Nissan’s next Z sports car will lose weight and get a smaller engine. The strategy - Nissan concedes - being to reposition the Z at a lower price point, rather than looking at a reintroduction of the Silvia.
But with the buzz surrounding the successful debut of the Toyota 86, some industry observers (and hopeful enthusiasts) remain confident of a return of the Nissan Silvia despite the denials from Nissan.
In the 1990s, the Silvia was a cheaper and lighter RWD coupe that sat below the higher-end 300ZX/Fairlady Z in Japan.
The Silvia was also offered as the 200SX and 240SX in Australia and the United States respectively. The latest word from within Nissan however is that its revival is unlikely - that would seem to be the end of the matter.
Speaking with TMR, Francois Bancon, Nissan’s Deputy Division General Manager of Product Strategy and Product Planning, said that the Japanese brand is instead looking at ways of returning the Z to its lightweight, low-cost roots.
“The Silvia was popular in Japan, but in terms of business it was a disaster,” Mr Bancon told TMR.
Instead, he said it was looking more likely that Nissan would reposition the next-generation Z to cover a wider price range, rather than introduce a standalone sub-Z sports car.
“We have to renew the Z soon, and maybe we should think about making the Z a little bit more, let’s say, what the Z used to be, like the first-generation Z,” he said.
“It’s an iconic car in our line-up, so to renew the Z might be the opportunity to make it a little bit more accessible, a bit lighter.
“A little bit more fun, as opposed to luxurious.”
With the just-launched Toyota 86 retailing for only $29,990 in base manual guise, there is a $38,650 price gap between the current 370Z and Toyota’s new sports car.
Even the high-grade Toyota 86 GTS (above) costs just $35,490 and manages to closely match the 370Z for specification - if not interior quality or outright performance.
According to Bancon, a dramatic shift needs to occur in the Z’s positioning if Nissan is to expand the car’s reach.
“The Z has become a luxury car, you only have a 3.7 litre V6 and it’s a luxury product in terms of its positioning,” Bancon said.
“I think we have to move this back a little bit to its original ideal, which was about thrills and performance - not luxury.”
Bancon told TMR that extending the Z line-up by adding a smaller-engined variant would be the best way to broaden the Z’s appeal - and reduce its price of entry.
“I’m not saying the Z should not have a six-cylinder, because a huge number of Z owners want a V6,” he said.
“But if you want to extend [sales] volume I think you should add something to the V6.
“Whether that’s a four-cylinder or a smaller-capacity V6 I don’t know, those details are not confirmed yet.”
“For the Z you need a high-performance powertrain though, so downsizing the V6 may be a better solution.”
For now, the next step for the existing 370Z in Australia will be the late 2012 arrival of the recent mid-life makeover, which saw the coupe pick up a new front bumper.
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