The new Z is out! Well, at least pictures of the production car have debuted. In short: It looks really fucking good. Here’s a quick little design analysis from me, Car Autance’ resident art critic.
The Z’s basic chassis is a revised version of the old 370Z’s; the Nissan FM chassis underpins basically every rear-wheel-drive Nissan and Infiniti product since around 2005. It’s an older platform, but it’s been revised a few times and it works well, so who cares? This is a design analysis, not an engineering analysis; If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Most pertinently, it could be theorized that the FM platform’s bias towards large sedans and crossovers has lead to the 370Z’s kind of puffy proportions. I agree. I never liked the 370Z all that much; its proportions were kind of cartoonish. Large wheels, gun slot windows, pasted on a body that looked long and tall for what should be a svelte sports car.
Despite having a similar silhouette, the new Z doesn’t have the same stylistic problems as the old 370Z. Partially, the Z’s new retro-inspired styling language hides some of the platform’s stylistic deficiencies. The 370Z’s bulbous and curvy design language accentuates them.
Let’s look at the old 370Z from the side. The huge, fender bulges give a wide and imposing stance, but they also exaggerate how tiny the greenhouse is. The roof looks thick, and comparatively tall for a sporty car.
The Z’s black paint fixes this. The lower sill line is kinked, with the car’s actual real sill partially pained black, giving the illusion of a car that’s less tall. Likely, making the FM platform shorter wouldn’t have been feasible, so designers used that technique to hide that visual mass.
Similar to the sill panel, the roof is painted black, as is part of the bumper cover — hiding visual mass. Ford did this to great effect with the Mustang Mach E; using black paint or rubberized plastic to give an illusion of a sexier shape than what engineering and ergonomics could allow. (Jason Cammisa has a great quip about this in his video about the Mach E).
The new Z is very close to the Nissan Proto concept. Really, really, close. And yet… I didn’t like the Nissan Z Proto concept, but I like the Z production vehicle. I’m insane, I know. At the front and rear fascias, there have been minor changes to the grille and lighting elements, likely to abide by lighting and crash standards. The rear auxiliary marker light breaks up some of the monotony of the rear quarter.
Speaking of the rear quarter, this view is gorgeous. Everything is well considered and well-resolved; the car looks athletic but lean. No line looks out of place.
Compared to the old 370Z’s rear three-quarter view. It looks like someone over-proofed a bowl of biscuit dough.
The new Z hits a lot of good notes. Is it perfect? Uh, I think it’s the best that could be done they can do given engineering limitations. The front three-quarter view is less convincing; on the Proto concept, I think the lower front fascia valance was a little barren, and the grille’s resolution with the headlights and hood shutline only exaggerated the Z’s chunky platform basis. Yet, on the production model, I don’t have those same concerns. Did Nissan tweak the front fascia between concept and production? It’s hard to tell, they look identical, maybe I’ve just gotten used to looking at the proto concept.
It feels like we’ve finally left the era of overwrought, badly-styled Nissans; modern Nissan products look better every day, this new Z is probably the best example.