The Nissan Z cars have been a staple of Japanese sports cars since the introduction of the original Nissan Fairlady Z (known as the Datsun 240Z in the American market) back in 1970. With six-cylinder engines and unique styling, these sporty coupes helped build the Nissan brand and set the company apart from the other Japanese manufacturers. However, the current Z car is now over a decade old and has been overshadowed by newer cars, leaving many to ask, what will replace the Nissan 370Z? However, Nissan has recently revealed the answer to that question with the announcement that it will soon be introducing an all-new 2021 Nissan 400Z. While the details of this new car are still scarce, it is increasingly looking like the new Nissan 400Z will put Nissan back in the running when it comes to sports cars and could even help revitalize the manufacturer as a whole.
The Z Car Story
Nissan is Japan’s oldest automobile manufacturer, and its roots date back to 1911 and the Kaishinskha Motor Car Works. After several name changes and mergers, this company was bought by the Nissan group in 1933, gaining its present name. During World War II, Nissan produced trucks and aircraft engines for the Japanese military, which resulted in the seizure of its factories during the post-war American occupation. But as Japan recovered from the war, so did Nissan, and in 1959 the company produced its first sports car. The Datsun Fairlady roadster (sold as the Datsun Sports in America) was a popular vehicle that helped establish Nissan’s reputation for sporty cars. However, as a compact roadster with a four-cylinder engine, it was more of a fun car than a fast car.
This changed with the 1969 introduction of the all-new Nissan Fairlady Z, a sleek fastback coupe powered by a straight-six engine. The original version, which was sold in America as the Datsun 240Z because of its 2.4L engine, offered 151 horsepower and could accelerate from 0 to 60 in 7.8 seconds, putting it firmly in the running as a true sports car. This fact was soon amply demonstrated by racing victories, both on the track and in a rally. Consumers flocked to the performance and style of the new Z car, and Nissan was soon selling tens of thousands of the cars in America alone. As new generations were introduced, new features were added. The second-generation Nissan 280ZX, introduced in 1979, was the first to offer a factory turbocharger for more power, and the 1984 Nissan 300ZX switched from a straight-six to a V6 engine and also dropped the Datsun name in the American market.
However, the fourth generation marked a temporary end of the line for the Z car. Although the 1990 Nissan 300ZX was capable of an impressive 5 second 0 to 60 time and this generation was also the first to offer a convertible variant, it fell victim to the economic situation of the day and left production in 1997. It took until 2003 for the Z car to return in the guise of the Nissan 350Z. Although lacking a turbo, this V6 car proved to be a capable performer, and the sixth-generation 2009 Nissan 370Z was more of an evolutionary improvement. But as impressive as the current car was when it was first unveiled, today the Nissan 370Z is showing its age and a new generation of Z car has been long-awaited.
The 2021 Nissan 400Z
The central feature of the new 2021 Nissan 400Z will be an all-new engine. Although the name 400Z might suggest a massive 4.0L V6 or even V8 engine, reports are that the new Z car has instead been named for its engine power rather than its engine displacement and that it will be using a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 taken from the Infiniti Q60. Although the base model Infiniti Q60 only has 300 horsepower, the Red Sport 400 performance trim is rated for the nominal 400 horsepower (and shares a similar naming convention to the 400Z). And while this engine would be smaller than the 3.7L V6 found in the current Z car, its 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque would be a real step up from the 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque found in the Nissan 370Z, or even the 350 horsepower and 276 lb-ft of torque in the sportier Nissan 370Z NISMO. However, given that the engine from the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 is already significantly uprated from the base Infiniti Q60 engine, it is somewhat unclear how much room for growth it would have for a future Nissan 400Z NISMO. Some reports even suggest that the 400 horsepower is in fact the output of the NISMO model and that the base 2021 Nissan 400Z will have less power.
Using this engine would also result in moving the 2021 Nissan 400Z into an entirely different market segment. Starting at $30,090, the 2020 Nissan 370Z currently offers a little more performance for a little more money than entry-level sports cars such as the Honda Civic Si ($25,200 and 205 horsepower), the Toyota 86 ($27,060 and 205 horsepower), and the Subaru WRX ($27,495 and 286 horsepower). However, upgrading to 400 horsepower for the 2021 Nissan 400Z would catapult the car ahead of even the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 and its new 382 horsepower engine.
Given that the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 commands a $50,090 price tag, this would suggest that the 2021 Nissan 400Z will see a large price increase over the current generation. Although reports do claim that Nissan is trying to keep the car’s cost well under that of the Toyota Supra, this might be further evidence that the 400 horsepower figure will indeed be restricted to the top trims. But if that is not the case, then it could well mean that the 2021 Nissan 400Z will be the best value sports car on the market.
However, possibly the most important aspect of the 2021 Nissan 400Z is not its performance but its cabin and features. Although the current Nissan 370Z is no longer the fastest car on the block, its performance is still exceptional for its price. But what continues to drag it down is its aging design and obsolete feature set. Stepping inside a brand new 2020 Nissan 370Z is like entering a time machine. The mostly analog instrument cluster is badly dated, and the “infotainment system” consists of a CD player and radio.
Handy modern electronics such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warnings, and parking assist are also entirely absent. Fortunately, we can expect that the Nissan 400Z will offer major improvements in this area as, outside of its aging Z car, Nissan has developed some extremely good infotainment and driver assistance technologies. The recently updated 2020 Nissan Altima, for instance, comes with a standard infotainment system that includes an 8” touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and numerous USB ports. The 2020 Nissan Altima is also available with the full suite of advanced driver assistance features expected of a modern car, including radar adaptive cruise control.
How much of this will make its way to the 2021 Nissan 400Z remains unknown (and some driving purists may even prefer that a few of the more automated systems are left off), but the new Z car should offer a thoroughly modern driving experience.