Toby Hagon April 07, 2012
A smaller engine could see a name change for Nissan's Z sports car.
A range of lighter, smaller sports cars could mean the iconic Nissan Z car gets a smaller engine for the first time.
For the first time in the history of the legendary Nissan Z its engine may shrink in size.
Nissan's design boss Shiro Nakamura revealed the brand was looking to downsize its sports models, which could include a revival of the Silvia that was sold here as the 200SX.
Just as car makers around the world are reducing their cars' engine capacities Nissan is looking at smaller, lighter models, which would in turn use smaller engines.
"I much prefer smaller sports car," says Nakamura. "It is the time to look at that [smaller engines]. With 370Z, we still don't know next generation will have a larger or smaller engine."
Nakamura says reducing the weight of the next generation Nissan sports cars is a priority.
Light weight has long been vital to ensure the agility and speed expected in a sports car, but fast improving engine technologies is allowing manufacturers to use smaller, more efficient engines.
The latest BMW M5 downsized from a 5.0-litre V10 to a more powerful 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, and the next M3 is expected to follow suit, while many European luxury brands are using four-cylinders in place of six-cylinders.
The shift to a smaller Z car could create a headache for Nissan's marketing department; the engine capacity in the Nissan Z cars is what has determined its name since the first 240Z (with a 2.4-litre six-cylinder).
Nissan could stay faithful to the naming convention - Nakamura even joked about a 200Z - or choose the route of many European car makers (Mercedes-Benz and BMW the most obvious) in abandoning the naming convention and instead choosing numbers more in line with the car's performance. A Mercedes-Benz C250 CDi, for example, would once have used a 2.5-litre engine, whereas now it has a 1.8-litre.
Nakamura also hinted that Nissan is looking at a return of the Silvia, or 200SX.
While he was coy in his response, the time it took him to answer a question of whether he is working on a Silvia replacement suggests something is going on behind the scenes.
"I cannot say," was his eventual response, earlier saying he was a big fan of the idea.
"Light, sport coupe is a nice concept, I like it."
He said sports cars were a key component of the Nissan range, which in Australia has been dominated for a decade by four-wheel-drives and utes.
"Sports car is a core of Nissan. We ... really we have to sit down and work out what the future sports car should be for us."
He suggested that whatever happened moving forward - and whether it includes two sports cars or three - they would likely be smaller and significantly lighter.
"It's not necessary that size is important, also we have GT-R."
So could the Nissan brand sustain three sports cars in its range - the Silvia (200SX), Z and GT-R?
"If there is a market we will do it," says Nakamura.