The Nissan Z is still new to the ground, but a mysterious test mule has already been spotted on a curvy mountain road wearing noticeably reduced camouflage. The partially veiled prototype is thought to be a high-performance variant of the 2023 Nissan Z, with a redesigned nose that could address one of the more controversial elements of sports car styling.
A photo posted on the NewNissanZ.com web forum shows what is unmistakably a 2023 Z with a camouflaged front end. Despite the mask, however, we can see that the grille is in fact split horizontally. Remember a concept (above) that Nissan showed at the Tokyo Auto Salon in January.
The large rectangular opening has been a polarizing aspect of the Z’s look ever since the concept was unveiled. While it faithfully fits the grille of the original 1969 Fairlady Z – or 240Z for us Americans – on that car a chrome bumper visually cut the opening in two. With the 2023 Z there was no separate bumper, so between the presentation of the Z Proto and the production Z Nissan added a lighter finish on the insert to help soften the visual impact of the grille.
Forum members were quick to point out that the test mule was further distinguished from the Z production with Recaro seats as well. Racing buckets are one of the features that set the 370Z Nismo apart from the regular 370Z, leading some to speculate that the prototype is a Nismo variant of the new Z.
Previous Nismo Z-cars have added performance thanks to a combination of more power, improved suspension, more aggressive wheels, chassis stiffening and exclusive body kits.
If the presence of new sports seats and a new nose doesn’t definitively herald the return of the Nismo Z, it’s a good sign that whatever is tested appears to be left-hand drive and on a US road.