Just like any good contest, the competition for the 2023 Nissan Z design brought out the kid in the eventual winning entrants.
Japanese team wins design contest
The contest for the new Z drew about 100 entries from designers in Japan, China, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Nissan executives initially chose three finalists from the 100 sketches, and full-size 3-D models were built for the finalists.
The winners were the Japanese team of exterior designer Naoyuki Ohkoshi and interior designer Takuya Yamashita. Ohkoshi has been with the Nissan design team since 1997, working on notable models like the 2009 Infiniti QX60 and the 2012 QX80. Yamashita is a newcomer with four years at Nissan.
In an interview with
USA Nissan, Ohkoshi noted the Z has been a lifelong obsession for him. "When I was about 3 years old, my father brought home a Nissan catalog," Ohkoshi said. "There was a yellow Z on the cover, I think it was an S30, actually. From then on, I started drawing cars, it was like a switch. When the 300ZX (Z32) came out, I was still in school. I remember being floored at the thought that such a design could come from Japan."
Similarly, Yamashita said his father drove a Z31 (300ZX), and he's been a lover of the Z car since. "My drive to become an automotive designer was most likely due to the influence of my father and the Z."
Maintaining the Z DNA was key
Both designers knew there was pressure to work on such an iconic vehicle, but they were happy to lead their teams through to the final design.
Ohkoshi said the side character line of the car, which looks clean and simple, was the most difficult to design as it dictated the entire flow of the car. Any small adjustments meant rethinking every phase of the exterior. But it’s important that the DNA of the Z, which has carried through each generation, remains intact. He said when people see the car on the street, they should say, "It's a Z!"
Z aficionados will see familiar touches such as the 300XS rear end and headlights inspired by the 240ZG. Ohkoshi noted the side-window graphics pay homage to the original S30. This feature was also present on the 370Z.
Moving the Z boldly forward
Yamashita said the original plan for the interior was to work on slight modifications to the current Z class, but executives wanted to push the envelope and take the Z into a bolder future.
Straightening the curve in the console from the 370Z gives the new Z a stronger, safer feel for drivers and passengers. Although the lines look simple, it took six months to finish the final 5% of the design.
The "reverse slant" in the center of the dash also harkens back to the original S30 with its stacked control panels that were unique to the Z series. This also gives the driver clean sightlines for added confidence and safety while driving, even at high speeds.