Potentially likely to mirror the three-year gap seen between the 300ZX and its 350Z successor, Nissan chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura says the replacement for the 370Z — long speculated to drop the reference to engine displacement and simply be called ‘Z’ — must bring with it significant changes, or it will not survive.
“I mean 350Z, 370Z… I don’t think the next one is going to be the 390Z,” Nakamura told Australian media during this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It’s not growing because it’s already big enough. You know, 350 started with 240, 300, 350 and [then came] 370.
"I don’t think we should go higher,” Nakamura said while pointing upwards. “Maybe backwards,” he added, pointing down.
“We haven’t yet decided anything about next-generation Zed should be anything larger, or more power. We need to take another path.
“We have GT-R. If you compete with the high performance, we have GT-R. You cannot beat GT-R, so Zed has to be fine it’s own way.”
And unlike his view on the next-gen GT-R, Nakamura says the Zed can’t simply evolve like its bigger four-wheel-drive supercar brother.
“I feel [next-gen] GT-R is more evolution but I feel Zed needs more revolution than evolution.”
Quizzed on the potential of future product being related or inspired by the IDx concept unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo motor show, Nakamura laughed, saying, “Such a nice car. But at the moment, no IDx” – echoing recent reports to the same effect.
“IDx [has so much support] but financial decision is a different story… but that could be a next-generation Zed – [it’s] one of the options.”
Asked if an entry-level Toyota 86-type rival – one more affordable than the $60K 370Z – is something Nissan is considering, Nakamura suggested the Zed’s current role is as a more affordable option for enthusiasts.
“I don’t think we’d have three cars. Because we already have two sports cars – that should be more than enough, more than many.
“I think GT-R has to stay most high performance symbol of Nissan technology and Zed is [below it] to be more affordable sports car or sporty car to get the younger people [interested].”
After being informed of the naturally aspirated six-cylinder 370Z’s circa-$60,000 retail price in Australia, Nakamura was taken aback, saying, “That’s too expensive!”
“That’s very, very expensive. Therefore we have to make a revolution: repositioning. Reposition the Zed, otherwise I don’t think that we have a future with that kind of, you know, [package]. $60,000 and a 3.7-litre engine – it’s very, very expensive.
“And I think it’s not only price but also running costs with that that kind of a car," Nakamura said before suggesting that Nissan is not wholly tied to six-cylinder-powered Zed cars, with a turbocharged four-cylinder most definitely a future option.
Attempting to spruik some of Nissan’s more affordable entry-level Nismo cars, Nakamura gets another shock learning that none of the performance division’s models are sold in Australia, with the sub-brand still yet to launch locally.
“None yet [in Australia]?,” the senior Nissan executive asked. “Why not? No GT-R Nismo? No Zed Nismo? We even have the Nismo March/Micra in Japan. We have such a nice range of Nismo…”
In markets such as Japan and the UK, punters keen for some sporting flavour below the 441kW/652Nm GT-R Nismo can choose from the likes of the Micra/March, Note and Sentra (known locally as Pulsar) Nismos as well as Nismo versions of the Juke and 370Z.
“Nismo is sort of a core, or heart of Nissan. We want to have Nismo everywhere,” he said.
Nissan Australia is due to make an announcement about the launch of Nismo by the end of this year.