumors.
Fifty years ago, Datsun showed New York that Japan was perfectly capable of producing a sporting automobile that offered everything drivers wanted, without breaking the bank. It may not have been cutting edge, but the 240Z was a GT car well worth coveting. Somewhere between the nimble, although sometimes underpowered, European roadsters and clumsy but savage American muscle cars, Datsun’s Z provided a well-balanced package for enthusiasts and racing teams alike.
This week, Nissan’s paying tribute to the vehicle that launched the Z line with the 2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition. Painted to resemble the No. 46 BRE (Brock Racing Enterprises) 240Z that helped John Morton win back-to-back SCCA National Championships in the 1970s, the Anniversary Edition is the upside of living in the past.
I’m old — I just turned forty. The Z is also old. It will be fifty in about a year. Thus, the Heritage Edition 2019 Nissan 370Z tested here isn’t a misnomer — there is plenty of heritage in the various generations of the first Japanese sports car to make a serious impact in the American market.
As far as I know, there is no Heritage Edition Chris available.
But is the latest 370Z still relevant in a market increasingly edging away from sports cars? Or does heritage simply mean washed up?
Less than a year away from its 10th birthday, Nissan’s 370Z is getting a modest refresh in the hopes of maintaining some kind of relevance. Despite being the better car, the present model failed to outsell the 350Z in the United States in all but its introductory year, and annual deliveries have continue to tumble ever since. Nissan only managed to move 4,614 examples in 2017, which is less than half the volume seen in 2010.
The Z car represents the last gasp of Japanese muscle and it’s been gradually wheezing its way out of prominence. Most of the famous alphanumeric nameplates from the island nation were buried over a decade ago. But the Nissan lived on, almost as if it was saving a seat for the Toyota Supra’s return.
Taking all of this with a huge grain of salt, as future plans at many manufacturers are often more fluid than the salty Atlantic Ocean, reports are surfacing of Nissan forging ahead with a new Z. And it’s not a crossover.
According to the UK outlet Autocar, Nissan will display a concept Z at this year’s Tokyo show in October*, with a production version showing up a year later in L.A.
The Nissan Z-car has died once before — in 1996, only to return in 2003 as the 350Z. It’s been suggested that the Z will go the way of the Mitsubishi Eclipse and become yet another crossover. But a rumor out of Japan links Nissan with Mercedes-Benz for a new Z, possibly in time for the model’s 50th Anniversary in 2019/2020.
The Japanese site response.jp (thanks, Google Translate) has posted a rendering of the potential new sports car, showing the company’s corporate V-motion grille lined with LED strips, and a long hood that harkens back to the traditional proportions of the original 240Z.
As we told you on Sunday, Nissan’s chief planning officer, Philippe Klein, desperately wants to hold on to the sporty heritage of the Z name, but doesn’t know how it can fit into the brand’s future lineup. The horizon’s hazy for this athletic occupant of the Nissan stable.
Besides a refresh for the 2013 model year, the existing 370Z is an ancient thing, having first appeared on North American shores in early 2009. The elimination of the manual transmission in 2018 Roadster models doesn’t help its performance image, though segment rivals can take most of the blame for the model’s declining fortunes.
We’re now hearing more information on something Klein alluded to. There’s more Z to come, but it will apparently be more of the same, not some altogether new creation.
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.
Z is the last letter in the alphabet, and the current Nissan Z might be the last one in the company lineup.
At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Philippe Klein, Chief Planning Officer for Nissan, was decidedly non-committal when asked by media in attendance about the Z car’s future. This is stance is not new but, this time, the exec’s answer came with a few more details.
There’s not much new in the 2018 Nissan 370Z, nor was there much new last year, and the year before that. In fact, this model has been around since Shane was still alive on The Walking Dead.
Like last year, an equivalently priced Mustang or Camaro will be arguably more modern with better technology, especially with the 2018 changes to those models. But, as long-time readers may know, I feel that either of those cars equipped sans V8 is more pointless than ordering a Diet Coke to accompany one’s double Big Mac and supersized fries.
Nissan has revealed that modest improvements to the 2018 Nissan 370Z will not result in any increase to the 370Z’s base price.
In the United States, 370Z pricing will start once again at $30,875, including an $885 destination and handling charge. But Nissan believes the 2018 370Z, while still very much the same sixth-generation car it’s been since the 2010 model year, is better than the 2017 car.
You can’t get a manual transmission in a 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS. You can’t get a manual transmission in a Ferrari 488 GTB. Yet for its ninth model year, Nissan saw fit to improve the 370Z’s manual experience.
How ’bout that?
I fell in love for the first time as a 10-year-old boy in tiny Pella, Iowa. She passed me and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her until she turned the corner and ran away.
That babe was the 1970 Datsun 240Z, and it was driven by one of the coolest cats in town.
Little did I know then that I’d have a hand in bringing the Z back from the dead some 28 years later.
Nissan is finally ready to give us a look at the next-generation Z sports car — and just in time, too.
According to a report from Japan’s Best Car magazine, the Japanese automaker will unveil a Z concept at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show in October. Earlier rumors suggested a next-generation Z car could take the form of a crossover, based on Nissan UK’s Gripz Concept, but it seems it’ll be a traditional rear-wheel-drive coupe with similar proportions to the current car.
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