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2016 Nissan Z: Sorry, Z Fans, No Return to Roots Just Yet

2016 Nissan Z: Sorry, Z Fans, No Return to Roots Just Yet
2014-05-14
2016 Nissan Z: Sorry, Z Fans, No Return to Roots Just Yet

WHAT IT IS: The seventh generation of Nissan's iconic sports car. Despite rumors of a 240Z reboot, a downsized Z is unlikely, as Nissan doesn't have an appropriate architecture to refashion the Z into a lighter, less expensive sports car akin to the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ twins. Expect a concept car appearing in the next 18 months to indicate a new design direction. The styling will break with the immediate past even as the rest of the package steams ahead on much the same course.

WHY IT MATTERS: In a lineup fraught with frugal four-cylinders paired with CVTs, the Z is as much an outlier as the GT-R. But Nissan needs the Z to tend the fire, reminding the world of the Datsun days when affordable performance was more of a corporate priority than cross-dressing crossovers. Godzilla may be the halo car, but it now costs six figures.

POWERTRAIN: The VQ V-6 is a sure bet, but enhanced with direct injection to make at least 350 horsepower. Not even CVT-crazy Nissan is nuts enough to nix the Z's six-speed manual, which should soldier on alongside the current seven-speed automatic.

Don't expect to see the Q50's performance hybrid system in the Z, but a Mercedes-designed, turbocharged four-cylinder could be offered. Nissan will be building the smaller-displacement engine, destined for the Q50, in Tennessee.

WHAT MIGHT GO WRONG: We're not sure the Z can survive another generation saddled with a platform designed for bigger, heavier sedans. Its thirsty V-6 could turn off buyers wanting to drive their playthings daily, but a more economical four-cylinder may not offer sufficient performance to uphold the Z-car image.
ESTIMATED ARRIVAL AND PRICE: Early 2015, with a base price just under $35,000.
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