I Hate To Say It But: Let’s Relax Our Expectations About the New Nissan Z
Will the sports car/grand tourer identity crisis that’s baked into the DNA of the 370Z permeate the experience of the new Z?
I am very excited about the new Nissan Z. Everything we’ve heard indicates it’s largely a platform-carryover from the (so old it’s basically vintage) 370Z, but with small hints of upgrades all around, with one big upgrade in the twin-turbo 400hp VR30DDTT engine. It largely seems like a good formula, but I still have one big reservation… that old platform.
Not that the 370Z or even the ancestor 350Z were bad platforms or even bad sports cars. They simply weren’t exceptional… or even all that great.
Let’s focus on the direct relation, the 370Z. On paper, it has the makings of a great sports car: Dual wishbone front suspension, multilink rear suspension, a high revving 7600 rpm 3.7-liter V6 with 330 horsepower, two seats, 100-inch wheelbase, and a six-speed manual gearbox. Yet, for not much complexity or usability, the 370Z weighs 3,400 pounds, a little thick, not terrible in the modern context, but still too heavy for what you get.
The Z shares its platform with the luxury coupe G37, the same one that was adapted to the Q60 with the really dumb electronic steering setup. I wrote a whole other rant on that, by the way, in case you want to know why it’s terrible. Point is, this platform has more on its plate than a purebred sports machine. Even when you drive the 370Z, it’s evident in the intangible squidginess about the experience of the car. The 370Z was an imperfect sports car, and not because of its ingredients. It was the execution.
Right about now, you’ll start throwing tomatoes at me, yelling “but what about mods bro!?” and to that, I’ll say: yes, mods make the 370Z really decent. Mods only go so far. Also, most people couldn’t be bothered to go out of their way to refine the Z. It benefits greatly from some choice bushings, an alignment, some tires, some brakes, I mean, just about everything. It’s an OK platform, and it’s still too heavy. Then, I start thinking about how the Toyobaru twins managed to drive incredibly, straight out of the box. Why couldn’t Nissan do the same for the Z?
Then you’ll ask me “is the Z really a sports car?” There might be credence to the argument that it’s a grand tourer, but I generally think those arguments are moot. The Z isn’t refined enough or practical enough to be a GT. It’s also too heavy and too imprecise to be a sports car. Will that identity crisis that’s baked into the DNA of the 370Z permeate the experience of the new Z?
The good news is this: The 370Z did have (and does have) the potential to be tuned into a half-decent sports car. This platform might just have the capability of being the sports car that the new Z needs to be, and it certainly has the capability of pivoting into a grand tourer as we’ve seen in the Q60. What will Nissan aim for? Will it try to please everyone? Can we rely on Nissan to make a segment-shattering sports car, where it haven’t made one in decades?
I want the new Z to be good, just like any other enthusiast eager to see another rear-drive manual car for sale. I’m just not sure that we’ll get anything that great, especially from a company with a corporate structure that’s been rattled by an international prison break and engineers who have spent decades making cut-cost shitboxes that let the 370Z out to dry. I fear that the new Z will be praised for how old-school it is, for how much of a novelty it is.
The VR30DDTT doesn’t normally come configured with a hydraulic power steering pump, so we may get an EPAS Z. So we’re left with a manual gearbox. What other novelty is there beside it being old and having mostly the same interior essentials as the 370Z? Will we like it just because it feeds us old school or because Nissan will try to do something real with it? We just won’t know until they unveil it, and we especially won’t know until we get to drive the thing. The power will be impressive, and the presumably CD00X based six-speed manual should feel mechanical and connected compared to its contemporaries. The twin-turbo engine will require more cooling and have more ancillaries, certainly bulking the car up. Beyond that, I can’t speculate.
I want to be excited about the new Z, I really do. I just doubt that the car will be appropriately focused, or substantially changed beyond a powerful new engine. Please Nissan, prove me wrong. I hope you made the car that is the antidote to heavy, quiet, and soulless. From where I’m sitting, I don’t have much hope. I hope they prove me dead wrong.