When Nissan showed up at the Nürburgring test track in Germany with a new prototype coupe earlier this week, we thought it could have been the Urge but since then, we've dug into the details and it's now looking more like the next-generation 350Z.
Although the prototype is clearly shorter than a standard Z coupe, it's not dramatic enough to signal a completely new vehicle. Our information indicates that the reworked chassis is nothing more than Nissan's attempt to shave some weight from the Z. At roughly 3,900 lbs, the current model is on the heavy side compared to its competitors. Instead of employing exotic materials to get the weight down, however, Nissan is simply carving down the chassis a little. With a current wheelbase of 104.3 inches, the next Z isn't likely to go as small as the 95.1-inch-wheelbase Porsche Cayman.
We're guessing something in between the two numbers is a safe bet. Another clear sign of this prototype's intentions were the cars on hand as benchmarks. According to spy photographers in the area, Nissan was testing the Z prototype alongside a BMW Z Coupe and a Cayman.
As lofty as Nissan's goals are, it's not realistic to think it's benchmarking an entry-level $20K coupe against that kind of European iron. Also consider that the current 350Z is at the end of its lifecycle. The 2008 model will mark six years on the market, so it's clearly due for a heavy redesign. Look for a name change, too, as we fully expect to see the 3.7 litre V6 from the Infiniti G37 under the hood of this new Z.
Other sources suggest the car will be named "400Z" because of a 4.0 litre V8 but also rumoured is the production of the Nissan Urge to rival with the Mazda MX-5, Opel GT* and Fiat Barchetta**.
* The Opel GT is sold in Europe but could come into the UK
** Theres a possibility of this sports-car being axed from production