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Nissan Z 400

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Generation Zee |

When the original Nissan Z-car was launched over 50 years ago, it combined good looks and formidable performance at a reasonable price. Such has been its popularity that the Z-series cars played a major role to establish Datsun/Nissan as a serious auto brand outside of Japan.

Six generations of the Z-car family have been built. Now, the new, seventh-generation Z harks back to its roots both in terms of design and engineering execution.

Homage to the First-Generation

“Ultimately, we decided the new Z should travel between the decades, including the future,” says Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice president of global design. In line with this tradition-with-modern-technology design theme, the newcomer has a distinctive silhouette that pays homage to the first-generation Z.

The latest technologies were used to streamline the design, and LED lighting was incorporated to give dimension without adding more elements. The LED headlights have two half-circles that recall the JDM Fairlady (as the Z is known in Japan) 240ZG of the 70s, which fit naturally with the new Z’s identity. The styling of the rear combination lamps is reminiscent of the Z32 300ZX, and the new 3D signature of the LED taillights are distinctly Z. 

To the power of Z

While the new Z is still based on the same FM platform underpinning the 350Z and 370Z and shares the same wheelbase with its forebears, it is slightly longer than the 370Z, but narrower and lower. 

Now bestowed with a 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo engine, it is the most powerful Z-car ever, delivering 296 kW (400 horsepower) and 475 Nm of torque. The supposition of a 400 designation for the latest Z is in reference to the 400 horsepower, which is in keeping with previous model nomenclatures. The new Z has 50 kW more power and 30 percent more torque than its normally aspirated predecessor.

In another nod to the heritage of Z, the newfound power is still distributed to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission – now with an advanced launch assist control system (a first for a rear-wheel drive Nissan vehicle) – and featuring an Exedy clutch, a carbon-fibre composite drive shaft and Downshift Rev Matching.

A new, optional Jatco nine-speed auto transmission (with launch control) offers two drive modes – standard and sport – while the top-grade models are also fitted with mechanical clutch-type limited-slip differential.

Nissan has not released any performance figures but with the increase in power, the body and chassis rigidity, cooling, suspension, and steering systems have been enhanced accordingly. An electronic power steering and wider front tyres help increase cornering performance up to 13%. 

The rear spoiler (only available on certain grades) creates positive pressure to mitigate lift and the front spoiler utilises negative pressure zones to create downforce. New, larger monotube shock absorbers help to minimize impact shock over uneven surfaces and the aluminium front suspension features new geometry and increased caster angle for better straight-line stability.

Vintage touches

The cockpit features a blend of modern technology and vintage Z touches. The centre console takes inspiration from previous generations, with three analogue pods on the instrument panel, a central 8-inch touchscreen display and climate control switches close to the gear lever. The instrumentation adds a sporty touch, with all vital information such as the redline shift point displayed on a 12.3-inch customizable digital screen. 

Both the manual and automatic shift levers are new, and the new, deep spoke steering wheel (with shift paddles) has a vintage aesthetic. The seat design utilises know-how from the GT-R’s development to improve both hold and fit and the expanded use of suede on the seatback suppresses initial lateral body shake, ensuring reduced body roll and a more comfortable ride.

SA-bound?

The new Nissan Z will go on sale in America in the second quarter of next year and details of the Fairlady Z derivatives for the Japanese market (where Nissan South Africa source their Z-car stock from) are expected to be released before the end of this year.

While South Africa never received the original 240Z and only a small number of Datsun 260Z (released in 1974) and 280Z models (following a year later), later Z-family models established quite a loyal following locally. As a core model for Nissan, we expect the Z to find its way here.

Last Word

The original Z-car was built to bring the joy and excitement of sports car ownership to as many people as possible. As a car built for enthusiasts, by enthusiasts, it has become a top-selling sports car globally, with 1.8 million sold, and that spirit and heritage continues with the latest reincarnation of Z.

Report by Ferdi de Vos | Images © Nissan USA

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