Though I consider myself an American car kinda guy at heart, one of the most fun cars I ever owned was a 1992 Nissan 240sx. Light, rear-wheel drive, and with enough torque to spin both back tires, the 240sx is a much different vehicle from the big, bruising 350/370Z. But once again, reports are emerging that Nissan, like so many other automakers, will make its next Z car lighter and smaller in every way compared to the current Z cars.
Leaner, Meaner, And More Appealing
Edmunds Inside Line interviewed Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura, who explained what most of us already knew; the current 370Z is probably too big. If you look back, historically the most successful Nissan Z cars stayed true to their roots; the 240sx is a much more loved car than the 300zx, which was bigger and powered by a twin-turbo V6 that is an absolute bear to work on. The current Z cars tip the scales at more than 3,300 pounds; the 240sx (which is NOT a Z car) weighed in at 2,700 pounds.
According to Nakamura, design is in its early stages, and the concept car won’t even debut until 2014 at the earliest, and the next car has to be smaller in every way in order to compete. With upcoming fuel economy standards and an increasing emphasis on efficiency, the current Z car’s rating of 19/26 just isn’t going to cut it in an increasingly small sports car market. Hell, the 2013 Mustang GT has the same fuel economy rating, but offers an extra 88 horsepower and 120 ft-lbs of torque. Oh, and the 370Z only has room for two, and an embarrassingly hatch cargo space. A very impractical car, all the way around.
A New Recipe For Success
In other words, Nissan tried to compete with muscle cars, and they are getting burned in both power, practicality, and sales. It isn’t that the Z cars aren’t good cars….but is there really enough to recommend them over any of the more powerful, practical, and affordable competitors? You have to REALLY want a Z car to justify buying one of the current cars new off the lot…and I think a lot of the people who wanted them, already have them.
Nissan needs to go back to the roots of the original Nissan Z cars, which offered a fun-but-practical alternative to the gas-guzzling V8’s that once ruled America’s roads. A 4-cylinder turbo (diesel?) could provide plenty of power in a lighter, more nimble, and economical package…because the current Z car also costs more than a Mustang GT. Nissan needs to slash the weight and the price, and bring together the 240 and Z names. A couple of extra rear seats and more cargo space would also broaden the buyer base for the next Z car, right around the time many in my generation are looking for their first new car. The time has never been better, as drifting is becoming more and more popular every day, and the 240 was the drift car of choice.
Will Nissan dare to bring the 240 name into the Z car fold? I think it is a recipe for success, and there is no reason the fuel economy wouldn’t be stellar. Performance, price, and fuel economy; Nissan can make a killing if they do the next Z car right.