Autocar cites “senior officials from Nissan” for confirmation that a next-generation Z-car is on the way. The UK mag says the two-door has the internal codename Z35, will get coupe and convertible versions, and will arrive in time for the 240Z’s 50th anniversary in 2019, in concept form at very least. Problem is, after reading through everything, we can’t tell if this is merely another mutation of the same body of rumors that has been treading water for at least three years now.
Autocar said that according to its intel, Nissan would show a concept version of the coming Z at the 2018 Tokyo Motor Show, a production version debuting at the LA Auto Show in 2019, retail sales to begin in 2020. But there’s no Tokyo show this year; the biennial motor show won’t return until 2019. So now we’re left to wonder what, if anything, is coming, and when? And those are the same questions we’ve had for years.
We know Nissan’s actively thinking about a follow-up for the hoary 370Z. Phillipe Klein, the carmaker’s chief planning officer, told Automotive News in January that “The Z is a difficult market. … But we still believe there is a place for the Z and we want to keep it alive, and that’s what we’re working on.” One of the definitions of “difficult” is selling 4,614 units in the U.S. last year. The current-generation Z’s best year here was 2009, when it was released, and sold 13,117 units. Klein had no idea of the timing of a new car, saying the internal question was, “If we do a complete new vehicle, what should it be to keep the passion alive?”
Autocar’s report says a 400Z would be a brand-engineered version of the next Infiniti Q60, which is only logical. That could make the new coupe a fair bit larger than the current one, though; the Q60 is 17 inches longer, riding on a wheelbase a foot longer than the Z. The two cars would share engines, but an all-wheel-drive Nismo Z arriving in 2021 would get 475 horsepower and 451 pound-feet from Nissan’s 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6. That’s 75 hp up on the same engine in the current Q60 Red Sport.
A different source of a different rumor from just last week posited that a Z-car revival would come via Germany. Japan’s Response said the resurrected Toyota Supra has Nissan a touch eager about a new Z, so Nissan could tap Mercedes-Benz for cost-sharing help with a coupe. In that universe, a base Z could get the 2.0-liter four-cylinder Mercedes engine used in the Q30, the 3.0-liter inline-six from the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, and Nissan’s 3.0-liter V6.
Motor Trend put the kibosh on that scuttlebutt, though. The mag said Mercedes already approached Nissan about twinning a new SLC roadster with a new Z, and Nissan turned it down citing the declining sales of convertibles. That rebuff is part of what convinced Mercedes to retire the SLC once this generation dies. Autocar said a convertible Z is coming around 2021. If Motor Trend’s report is correct, and unless Nissan plans a droptop version of the next-gen Q60, it’s unclear why Nissan would turn down Mercedes then opt to foot the entire bill for a niche platform.
It’s almost as if Autocar’s report ran exactly one year late — 2017 was full of predictions that the 2017 Tokyo show would preview a Z concept with GT-R influences, a much better interior, serious performance aspirations including a potential hybrid making around 500 hp, and a 2019 sale date. These rumors came at the same time another Nissan exec said, “The 370Z is not a priority for us.” When Tokyo ended, all we had from Nissan was an aerodynamic Nismo Leaf and the electric IMX crossover. So we’ll light another torch for the Z. We could be waiting awhile longer.