Z-car development boss says electrification and more performance will come if enough customers ask for it – and they could come together
The father of the seventh-generation Nissan Z says electrified and higher-output versions of the new sports coupe will be forthcoming if there’s sufficient demand from customers.
And it’s possible they could combine in a NISMO version of the new R35-series Z-car to rival the expected Toyota GR Supra GRMN.
Speaking to Australian media after the online global debut of the Nissan Z Proto from Yokohama this morning, Hiroshi Tamura, the Chief Product Specialist for GT-R and NISMO, would not rule out a high-performance variant of the new Z.
“This answer is why not … for me, if customers strongly request for the NISMO grade, why not?” he said. “[Right now] I cannot say yes or no, it’s not clear.”
Tamura-san was more adamant about a hybrid or pure-electric version of the new rear-drive coupe, which Nissan has confirmed will launch with a new twin-turbo V6 matched to six-speed manual and (likely seven-speed) automatic transmissions.
“We considered about for some EV solution for study only,” he said. “What kind of solution do we need to compare performance level, business case, customer voice … then we selected this single solution.
“That’s why today’s answer is twin-turbo, V6, manual. Of course AT [automatic transmission] we must also have so that is today’s conclusion.”
However, as with a NISMO version, Tamura added that electrification will come if customers demand it.
“At the beginning we have to think deeply about many solutions that come from customer voice,” he said. “Then after that if customers strongly request some kind of hybrid system we have to do that.
“Everything must be considered. For e-Power if customers strongly request it to me then why not? It depends on the customer voice.
“We are always thinking about future direction. The final goal is to make a good satisfaction for the customer, so I will follow customer voice. If you get this type of customer maybe the easy answer is you will get it.”
If Tamura can establish a business case for a more expensive performance-leader, it’s possible a new Nissan Z NISMO flagship could be powered by an electrified twin-turbo V6 powertrain, which the Japanese car-maker is already developing.
The new Nissan Z is expected to debut with a development of the relatively new twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6, which pumps out 298kW and 475Nm in the discontinued Infiniti Q60 Red Sport Coupe.
Apart from an upgraded interior, body work, suspension and brakes, the NISMO version of the compact two-seater could debut the electrified version of the VR30DDTT V6 that was developed in the Q60-based Infiniti Project Black S prototype.
The new dual-hybrid V6 powertrain, which was co-developed with Renault Sport F1 and signed off by Renault F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg at the Salzburgring circuit last year, adds a heat-energy harvesting system dubbed MGU-H (motor generator unit – heat) that Infiniti says can develop electricity under acceleration.
This is augmented by a kinetic harvesting motor generator unit (MGU-K) that scavenges energy from braking. Controlled by clever energy management, the Infiniti Black S stores and delivers extra energy when required, providing instant turbo spooling and lag-free acceleration.
It’s a given that the V6 hybrid system is highly complex and therefore expensive, but Infiniti says the solution delivers sustained and sustainable hybrid performance, lap after lap.
Peak power for the prototype rear-drive coupe is currently stated at 418kW. That’s not only a 40 per cent hike on the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport, but more than we expect from the Toyota GR Supra GRMN.
The latter will reportedly get the full-monty S58 twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six from the new BMW M3/M4, which will bring 375kW/600Nm – well up on the 285kW output of the upgraded MY21 Supra’s single-turbo B58 engine – and a seven-speed M DCT twin-clutch auto.
While we expect the standard Nissan Z to undercut the Supra’s $85K base price, how much the NISMO and GRMN versions would cost is anyone’s guess at this stage.
Tamura-san also said Nissan was considering a convertible version of the new Z to replace the outgoing 370Z Roadster.
“[It’s a] Good question but we are still considering,” he said. “[Whether] We are going to have an open-top or not is still a debate point.
“First of all we are going to reveal the closed body of Z.
Of course, I know open-top is also part of the Z DNA, but for now we are focusing on closed roof for the Z.”
But he indicated the new Z will share more than its inner door trims with its predecessor by riding on a development of the FM platform that dates back to the 350Z of 2002 and was recycled for the 370Z of 2008.
Asked what percentage of parts were carried over from the 370Z, Tamura said: “We didn’t check about this percentage but many parts are changed for platform, so the definition is tough.
“Already the twin-turbo V6 is different, power and torque is quite different, so how we can manage this power and torque as much as possible by some construction [changes]?
“It’s modified, so it’s already not carryover. Many things were changed or modified. Even if it looks the same it was changed.
“The door is completely different, boot, fender, bumper, wheel, headlight, tail-light – everything is different. The stance is the same, that’s why it may look unchanged.”
Tamura, who has worked for Nissan since 1984 and oversaw development of the last Z and all GT-Rs since the R34 of 1999, said development of the new Z began in March 2017.
He confirmed wouldn’t be drawn on its name, which he said was still being decided (current betting is on 400Z), nor its release timing – but he did offer this:
“I can’t say when we will release the production model. I’m sorry. Let’s say it’s not so far but not so early. If I can give you the other extra hint you have to check about GT-R Proto.”
Excluding the concept revealed by Carlos Ghosn way back in 2001, the Nissan GT-R Proto debuted at the 2005 Tokyo motor show, before the production R35 GT-R was presented at the same show in 2007.
That would make the ‘400Z’ a full two years away from showrooms, but we understand it will be available much sooner than that.
In fact, based on the speed with which the Nissan Ariya electric SUV went from concept to reality since the 2019 Tokyo show, we expect the new Z to enter production in Japan as soon as early next year.
And given the fact 1.3 million of the 1.8 million Z-cars sold worldwide since the original 1968 240Z were bought in North America, it’s likely the new Z will debut in the US – perhaps at the 2021 New York Auto Show next April, if it happens, given Nissan’s long history of revealing Z-cars in the Big Apple.
Following its US reveal and release, we expect the new Nissan Z to be available globally – including in Australia – by the end of 2021.
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