Nissan has gone to great lengths to honour the Z-car’s history with the Z Proto, but it’s the most recent history we’re interested in.
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For enthusiasts, there’s no greater news than that of a new-generation sports car.

The Nissan 370Z has stayed the course for 11 years, having first launched in 2009, but now a new Z waits in the wings, with some pretty strong clues coming in the form of the production-ready Z Proto concept.

This time the new Z is unlikely to be all-new. Nissan has been tight lipped about how much of the Z Proto has been borrowed from its predecessor, but even a cursory glance reveals carry-over proportions and hardpoints, wrapped in a svelte new skin.

Let’s take a look at what’s changed, and what stays the same between the Z34-generation car and its Z Proto replacement.

READ: Z PROTO CONCEPT REVEALED


Exterior

Nissan hasn’t talked about the Z Proto’s underpinnings yet, but all signs point to an eventual production version that will be heavily based off the current Z34 370Z.

Proportionally, there’s little to complain about: the 370Z already looks appropriately muscular with a short wheelbase and wide front and gruards. Changes from the earlier-still 350Z saw the wheelbase shortened and width increased, to great effect.

In translation, those propositions work well for the Z Proto and, in profile, it's pretty clear Nissan has carried over the Z34’s structural hardpoints, cabin proportions and cut-lines.

There’s been some massaging of the rear quarter glass to smooth out the beltline, the chunky door handles have been smoothed and body-coloured, and the A-pillar has been given the blackout treatment, but the strong B-pillar and single cutline from the trailing edge of the door up across the tailgate remain.

Nissan’s clever detailing work massages proportions slightly. The Z Proto’s black roof helps lower visual mass, while the much smoother Z34 body sides have been replaced with a falling crease high in the door and a parallel shadow line low in the door.

Those elements are part of an important homage to the original 240Z and its single line that ran across the wheel arch tops, and the stepped sill below.

Other, more obvious traits from Z history include the rounded headlight housings and their pointed inner corners, with a broken circular motif illuminated by the DRLs, as a nod to the Z’s original sugar-scoop headlights.

The Z badges in the C-pillars also wind the clock back to 1969, picking up a feature from the original car.

At the other end, the full-width blackout treatment for the tail light panel, and the four elongated light-up sections on each side step forward in time, inspired by the Z32 300ZX and its full-width rear light mask.

Alongside the outgoing 370Z, those new forms are far simpler and more minimalist than the boomerang-shaped front and rear lights that reach high into the front and rear guards.

The rear treatment also sees a return to the brick lights seen on every Z from the original S30 up to the Z32.

Front bumper design comes straight from the S30 playbook too, with only a single, unbroken rectangular form framing the front intake.

While the 240Z had a chrome bumper bisecting its right-angled face, the Z Proto goes without, though we wager it’ll be a matter of moments before the aftermarket provides a solution for anyone looking to add a retro touch.

Compared to the face of the 370Z, the new car isn’t too different. There’s rounded edges on the Z34’s intake, which sits a little lower down, and softer radiusing at the bumper corners, but the family resemblance still holds.

The pointed beak at the top of the bonnet of the new car also winds the clock back, with a centre rib appearing on both the original S30 and second-generation S130 cars.

The 370’s fully body-coloured bumper has been ditched in favour of a colour split with a diagonally-cut diffuser panel rising high into the bumper and enclosing the rear number plate. The upright rear and kamm-tail cut also represent a significant departure from the curved Z34 rump.

Those cues, at the rear in particular, help disguise some of the new car’s visual bulk. Both front and rear overhangs grow, though the wheelbase (unconfired at this stage) is expected to stay the same.

Overall, the new car is some 142mm longer than the model it replaces (4382mm), width stays the same at 1850mm and overall height drops slightly by 10mm to 1310mm.


Interior

Inside, the Z Proto represents an even greater departure, and in a welcomed move, ditches much of the 370Z’s interior design which was showing the ravages of age.

Gone are the old Z’s bat-wing steering wheel design, tall centre stack, and vertically-oriented vent layout.

In its place, the Z Proto shows off a much slicker design that emphasises interior width. The previous three-gauge instrument cluster, which moved with the steering column appears to have been retired, and in its place lives a fixed cluster with a new digital instrument display.

Purists will note Nissan’s three dash-top ancillary gauges have survived the transition, while visible carry-over parts are limited to the ovoid door release handles and integrated circular air vents in the doors, the inboard seat controls, the stability control switch to the side of the steering wheel and the steering column stalks.

A manual handbrake has been retained, so too a manual transmission, though by the time the Z Proto reaches production we’d expect an automatic to join the line-up.

Rectangular air vents now sit atop the dash, pushing the infotainment system down slightly. This arrangement replaces the previous vents to the side of a high-mounted screen. Without the need for duplicate audio buttons the centre stack has a cleaner appearance, finished by a new, lower three-dial climate control panel.

As with the 370Z, the steering wheel doesn’t feature a flat bottom, but a smaller hub and slimmer three-spoke design provide a much-needed refresh. A closer look at the buttons also reveals no controls for newer amenities like adaptive cruise control.

Which do you prefer?

Are you happy with the 370Z as it looks now, or are you captivated by the Z Proto’s new design? Let us know in the comments below.