2022 Nissan Z Proto Preview

Beverly Braga | Sep 16, 2020
FAST FACTS
  • Production-ready prototype
  • 2-door sports car
  • Twin-turbo V-6
  • 6-speed manual transmission
  • Rear-wheel drive
  • 12.3-inch driver information display
  • Heritage Easter eggs galore

Due to the production Nissan Z's delayed arrival in showrooms, it will be a 2023 model-year vehicle. Please see our full preview of the 2023 Nissan Z for more details.

Introduction

Calling the design “close to final,” the Nissan Z Proto is precisely that: a prototype of the automaker’s next-generation sports car, due to enter production for the 2022 model year and rumored to be called the 400Z.

The Nissan Z has a storied 50-year history of sports car innovation starting with the 1970 Fairlady 240Z, then created under the now-defunct Datsun moniker. What followed was six generations of Z and 1.8 million global sales (of which 1.35 million were in the United States). Paying homage to its sports car heritage, the Nissan Z Proto ushers the company’s most iconic nameplate into a tech-ready future.

2022 Nissan Z Yellow Front View

With the unveiling of the Nissan Z Proto, we get a look at what the long-awaited 7th-generation Z will look like as well as a taste of its new powertrain and technology.

Exterior Features

At a glance, the Nissan Z Proto looks like a significant refresh of the current model 370Z. But if the eyes explore beyond the restyled front end, the Z Proto is unabashedly a mix-tape of heritage and all-new design elements.

2022 Nissan Z Yellow Rear View

For starters, there’s that iridescent yellow paint color. The 240Z, 300ZX, 35th Anniversary 350Z, and countless other model years and special edition Z cars have had an unmistakably sunny disposition. During the Z Proto’s unveil, Nissan’s head of design, Alfonso Albaisa, stated that today’s paint technology allows for natural color saturation and a pearl effect that previous paints could not match. 

Also, the front fascia is said to harken to the original 240Z thanks to its grill fins. But the black chasm of a grille isn’t exactly a stunner. The forward-facing view is larger, wider, and flatter (likely designed to accommodate pedestrian safety regulations). 

However, the teardrop headlights do add an aggressive elegance and are a subtle nod to the Japanese domestic market first-gen Z. The split-circle LEDs of the Z Proto are a literal version of how light reflected off the 240Z’s long, clear headlamp covers, giving the appearance of separated circles. 

In the rear, the 4th-generation 300ZX directly inspires the Z Proto, especially the LED taillights. The “Z” logo on the C-pillar and “Fairlady Z” script on the trunk lid also are modern takes on the original 240Z’s simple badging style. 

Additionally, around the vehicle are carbon fiber performance touches, such as on the front lower lip, side skirts, and rear valance panel. The Z Proto is also outfitted with staggered-width 19-inch tires measuring 255 mm in the front and 285 mm in the rear.

Dimensionally, the Z Proto is stouter than the outgoing 370Z. Its 172.5-inch length surpasses the current model by 5 inches while it’s a smidge wider by 0.2 inches (72.8) and shorter in height by 0.2 inches (51.6), respectively. But because of the bulging hood and downslope tapering of its crease line (all reminiscent of the 240Z), the Z Proto appears tauter in figure than the 370Z.

Interior Features

The Nissan Z Proto interior is driver-oriented and considerably digitized. The overall look is almost a carryover of the current model, except the analog instrument panel is now replaced with a 12.3-inch digital meter display. 

2022 Nissan Z Dashboard Seats

A new steering wheel maintains the existing three-spoke design but features improved ergonomics for quicker access to features. Of course, even with the digital update, the Z Proto still offers a retro touch within the cabin thanks to the triplet of analog gauges atop the dash that display boost pressure, turbo rpm, and battery voltage.

The finishing touch of the next-gen Z prototype is mixed-upholstery black seats featuring yellow piping and additional yellow accents throughout the interior.

Under the Hood

A new twin-turbocharged V-6 engine powers the Z Proto. Though the Z is no stranger to six cylinders, Nissan has previously said that each new generation of the car will have a more powerful engine. And the next-generation Z will happily follow that status quo. 

Currently, the 370Z has a 3.7-liter V-6 that produces 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Nissan revealed no engine specifications for the Z Proto, but industry pundits speculate the forthcoming 2022 Nissan Z will be named the 400Z, and not because of its engine displacement but because of its power rating.

According to Hiroshi Tamura, Z Proto chief product specialist, the new Z’s V-6 will be a modified version of the existing 3.0-liter currently offered in the familial Infiniti Q50 and Q60 lineups. Based on the Infiniti models, this engine produces up to 400 horsepower. Hence, the speculation about the 400Z name. 

Although powertrain figures remain theoretical, the Z Proto has a 6-speed manual gearbox, which will be standard for production Z. To Nissan, a stick shift is as much as about the Z’s performance heritage as it is about the visceral driving experience as a whole. That being said, an automatic transmission also is in the works because sales performance matters as well, and not many people can drive a stick.

Safety

Nissan did not go into specifics about the Z Proto’s advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), but photographs of the interior clearly show an adaptive cruise control system. And, for when you want to paint big, black, looping marks on the pavement, a dedicated button to the left of the steering wheel shuts off the traction and stability control system.

In addition to these features, expect forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning systems. A “Camera” button on the infotainment system suggests a surround-view camera will also be available for the new Z.

Technology

A 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display modernizes the new Z. When the car is in Sport mode, it emphasizes the tachometer, the current gear, turbocharger boost, and critical engine measurements related to the oil and cooling systems.

Infotainment comes courtesy of the latest NissanConnect technology, the touchscreen display mounted beneath flush glass and including volume and tuning knobs for the stereo. Navigation is available, and controls on the steering wheel provide access to a voice recognition system. It sits beneath stylish center air vents and above a single-zone automatic climate control system.

Nissan is the source of information in this article. It was accurate as of September 15, 2020, but may have changed since that date.

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