The All-New Nissan 400Z Prototype Sports Car
For more than a half-century, Nissan’s Z cars have been a staple in the Japanese sports car segment. The first Datsun 240Z debuted on American soil in October of 1969—right in the midst of muscle car mania. Compared to big-block V8 behemoths rolling out of Detroit at the time, the 240Z might as well have been an alien life form from another planet.
Whereas domestic muscle cars were renowned for their herculean torque and straight-line acceleration, taking an S-curve at speeds over 35mph was universally regarded as a life-threatening endeavor. Most Detroit brawlers simply didn’t handle that well—largely due to their poor weight distribution, body-on-frame construction and heavy curb weight.
Datsun decided to take a different approach with its 240Z, and built a sports car that was compact and lightweight to showcase its handling prowess. With only 151 horsepower on tap, however, the 240Z simply lagged too far behind the competitors offering twice that figure.
How Nissan Z-Series Evolved Over The Years
Six generations later, and Nissan is still churning out Z cars universally praised for its superb driving dynamics and aggressive styling. It’s sublime handling characteristics aside, the current generation has again fallen victim to an era where horsepower-wars are all the rage. Now 11 years long in the tooth, the 370Z simply doesn’t offer the straight-line thrills that fresh new competitors provide. However, that’s all about to change with the 2021 Nissan 400Z.
With the debut of the all-new Toyota Supra in 2019, arguably the Z’s closest competitor, Nissan couldn’t cut corners amid the development of the 400Z. And if what we know of the Z Proto so far is any indication, Nissan hit the apex perfectly.
Twin-Turbocharged Powerful V6 Engine
They responded to criticism about the 370Z’s lack of brute seat-of-the-pants acceleration by fitting a 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 under the hood. Available in both 300-hp and 400-hp tuned versions in the Infiniti Q50 and Q60, you can expect the 3.0L twin-turbo in the 400Z to reside at the high end of the spectrum.
A six-speed manual transmission will be offered standard, but an automatic will also be optional. It’s worth noting that Toyota doesn’t offer a manual transmission in the Supra, leaving enthusiasts who prefer a clutch pedal with an easy choice between the two.
New Retro Styling Coupe Concept
The Z Proto’s styling also harkens back to past generations, with C-pillar “Z” logo badges, enclosed headlight bays and an overall shape that mimics the original 240Z. Its “floating Tylenol pill” tail lamps pay tribute to the Z32-generation 300ZX, and its three analog gauges (boost, turbo rpm, and battery voltage) perched atop the dash copy the 350Z’s interior design.
While filled with other retro styling cues, the rest of the Z Proto’s interior has certainly been refreshed. A new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and larger integrated infotainment screen are sure to give drivers more customization ability and better overall connectivity and features.
Pricing and Release Date
The Z Proto is merely a disguised version of the 400Z production model that is expected next spring. A convertible version could follow soon after, and a high-performance NISMO version is also a possibility. Car and Driver expects pricing to start in the mid-$40,000 range. Changes between the prototype and production model are to be expected, but it certainly looks like the Nissan 400Z will soon reclaim its position as the quintessential Japanese sports car—faster and more capable than ever before.