NEWS: Will the next Z really be a crossover?

Nissan Gripz concept 01

Next Tuesday Nissan will unveil a new concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Many are calling it the next Z. Nissan is calling it the Gripz, and a video released today shows that it was inspired by the Datsun 240Z rally cars. Here’s the kicker, though. The Gripz is, um — well, there’s no kind way to put it so I’ll just say it — a crossover

Nissan Gripz Concept teaser

For a couple of weeks there have been rumors swirling around the autoblogosphere, stemming from Autocar UK about how the next Z was going to be a crossover. Autocar, however, reports on a lot of rumors and this one was so preposterous — not to mention blasphemous — that it didn’t seem like it could possibly be true.

Then Nissan published this video, one that features Datsun 240Z rally cars dressed in the black-on-red livery of Nissan’s 1970s rally cars.

Nissan Gripz Datsun 240Z rally 02

The footage appears to be from the Monte Carlo Rally, which the Zs competed in, and Safari Rally, which the Z won outright twice, in 1971 and 1973. Superimposed over it are images of twisting DNA, a visual that’s been used in every zombie virus outbreak movie but never looked so ominous.

Nissan Gripz concept 02

Smash cut to an image of the Gripz, red with a black hood, just like the rally car. Commence the freak out.

So what exactly is happening here? Well, let’s all take a deep breath. First, Nissan is not saying that the next Z is a crossover. All it’s revealed thus far is that this new crossover, the Gripz, was inspired by the rally 240Zs.

Nissan Gripz Datsun 240Z rally 01

Part of the panic stems from the fact that the 370Z will see its last model year in 2017. Autocar says that the Gripz will go on sale in 2017… so a continuation of the Z?

Adding fuel to the fire is a statement made by Nissan chief of design Shiro Nakamura, who said, “I don’t think the next [Z] is going to be the 390Z… it’s already big enough.” Nakamura added, “We need to take another path… I feel Z needs more revolution than evolution. I think GT-R has to stay the most high-performance symbol of Nissan technology and Z is a more affordable sports car or a sporty car to get the younger people.” To be fair, though, these statements were not made in response to the Gripz.

Renault Clio RS 200 Trophy

Autocar further reports that the next Z might use a Renault platform that underpins the Clio RS 220 Trophy, a hot hatch that uses a 1.6L turbo four-cylinder to produce the 220 horsepower that gives it its name. If true, that would also mean the next Z has a transversely-mounted engine and will be all-wheel-drive.

Nissan Gripz concept 03

Here’s what we know. In our talks with Nissan product planners, as recently as December 2014, we learned that they were still debating whether the 370Z replacement would be front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive. Because a car takes four to five years to gestate before it’s ready for production, the earliest a new Z could be ready would be 2019. The fact that they still had no idea about the basic layout was troubling.

The IDx is dead, but Nissan feels it needs another exciting product — or one that provides the veneer of excitement — to market to the all-important youths. Also, Nissan already has a ton of crossovers, including the Juke, Rogue, Rogue Select, Qashqai, Murano, and Pathfinder.

Nissan Skyline Crossover

So, perhaps this is just a stopgap measure to keep the Z name fresh while a proper sports coupe is developed. Maybe the Z will be split into two lines as a new, albeit boneheaded way get that coveted youth demographic. After all, there’s even a Skyline Crossover in Japan, which we get as the Infiniti QX50. Or maybe this is indeed Nissan bastardizing the legacy of the Z to sell another car nobody needs and you should resume the freak out.

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19 Responses to NEWS: Will the next Z really be a crossover?

  1. Wayne Thomas said:

    I’d like to see the sales numbers of the Skyline crossover because I never see them on the streets.

  2. cesariojpn said:

    So, why didn’t they just make the IDx the stopgap for the Z? Look at how Scion used the tC as the crappy stopgap for the FR-S.

  3. Goodshow_aa said:

    This garbage needs to stop. Nissan I hope you read this, you are quickly going the boring route of Honda and just making boring commuters. I’m loyal to your company but as time goes by its hard to stay loyal. It’s like falling in love with a woman, and then years into your relationship she never does anything good she promises and instead just bluebells you to death! Your company used to put out! And now nothing all promises and headaches, your never in the mood! First you got all our hopes up with the Silvia-ten the odd- which was loved by all but was shit canned because some genius thought that cars segment was already filled with the puke /juke. It would be fitting that the year mr.K dies you would release a z inspired cross over!!!! Get your soul back Nissan.

  4. Nigel said:

    Rubbish…Nissan please stop wasting our time !! (Where is my S16) ??

  5. ylee said:

    Well….what can we expect? People talk the talk but don’t walk to the walk. A company makes a nice sports car but then sales numbers are horrible and the company makes a marginal payout or breaks even. Sales speak for themselves. Boring commuters sell way better than a great sports car. Sorry, that is just the truth. That’s why it’s hard for a company to justify making a sports car; especially when they spend a ton of money to develop a chassis specifically for one car. It’s just not very profitable. This is why companies shy away from building a car like the FRS/BRZ. Sales for the first couple years is great! And then the sales plummet. People talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

    • Ant said:

      Agree with this, ylee. People claim they want lightweight, fun-to-drive sports cars, but don’t actually buy them when they appear. Regular customers, on the other hand, buy crossovers in huge numbers. I wonder which group of people the manufacturers will build cars for?

      I’d like to see Nissan build a proper, front-engined, rear-drive Z-car. But ultimately, as long as they produce good cars, I don’t mind what they make. The current Juke is an acquired taste in terms of styling, but I find it enjoyable to drive, and the Nismo versions in particular are good fun. I’m sure Nissan has the capability to make a sporty crossover that drives well. Whether they badge it ‘Z’ or not is still up in the air.

      • ylee said:

        Exactly. Most people say, “Oh I’ll buy it when it comes out!”, then it comes out and people say, “If I had the money…”, then Nissan sees the horrible sales numbers, then stops producing it, and then people complain why they don’t make more sports cars. Ha!

  6. Serg said:

    Yeah I think this is a bit of “ooh look over here something new” from Nissan – at the end of the day “affordable” and “sports car” are naughty words to the bean counters because as mentioned above, why build a car you can’t convince someone they need? I’m interested to see what a 370z could do off road but I think Nissan know that between Infiniti and the GTR they’ve got all the market they’re going to get – remember the Toyota / BMW supra hybrid should be out in a few years, and given the success of the 86 they might get a nice slice of the market, possibly not leaving much kfgt for Nissan

  7. mazluce said:

    I have been waiting for this posting. Ever since I heard the rumors, I thought it must be a joke. A car company as large as Nissan can afford to make a rwd sports car. Wasting millions on bizzare race cars that are an embarrassment to the company and producing odd vehicle’s that don’t sell is seen as acceptable and yet they cant justify catering to the enthusiast market means only one thing. This company has become a bean counter’s dream. Carlos Ghosn should step down and some else should take the reigns. He may have saved Nissan but he has stagnated the company with his refusal of updating the fm platforms and VQ engines . Since when is it acceptable for a Japanese car company to be borrowing a motor from Mercedes that can easily be made inhouse. Since when is it acceptable the second largest Japanese manufacturer with a huge motorsport hertiage let its arch rivals Toyota and Honda out do them. Its no secret that Toyota will have 2 rwd sporty cars coming to the market soon. Honda considered the most boring Japanese car manufacturer for the last 10 years is turning a new chapter. They too will have 3 rwd sports cars coming to the market, one already available in Japan. So not seeing a viable market for rwd sports car is a very interesting thought. Does Nissan want to be humiliated again and let Honda become the second largest manufacturer in Japan. Just saw the new Civic it will likely cleanup the compact market.
    Now to the issue of the Z. The Z is more important than the GTR. Why is that you ask? Cause the Z’s heritage is more known throughout the world than the GTR. If it weren’t for the Playstation generation and FandF films it would have remained a relativley absure model. It was only sold in very select countries until recently. Only enthusiasts new of the model. The Z has been a global car from the beginning. It was the West’s introduction to the affordable Japanese sports car. It’s the car that paved the way for the RX-7, Supra and NSX. It’s 40 plus years of hertiage that can’t be just sweeped aside and bastardized into a fwd platform and given all wheel drive and sold to the public as a replacement to the current Z. The Z has always been a rwd 6 cylinder sports car. Should there be a reduction of displacement probably but thats for the engineer’s to figure out. I would rather the Z name die again then have its name plastered on some disgusting CUV. How convenient that Mr K recently passed away and all this nonsense starts to happen. Enthusiasts due matter in this instance because this car is meant for the enthusiasts, so we are the market not just the general buying public. I was upset the IDx was canceled, if the couldnt make it work as a two door they could have easily add two more doors to the design and sold it as a sedan. It would be the only cheap rwd compact sedan in the market under 30k. It could have been Nissan’s Miata moment when they reintroduced the compact rwd sedan that was popular in the 60’s and 70’s.
    I say all this cause I care my family has bought more Nissan’s then any other brand. We had a Z32 twinturbo in the past and currently have a 350Z. I waited to post on this website in particular cause I know that Nissan reads it. I think that its time that changes are made to the company’s personal. When things have stagnated this long fresh blood needs to be brought in to reinvigorate the company. Its not acceptable that arch rivals are allowed to get ahead of you. Its not acceptable that you turn an global icon into some CUV and think its going to revolutionize the industry. Want to still make it give it a different name period. The Corvette is not a huge money maker for Chevrolet and yet you don’t hear them saying the sports car market isn’t what it use to be lets turn it into a CUV.

    • Ant said:

      Unfortunately, you’re over-simplifying things a bit.

      “This car is meant for the enthusiasts, so we are the market not just the general buying public”

      In an ideal world, yes, but plenty of non-enthusiasts have to buy “enthusiast” cars for the numbers to work. Do you think Mazda keeps the MX-5 alive on the back of people who do track days? Or do you think that the large majority of MX-5s sell to regular people who just want a sporty-looking car with a convertible roof? How about Corvettes, for GM? Are the vast majority of people that buy them buying it for its heritage and handling, or are they buying them because they can tell people they own a Corvette by the water cooler at work?

      “A car company as large as Nissan can afford to make a rwd sports car”

      The Z is in a really tricky area of the market right now. Not many people buy sports cars. A hell of a lot of people buy crossovers. And all companies with responsibilities to stakeholders and shareholders will do what makes them the most money, no matter how well-meaning.

      They may well be able to afford it, but there’s not much financial sense in developing or re-developing a small-numbers rear-drive platform if very few people are going to buy the resulting product.

      “If the couldnt make it work as a two door they could have easily add two more doors to the design and sold it as a sedan”

      This to me summarises your argument. I know what you’re trying to say, but your argument is a passionate one, not a logical one.

      There is nothing “easy” about adding two more doors to a two-door concept and putting it on sale as a sedan. You have to ensure there’s actually a market for it first – and one that isn’t already occupied by an existing product from the company, whether that’s a Versa or Sentra or Altima or Maxima or Skyline. If Nissan were to keep true to the concept, they’d also have to develop a RWD platform for it too.

      They could of course share that platform with a Z replacement… but then you’re still developing a platform for two cars that may not sell in large numbers. I’m guessing an IDx sedan would be roughly Sentra-sized – but it’d undoubtedly cost a lot more because of the bespoke platform, so all those regular buyers you need to pad out sales would go for the cheaper Sentra instead. Or a cheaper rival.

      Enthusiasts would love it, of course. But contrary to what many enthusiasts on the internet seem to think, those enthusiasts don’t pay the bills for automakers in nearly the numbers people seem to think. If they did, the manual gearbox would still be overwhelmingly popular, more cars would be rear-drive and 370Zs would outsell Jukes…

  8. Akbarfit said:

    According to my sightseeing on this picture of Gripz, let’s take a look to Nissan Qazana Concept back then, as it became a Nissan Juke. Doesn’t this concept having a same roofline with nowadays Juke? The probability of this concept became a Z descendant is in a low number of percentage. I think this will likely be a next generation of Juke

  9. Daniel guzman said:

    how difficult it was to make a platform IDX juke? seriously? was the obvious path, change the skin. or better yet: take the platform of Renault Clio (2 doors) and make a Japanese version. already they have our attention with the concept, the redemption platform and the market that do not compete globally.
    4wd not be a problem for a small sports car, compare prices rs220 Clio (28,900 euros in France) remove electronic waste and lower the price a bit.
    next in price Ford Fiesta ST with the advantage of RWD or 4WD. manufacture in Mexico can help improve the price.

    • Ant said:

      The Clio has four doors (or five, if you use the European terminology). Not only that, but the Clio uses Renault-Nissan’s ‘B’ platform architecture, just as the Juke does – the two are already related.

      Just like mazluce above, I’m not sure you’re aware of just how much work goes into developing new cars. Yes, the current Juke is available as an all-wheel drive vehicle, and the Clio is related, but you can’t just mix the parts together and expect to come up with a rear-wheel drive coupe based on a Clio.

      Apart from anything, all the Renault-Nissan B-platform cars are transverse-engined. If you start with that, you already have a sub-optimal basis for a rear-wheel drive car.

      • daniel guzman said:

        Mr. ant that’s my point, if you look at its catalog of shared platforms with Renault the answer is at hand, amortized and tested, there is only better and make more Japanese. The issue of platform development costs is not a good excuse.
        An example: in South America Ford Fiesta use the platform to make the Ka and EcoSport, same platform for an A, a B and a mini SUV. Ford made much money.

  10. Jim Daniels said:

    Hummmm, Z- harritage. Then there is that amazing preforming GT-R but not so good looking and out of the price range of the masses. What else does Nissan build, knowbody cares. When people use to think of Japanies automobiles the order went like this; #1 Datsun/Nissan, #2 Honda, #3 Toyota. Now, People think #1 Toyota, #2 Honda, #3 Subaru. Woops, Nissan is not there anymore.

    Sports cars and racing is not a profitable business. However, what comes from sports cars and racing is name noterity. Just like the ugly game of politics name noterity wins votes. The old phrase win on Sunday, sell on Monday is still an ever presant occurence. Nobody needs a sports car. This is true.

    There are companies that build sports cars for the ultra rich ( Bugatti, Ferrari, McClarin). There are companies that build sports cars for the rich (Poscshe, BMW). There are companies that build sports cars for the normal Joe’s (Mazda, Subaru). The Z is still made but no one seems to care. Lets go back to the win on Sunday, sell on Monday thing. Oh, and Harritage.

    Porsche has not done to bad sticking with harritage, oh, and I think I have heard of them doing a little racing. Flat six, motor behind the rear axle. No one would buy those enengering blunders. Thank God they finally came up with enough electronics to tame the beast and even better a Cayman. Harritage.

    Nissan has a harritage of winning more races at one time than the mighty beast from the east. But that is ancient history. A Z in name only really is not a Z. You must stick with harritage. A winning attitude at the corprate office, race support, light, low, straight 6, rear wheel drive. All of these things cost money that a company does not see a direct return on. However, indirectly, through name recognition and I want to be associeated with that brand, finincial gain is seen. You must build up harritage, not another docking station for your phone.

    I talked with a few Nissan PR guys and gal at Monteray in 2014. They had nothing to say that cought my intrest. I tried to discuss harritage with them and attempting to recoop the Nissan harritage through buiding a real Z and dominating the class again. The PR people were only interested in the new electronis which they thought the public would be interested in. Following a market or leading a market. The view never changes when you are behind. Come on Nissan, poke your head out from behind that lead dogs ass and get a breath of fresh air into your intake tract and make a pass.

    The proud owner of a Datsun 240Z. PS I have never considered purching any modern Nissan product. They only sell boring commuter.

  11. Ken S. said:

    Does this mean I can finally go do milk runs in the Z, and actually belong in the parking lot?

  12. ahja said:

    In the mid-70s most people believed and accepted that the time of the sportscar, and the convertible was past. It kind of was, for a little while. But slowly by slowly, things got better. Can it happen again? We all best pray to whatever deities and sky daddies we might have, because I think this time is the darker. Sponsored websites like to claim this is some kind of “golden age”. Bull. Shit.

    The enthusiast market is all but dead in the affordable range. There is a greater amount of 600hp $100,000+ cars than there have ever been, but that is not where most enthusiasts play our game. Not even close. I couldn’t care less about a Ferrari or some overhyped European kitcar thing. In the low end of the market, there is basically only a handful of models. And the Miata starts at $30,000 dollar! In the mid 90s it was costing in the mid-teens. Was income then half of what it is today? I don’t think so.

    I think what happened is that when Japan’s bubble popped, they cut almost all their cool cars by the wayside. The remainders grew more expensive with fewer buyers. And a huge glut of badass used cars was available to the market anyway. Cars enthusiasm, like so many things, is based on mutual encouragement and enthusiasm. Look at the AR15 community right now. A million companies make them, a million more make accessories, and everybody and their grandma has 1 or 5.

    Hardly anybody makes cool 2-door cars, hardly anybody buys them. To rectify, driving a new 2-door has to become more widely seen as being a desirable goal. For it to be an OBTAINABLE desirable goal, such cars need to be much cheaper. Not starting at $30,000. Once things get in motion, the bandwagon kicks in, and status symbols, and THEN the market can support the $30,000-$50,000 class. The real entry level enthusiast car is basically DEAD.

    A “crossover z” (even typing it makes me sick) does nothing to remedy anything, and it would be worse seller than a 370Z for certain.

    • Ant said:

      Sigh.

      The new Miata starts at under $26k, not over $30k.

      The originak was $14k in 1989. In 2015 money, that same $14k would cost $26,900, approximately. In other words, the latest Miata is in real terms cheaper than when it first appeared.

      I agree with you that two-door cars must become desirable for them to sell in great numbers, but that’s not an easy thing to change.

      And expecting a crossover to sell worse than the 370Z – regardless of what it’s badged – is either hugely optimistic or massively short-sighted. The current Juke vastly outsells the 370Z worldwide – it’s hard not to see the next Juke (or a Z-badged crossover) doing the same. They might lose a few Z-diehards but they’d gain tens of thousands more regular customers.

      • ahja said:

        The Juke outsells the 370Z because 1) it is significantly cheaper. 2) it is also in the “economy/budget” class, where things like gas mileage and having 4 doors and 5 seats and automatic transmissions matter and 3) it is a significantly newer product. The 370Z is very long in the tooth and almost every model ever has dwindling sales once the shine of newness wears off. The 370Z is basically a facelifted 350Z, which has been around since what, 2003?

        Now, would this “crossover z” have those “strengths”? Would it be a 4 door, would it cost in the teens or low 20s? Would it have 30-40mpg? And if it has some or all of those things, how exactly is it any different from the Juke, Murano, or other dozen fugly crossovers Nissan already makes?

        It would be “new”, but so would a real replacement for the 370 with actual z-car ideology behind it.

        You argument might as well be that no one should ever make any quality sports car, since mainline economy cars and sedans outsell them all by at least 10 to 1. How many 300ZXs sold compared to Sentras? Would it have been wise for Nissan to make the 300ZX more Sentra like since consumers “clearly preferred Sentras”?

        Do you really think that would work? The people that buy Jukes or Sentra aren’t cross-shopping with Zs, so it is foolish to think that making a Z like them is going to be a sales success. But that is how the auto execs and Nissan and elsewhere think…

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