Should The Nissan Z Proto Have Previewed An Electric Sports Car?

Should The Nissan Z Proto Have Previewed An Electric Sports Car?

09/16/2020

There have been rumors of an electric Nissan sports cars, yet the next Z model will have a turbocharged V6 and stick shift.

It’s been five decades since the original Z-car from Nissan, the S30, debuted and over the years the Z formula has undergone many changes. The next model after that, the S130, retained the overall look, yet it was completely ditched by the angular third-generation Z31 model that debuted in 1984 as the 300ZX.

Then that got a follow up model, the Z32, that like the previous incarnation, was more of an update and restyling of the car that it replaced than a ground up new model. After that, Nissan showed the 240Z Concept in 1999, which announced a return to the more flowing lines of the original.

However, that project was abandoned after Renault bought nearly half of Nissan in the same year and completely shifted focus for the next Z-car. So instead of a retro-inspired model, we got the 350Z, codenamed Z33, in 2001 and it looked like no previous Nissan two-door before it – it was a clean slate design and it proved remarkably good; it quickly gained a cult following that it still has to this day.

The 350Z was the fifth-generation Z-car from Nissan and in-keeping with the pattern it had laid down, the Japanese automaker followed it up with a model that had many of the same design cues, only modernized and brought up to date for the period: the 370Z that was introduced in 2009 and is still on sale today (although sales have slowed down to a trickle).

This brings us to the next Z-car, previewed by the Z Proto study that is pretty much what the production model will look like. Set to be called the 400Z, it will be the first Z-car to feature turbocharging, it will retain the enthusiast-pleasing manual gearbox and its style is a mix of retro influences borrowed from its predecessors, all wrapped in a very modern looking body.

However, since you’re reading this on InsideEVs, you’re already six paragraphs in, you’re probably wondering what connection this story of the Z-car to EVs. Well, Nissan is one of the pioneers of bringing electric cars to production, and even though it’s no longer a leader in the segment, this could have been its moment to reaffirm its commitment to BEVs.

Sure, had it announced the next Z-car was going to be electric, it would have angered many purists (whom, I’m sure, are ecstatic that the 400Z will get a stick shift), but it would also have moved the sports car game on. An all-electric Nissan Z would have been a more affordable alternative to the crazy upcoming Tesla Roadster.

And it’s not like car enthusiasts can’t derive enjoyment out of driving an electric car. The Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model 3 and the MINI Cooper SE have all proven that you can indeed set your heart racing and put a smile on your face without burning a drop of gasoline.

Maybe Nissan could have offered both – this stick shift, turbo V6 version for the traditionalists and an even faster EV version for those looking for something even faster. Definitely offering it as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid would have ruined the purity, which is why Nissan has decided against such powertrains in its sports cars (for both its Z-cars and the GT-R).

There have been rumors that this current model is only a stepping stone and that Nissan will, in fact, launch an electrified Z-car in 2025. That car is said to be yet another complete redesign, so it breaks with tradition – as mentioned above, the radical change in Nissan’s Z-cars only comes once every two model iterations and based on the company’s previous track record, it doesn’t launch an all-new Z model every five years.

This rumored electron-hungry Z will apparently be completely different to the model previewed by the Z Proto study. It will ride on a different platform and have a completely different body, and we can’t quite believe that it’s going to be a hybrid – that would not make sense, whereas an all-electric one would, to compliment the gas burning Z in Nissan’s range.

For now, Nissan is concentrating on the Ariya, which is its next big EV project. It’s a fairly large all-electric crossover that will boast a range of up to 610 km (379 miles) WLTP and accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.1 seconds. Said model also marks the debut of Renault-Nissan’s new CMF-EV platform, which has been designed with scaling in mind, so it’s not out of the question that it could be used to underpin a low-slung sports car.

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