Nissan Z Proto Design: Hot or Not?

Rory Jurnecka, Senior Editor: Hot

After decades of chunky, bloated Z-cars, the Nissan Z Proto design gets back to a profile that more closely echoes the simplicity of the original 240Z. I love the classic styling cues, from the “open” headlights to the creased hood to the little “Z” emblem on the C-pillar. Importantly, the interior looks like more than an afterthought, as it appeared for the last couple of decades. The 370Z promised improvements on the 350Z but failed to deliver on many of them. Let’s hope the production Z-car that comes from the Nissan Z Proto is focused on bringing a lighter, sharper, more engaging driver’s car to market.

Ed Tahaney, Online Editor: More Not Than Hot

A V-6 twin-turbo, six-speed manual—what’s not to love? Well, maybe that horrible hood design, goofy grille, and retro rear end. Pretty bland looks overall for the Proto Z design, but the extra 5.5 inches in length compared to the 370Z makes for a striking profile. But for me, it’s definitely more “not” than “hot” overall.

Eleonor Segura, Associate Editor: Hot

The Nissan Z Proto is a knockout design inside and out. This two-tone coupe is a refreshing take on the sports car; I commend Nissan for allowing the Proto Z to stay true to its roots by sticking to a manual transmission. My favorite exterior features are the unconventional hood, 300ZX-inspired rear end, teardrop-shaped LED headlights, and the unapologetic yellow paint finish.

Aaron Gold, Senior Editor: Hot and Not

When I first saw the photos of the Nissan Z Proto, I had one of those uncomfortable “Hmm, ah, well … ” kind of moments. I was surprised at how simple the design is, and my first thought was, “It’s a concept car from 2005.” But I looked closer and began to be taken in by the details. The Z Proto looks a lot like the current car … but it doesn’t. It looks a lot like the original 240Z, but it doesn’t. I think Alfonso Albaisa and his staff have done an amazing job of picking up so many Z-car design details from so many Zs and fitting them into one cohesive whole. It took awhile, but I’ve come to really like it. And what I like best is that it’s home grown, and not someone else’s design with a Nissan badge. If the next Z really does look like this, that’ll make me happy.

Nelson Ireson, Executive Editor: Hot

I may be the odd one out, or at least in the minority, but I like the new Nissan Z Proto’s looks. The design pays homage to the original 240Z in its proportion, while remaining modern in its details and surfaces—and it’s a huge improvement on the awkward 370Z. The Z33 still holds my heart as far as modern Z-cars go, but this new one looks like it just might steal me away—provided it drives like it should.

Conner Golden, Associate Editor: Not That Hot

Not terrible, but not great. I get what Nissan is going for with the Proto Z’s square grille, but it looks off here to me. Also, 350/370/this appears so “fat” and high-sided to me. Overall, still an improvement.

Mac Morrison, Editor-in-Chief: Not—Not Decided, That Is

My knee-jerk, involuntary reaction upon seeing this concept was, “That’s it?” As in, “That’s all?” I guess I expected a bigger departure from today’s Z, even though I should’ve known not to expect anything nutso. But … I have a longstanding history with the modern Z car that influences my feelings.

Way back in 2003, working at another publication, we had a long-term 350Z. I drove it more than any other staff member throughout the 12 months it occupied our garage, and I think I drove it sideways as often as I did in a straight line. I loved its looks, its engine, even its handling—which in retrospect was never particularly great. But the much-younger me relished the ease of drifting that 350Z, chucking it around at unbelievable slip angles. And there wasn’t anything else like it on the sports-car market back then. It was affordable, too, even if I couldn’t actually afford it at the time, and that fact added greatly to its appeal: It’s one thing to drive someone else’s 911 and quite another to drive someone else’s 350Z. The former really was a dream, the latter more like fairly reasonable aspiration.

So, I don’t know quite what I think about the Nissan Z Proto concept, other than, “Need more info.” Particularly about how a production version will actually drive. If it comes off the factory line as a fun, well-balanced, rewarding driver’s car, I can get down with the design, even if it’s never going to blow me away. But for the new Z-car to even matter long-term, it needs to make a big performance leap over the one it’s going to replace.

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