When it whipped the covers from the slinky Gripz concept a little over one year ago, Nissan made its proposal quite clear.
The concept, it said, offered the “silhouette of a sports car with a raised ride height”, taking inspiration from the heightened and toughened 240Z racers that won the 1971 and 1973 Safari Rallies in Africa.
Given the ageing of the 370Z and the lack of any confirmed replacement (the 370Z Nismo launching here for 2018 should be its swansong), the Gripz was clearly Nissan flagging a new direction for its iconic sports car.
We recently asked Nissan Europe chairman Paul Willcox directly if the next-generation car would be a crossover. Yes or no? His careful response did nothing to refute the rumours.
“That’ a good question, “ he said. “I cannot comment. I think the important point is, what is part of the Nissan brand? And I think dynamic performance is part of that heritage.
“I wouldn't rule anything in or rule anything out, but we don’t comment on future products.”
Hardly a denial. Remember also that the feted IDX concepts are unlikely to make it to production as a spiritual Silvia/200SX replacement.
Adding fuel to the fire was Willcox’s assessment of the modern car business, and how Nissan’s strategy would be to focus on growth segments — crossovers — and eschew fragmentation and niche products, perhaps irrespective of legacy.
“The risk is to chase every single segment in the market. I have a line of product managers who come to me and want product in every segment,” he said.
“If we do that, the economics, engineering, design and trying to make a return… it doesn't work. We have to be absolutely critical to make sure the car can deliver volume… we’re not looking for massive fragmentation.
“Having more products, maybe companies including Nissan have made some mistakes there. We’re going to focus on [vehicles such as] crossovers, and having the right products to complement that.”
The Gripz concept employed a series hybrid drivetrain matching a petrol engine with the 80kW/254Nm electric motor from the Leaf. No performance figures were provided, but the company promised a “smooth, refined and exhilarating driving experience”.
While its body style and drivetrain bared little resemblance to any production Z-car, the Gripz is around the same length (4100mm) as the original Datsun 240Z (4140mm).
But measuring 1890mm wide, 1500mm tall and riding on a 2580mm wheelbase, the Gripz dwarfs the 240Z’s 1626mm width, 1283mm height and 2305mm wheelbase.
Inside, the Gripz seated four people within individual bucket seats. Entry to the back seats was/is courtesy of rear-hinged rear doors, and ingress and egress is said to be aided by the car’s lack of a B-pillar.
Tell us, Z fans: could you stomach the idea of a high-riding crossover to replace the 370Z?