Nissan Z Makes Dramatic Return to US Market
NISSAN NEW ZEALAND LIMITED
Nissan Z Makes Dramatic Return to US Market in 2002
Nissan has revealed a new, near-production-ready Z sports car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, just two years after the first Z Concept vehicle was rushed onto the North American auto show circuit as an initial styling and feasibility study. The new Nissan Z, which is scheduled to go on sale in the United States and Canada in mid-2002 as a 2003 model, is designed to be as revolutionary as the original Datsun 240Z was when it was introduced more than 30 years earlier.
“The new Z promises to deliver the performance and high design qualities of today’s cutting-edge sports cars at a truly affordable price,“ said Carlos Ghosn, president, Nissan Motors Co., Ltd. (NML). “Our overriding goal has been to built a memorable, no-compromise sports car while keeping the target price under $US30,000. This new Z meets all of our expectations. It is, quite simply, a stunning achievement.”
‘Z-DNA’ provides vision
Public, Media and Nissan dealer reaction to the 1999 Z Concept styling exercise was overwhelming – helping accelerate the return of an affordable Nissan 2-seater to the North American market. But, unlike the previous Z Concept which had strong visual links to the original 1970 240Z, the new Z Concept is the company’s latest expression of a contemporary sports car. “The design represents the Z brought into the 21st century,” said Shiro Nakamura, design director, NML. “Our desire was to honour its ‘Z-ness,’ which is something no other company has, yet not be retro.”
In setting the concept for the production Z, the creative team of designers and engineers were guided by what became known as “Z-DNA” – the combination of passion, performance, practicality and value that has marked every generation of Z car since the original. For the new Z, this meant developing a perfect combination of performance and handling, value, design and durability.
“To be successful in the marketplace, we know that the Z must inspire both appeal and appreciation,” said Nakamura. “First, the design must offer strong visual and driving appeal. But, the Z must also be appreciated for the more practical side that comes with everyday ownership – durability, utility, comfort, reliability and low maintenance.”
Other “must haves” for the new Z were also taken from the first generation 240Z – a front engine/rear-wheel drive drivetrain configuration, two-seat interior, a powerful 6-cylinder engine and, of course, a simple and honest design. The new Z, like the original, features a true hatchback body.
“The Z is a car that everyone in the entire Nissan organisation wanted to work on and contribute to because of what the Z has meant to Nissan over the years,” said Mr. Ghosn. “By staying true to the Z’s rich heritage while looking strictly forward, I believe we’ve created a car that is emblematic of the new face of Nissan.”
Exterior styling: Simplicity and High design qualities
The design of the new Z was truly an international effort, with contributions from Nissan design studies in Japan and the U.S. from a concept developed at Nissan Design America (NDA), La Jolla, California. As fitting of its sports performance essence, the Z design is anchored by very aggressive wheel forms pushed all the way out to the corners.
“A long wheelbase and wide stance provide a great starting place,” said Diane Allen, chief designer, Red Studio, NDA. “ Our first thought was to recreate the sensation of an open-wheeled Formula 1 car – all wheels and an intimate centre structure.”
The new Z body is put together much like an airplane fuselage – front compartment, centre cockpit and rear compartment. The top line is extremely arched in both side view and plan, with its super-profound sweep creating a dynamic spine with an ever-dynamic, ever-changing view.
The Z’s beltline provides a distinctive spine, which crosses over the form in the rear and is anchored in the Z’s strongly visual taillights.
“We wanted the design to be an expression of agility – very three-dimensional and moving,” said Mamoru Aoki, Product Chief Designer, Nissan Technical Centre (NTC). “The Z is very fluid and relaxed, from the curve of the door cut to the freeness and movement of the glass. It looks fast, but not just in a straight line. It’s a simple yet exacting design, which gives the Z a polished feeling like you get from classic cars.”
While retaining elements of both the first 240Z, such as the headlamp treatment, and the last generation 300ZX, the new Z also reflects a very modern, ‘high design quality’ appearance. “We had to find our own statement, which required a different way of putting the Z together – with a high tech, mechanical crispness balancing the more fluid shapes and sections,” continued Allen. “We’ve played up the contrasts with the ‘negative’ centre section running through the positive wheel sections. The Z is not all positive and fat – it has a play between elements so you should never get bored with it.”
The Z’s hood, roofline and rear deck are relatively flat, giving the sense that the centre is all one piece. The raised rear deck enhances the car’s aerodynamics, eliminating the need for an external or articulated spoiler.
The Z’s cockpit clearly establishes the car as an intimate two-seater with a small greenhouse and a squared-off rear window treatment reminiscent of the 240Z. “The cabin is purposely selfish, so there is no mistaking the new Z for a sports coupe or a sports touring car,” said Aoki. “We even avoided the use of a longer door because we didn’t want to suggest that there’s access to a rear seat.”
In addition to the hatchback coupe, a convertible version of the new Nissan Z is planned.
Interior design: an intimate two-seater combining physical and visual comfort
Inside the dramatic Z exterior is a natural, driver-oriented environment with touches of both newness and classic sports car design.
The show version is a medley of metal and leather, with unique textures and colours. The front seats incorporate a mesh material, which is not only contemporary-looking but also absorbs sweat. The top half of the front seatbacks also fold forward for easy access to the rear storage compartment featuring dual opening lids.
The instrument panel features three gauge pods, similar in design to the 240Z, as well as modern touches such as a navigation system with video display. The door vents and centre console have a solid, chiselled-from-a-block-of-aluminum look.
The hatchback design is accentuated by functional storage space and an integrated aluminium rear suspension strut tower brace. The brace is finished to match the rest of the rear compartment and carries a Z logo, which is visible from outside the vehicle
“We want to emphasise the practical, performance nature of the strut brace by making it visible from the exterior – like looking at jewellery through a display case. The essence of the Z is performance and we want the design, inside and out, to reinforce that impression,” said Allen.
Performance that won’t disappoint
Target performance for the new Z is extremely aggressive. “ Though we are saving the details for later, our target for the new Z is to be the best handling, best performing volume sports car on the market,” said Mr. Ghosn. “Its performance will match the high expectations that the design presents.”
The new Z will be powered by a 3.5-litre V6 producing in excess of 260 horsepower and target 0 to 60 mph (100 kph) acceleration of less than 6.0 seconds. Suspension for the rear-wheel drive vehicle will be a 4-wheel independent design. Both 6-speed manual and 5-speed automatic transmissions are planned.
The last word: value
“The new Z is one of those rare examples of “product out” design. That is, we created the absolute best sports car we could without worrying about niches or buyer profiles,” said Mr. Ghosn. “Now that it’s nearly here, we know the buyers will find its unmatched combination of exotic car performance and entry-level price point irresistible.
“The new Z is a
serious sports car and we’re very serious about regaining
its original place in the market.”