These two finally duke it out in the 21st century.
The 1990s was a golden age for turbocharged Japanese sports cars, but after Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota slowly pulled their options off the market, Nissan was left as the last automaker standing with its Z sports car. Fast forward a few decades, and the fifth-generation Toyota GR Supra has made its long-awaited debut, prompting Nissan to finally consider replacing its option in the segment.
The 370Z is aging rapidly, but Nissan isn't ready to let the Supra rule the pack unchallenged with the recently-revealed the Z Proto previewing the next-generation Z car. The production version will likely use the Nissan 400Z name and go toe-to-toe with the Toyota Supra. Just as they did in the '90s, these two sports cars are gearing up for an exciting rivalry.
Toyota styled the Supra to look like the FT-1 Concept from 2014. The final design is smaller and less pronounced than the concept, mainly due to the constraints of sharing a platform with the BMW Z4, but we think the Supra came out looking great. Its pointed front end looks aggressive, and the rear ducktail spoiler looks sleek. Toss in some other cool styling bits like a double-bubble roof, and the Supra looks like nothing else on the road today.
Nissan had its fair share of design restrains, too, since the Z Proto uses the same FM Platform as the 370Z (and 350Z). The design looks mostly production-ready and keeps the same overall proportions of the 370Z, which is not a nock by any stretch. But whereas the 370Z looked like an evolution of the 350Z, the 400Z calls back to older generations like the 240Z and 300ZX. The squared-off grille harkens back to the 240Z, and those taillights pay homage to the 300ZX, which should appeal to hardcore Z enthusiasts. Both cars should stand out in traffic, as a sports car should, so choosing between them will be a matter of preference.
When you hop into the new Supra, it becomes apparent that the entire interior contains all BMW parts. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. While the Supra lacks the tactile feel and smell of a Toyota, borrowing the interior from a German luxury automaker hardly seems like a poor decision. The material quality feels excellent, the technology works well, and the cabin arrangement is efficient. It's just a bit drab looking, and not at all Japanese in its execution.
The 400Z will suffer from a different problem. Yes, its cabin will include genuine Nissan parts, but the bones are old. If you look closely, you can tell that the Z Proto uses the same structural underpinnings as the outgoing 370Z. Even the seats and HVAC positioning is the same. Nissan updated the cabin with a new infotainment system, digital gauge cluster, and other styling changes, but until we drive the car, it's hard to tell if these changes effectively mask the 370Z origins.
Under the hood of the Supra, you'll find more BMW parts sharing. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder and 3.0-liter six-cylinder engines (both turbocharged) come from BMW and produce 255 and 382 horsepower, respectively. Nissan says the 400Z will use a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 producing an unspecified amount of power. Assuming its the same engine used in the Infiniti Q60 Redsport, the 400Z should generate as much as 400 hp. We can't just give Nissan the instant win, though, because if the 400Z is heavier than the Supra, it could offset the 18 hp advantage.
Nissan has an ace up its sleeve in the form of a six-speed manual transmission along with an automatic option. For now, at least, the Supra remains automatic-only, which could turn off some enthusiast buyers wanting to shift their own gears. Beating the Supra's sub-four-second 0-60 time could be a challenging task for Nissan, but the option of a manual transmission could make the acceleration times irrelevant for some customers.
Toyota prices the 2021 GR Supra at $42,990 for the 2.0 four-cylinder trim level and $50,990 for the 3.0 six-cylinder trim level. Since the Z Proto is only a concept for now it doesn't have a price tag. If Nissan can undercut Toyota by a significant margin, the 400Z could enjoy success. The current 370Z checks in at just over $30,000, but with a new twin-turbocharged engine, nicer interior, and development costs, we expect its replacement to balloon significantly in price. It's too early to tell which automaker will win this reborn rivalry, but we are excited to see how it plays out for the first time in more than two decades.