The current Nissan 370Z is six years old, meaning a replacement is on the horizon. But what will the next Z car be? In an interview at last weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nissan Chief Creative Office Shiro Nakamura revealed that one idea for the next-generation Z could see it move down market, closer to the original 240Z or the 1999 Concept Z.
"We are studying a couple of different concepts. Because the sports car market is becoming smaller globally," said Nakamura, "We would like to do something, I personally think, is more [in the] original concept of Z, which is ... more practical and appealing to younger customers." The original 1969 240Z, sold under the Datsun nameplate, became an icon thanks to a combination of attractive styling, reasonable performance, and affordable price. In 1970, a new 240Z went for less than $3,600 at the dealer, although high demand resulted in early resale values above retail.
"We would like to do something ... more practical and appealing to younger customers." – Shiro Nakamura
In the US, the 240Z begat the 280Z in 1975. Subsequent versions grew in numerical name and performance, but that trend has an end point. The future path may be to reverse course, jokes Nakamura. "We are questioning ourselves in repeating the 350, 370. We don't want to create 390Z, right?"
While Nissan is working on the next Z, the bad news is that the IDx is confirmed dead. First shown at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the IDx concept was a vision of an affordable, four-seat sports car like original Nissan/Datsun 510. "I think IDx will not be produced," said Nakamura, before continuing to say that the Z could fill that role.
Don't expect a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S clone. When asked specifically about the MX-5, the Nissan designer stated "We may not necessarily go into the same category. Personally I see other options that are very interesting. We want to do something the same as this, unique," he said, referencing a picture of the GTR-LM racecar on the wall.
As for timing, we couldn't get any specifics. And the chances of the Z moving down market aren't even certain. "We still need time to finalize this," said the Nissan chief designer, "I mean, we have a couple of ideas."