It’s not what you can see, but what you can’t

Back at the Toyota Motor Show Nissan’s Product Planning Boos, Ivan Espinosa, didn’t exactly confirm in an official capacity that a new Nissan Z car was coming, but he did say that we can “expect something soon.” Sure enough, it didn’t take long for a test mule to show up on the Nurburgring. Obviously, this thing looks like the 370Z, but that’s because this is a very early mule and is likely testing a new drivetrain for the next-gen Z-Car that will probably go by the name 400Z.

First Signing of the Next-Gen Nissan Z

The Next-Gen Nissan Z Was Caught Testing on the Nurburgring - Kind of Spyshots Exterior
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I have to admit that we’re a little disappointed that this isn’t a full-on prototype, but that doesn’t mean that what we’re seeing here isn’t incredibly good news.

This is a mule in every sense of the word, and the reason it looks like a 370Z and not the next-gen 400Z is because Nissan is currently working on the heart of the latter.

In other words, this mule is being pushed by a new or, at the very least, heavily revised powertrain and one that will power the next-gen Z.

The Next-Gen Nissan Z Was Caught Testing on the Nurburgring - Kind of Spyshots Exterior
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Obviously, the rear end doesn’t sport any surprises for us or offer us any leads whatsoever, but the front end does have all those new holes for airflow – obviously a makeshift mechanism to keep whatever drivetrain that is there nice and cool while its performance , on none other than the Nurburgring.

The Next-Gen Nissan Z Was Caught Testing on the Nurburgring - Kind of Spyshots Exterior
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These spy shots also lead to some very interesting points that we have to make. Recently, we discussed how the next-gen Z could end up being electric or, at the very least, a mild hybrid. This is, apparently, not going to the case, or maybe Nissan is simply reserving that electrified drivetrain for the GT-R. This much isn’t clear, but what is clear is the fact that whatever drivetrain this mule is hiding isn’t a high-voltage mild-hybrid or electric powertrain. If it was, this mule would have those little yellow electric stickers on it to warn emergency personnel in the event of an accident.

The other elephant in the room is that Nissan was very clear that it was open to partnering up with other automakers to develop the next-gen GT-R and Z car. Does that mean that what’s under the hood of the Z test mule is actually a powertrain from another automaker? Well, to be honest, it’s actually quite possible. If Nissan has already struck a deal with another automaker, what’s hiding under the hood of this mule could be the first fruits of the deal.

Think about it – Nissan doesn’t want to dilute the car that much, so the design has to be all Nissan, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get power from somewhere else.
The Next-Gen Nissan Z Was Caught Testing on the Nurburgring - Kind of Spyshots Exterior
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Could Nissan engineers be working on personnel a BMW, Mercedes, or even Porsche powertrain underneath all the old metal that makes up this mule? We can’t say for sure, but it’s certainly possible. And, for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t rule out electrification just yet. A simple hybrid system for small boosts of power can always be implemented after the fact. Or, this could just be a new chassis hidden under the body of a new Z. After all, there is quite a bit of overhang in the wheel arches that don’t exist on the production model.

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