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2023 Nissan Z Designer Alfonso Albaisa’s 8 Favorite Features


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Credit: Car & Driver - https://www.caranddriver.com/news/g37340288/2023-nissan-z-designer-8-favorite-features/

Albaisa told us he was smitten by the Z at an early age, and he showed us places where the new Z takes inspiration (or learns from) the earlier models.

2023 nissan z
NISSAN

While the latest chapter in the Nissan Z saga effectively started when the Z Proto first arrived last year, the debut of the production car provides an opportunity to delve further into the new sports car’s details. We spoke to Nissan’s design chief, Alfonso Albaisa, at the reveal of the 2023 Nissan Z, and he gave us the full rundown on the new Z’s stunning design.

2023 nissan z
JOHN ROECAR AND DRIVER
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Nissan’s senior vice president for global design, Alfonso Albaisa, was born in Miami in the 1960s. While today’s Miami is full of influencers showing off in rented Lamborghinis, Albaisa says that the Miami he grew up in was humble. Even the sight of an affordable sports car was an exciting occurrence, and he says that he instantly fell in love when he first spotted a Datsun 240Z. His passion for the Z only increased when his uncle purchased one and picked him up from school in it. Albaisa joined Nissan a couple of decades later, and when he first traveled to the company’s headquarters in Japan he was captivated by a clay modeling buck for the then-unreleased Z32 300ZX. So when it came time for Nissan to redesign the Z for its seventh generation, Albaisa immediately knew which historic Z cars to emulate.

2023 nissan z paired with 1973 datsun 200z
NISSAN AND BRING A TRAILER
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2023 Z and 1970 240Z

One of Albaisa's priorities was for the front edge of the new Z to look as low as possible, moving away from the slightly bulbous look on the front of the outgoing 370Z. But engineers still needed to fit the 3.0-liter V-6 and both of its turbochargers under the aluminum hood, leading Nissan to evoke the 240Z with a raised, Y-shaped hood bulge.

2023 nissan z
NISSAN
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New Z

Albaisa acknowledged that many people see the rectangular grille as a big, gaping mouth, but he instead envisions it as a hole carved out by the forms in the bodywork. The character line running from the A-pillar past the headlights forms the intake’s outer edges, while the top is bordered by a line swooping beneath the headlights and the front splitter acts as the base of the grille.

 

2023 nissan z
JOHN ROECAR AND DRIVER
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2023 Z

The two split LED arcs within the headlights were designed to imitate the light patterns reflected by the headlight covers on the Japan-only 240Z G, a homologation special for Group 4 racing. Translating the Z Proto’s headlights into production brought packaging challenges, with Nissan squeezing the mandatory orange reflectors into the sides of the already tightly packed headlights and allowing them to retain the striking LED elements.

2023 nissan z and 2019 nissan 370z
JOHN ROE AND STEVE SILER
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2023 Z and 2019 370Z

Increasingly stringent safety regulations have made car designers feel “like boxers on their back foot,” Albaisa said, and made it difficult for Nissan to position the head- and taillights as low as they wanted. Albaisa pointed out a 370Z sitting nearby at the reveal, showing how the lights climbed up the front and rear fenders and made the car look too thin and tall. The new Z’s lighting units are horizontally oriented and don’t ascend up the fenders, making the car look lower and wider.

2023 nissan z
JOHN ROECAR AND DRIVER
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2023 Z

When Nissan was first plotting the new Z’s design, Albaisa paid a visit to Peter Brock, who built dominant Datsun track cars with his Brock Racing Enterprises squad in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Albaisa said he “wanted to speak to God,” but the only note that God, or rather Brock, gave him was to “just make it beautiful.” Then Brock’s wife stepped in, saying the motorsport legend was being too polite and that Nissan should “suck the door handles back into the car,” which is how the new Z ended up with its sleek, flush handles.

2023 nissan z and 2019 nissan 370z
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2023 Z and 2019 370Z

Another key factor in visually lowering the Z is the muscular rear haunches. Compared with the 370Z’s bloated, wide wheel arches, Albaisa created a concave scoop that carved away much of that volume for the new car. The curve of the haunches ends with the outer edge of the wheel well, which sticks out further than before to make the new Z look even more planted than its predecessor.

2023 nissan z and 1970 240z
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1970 240Z and 2023 Z

One of the new Z’s subtlest design features is that the top edge of the taillights actually sit lower than top of the headlights. This is uncommon these days, as more and more vehicles adopt trendy fastback or SUV-like body styles, and Albaisa noted that the last Z to have this was the first-generation car that he was smitten with as a child.

2023 nissan z and 1991 nissan 300zx
NISSAN AND BRING A TRAILER
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2023 Z and 1991 300ZX

The taillights themselves mimic those on the 300ZX of the 1990s, but Albaisa and his team used a clever trick to avoid recreating the chunky rear end of the Z32 300ZX. While the Z includes the 300ZX’s glossy black trim surrounding the actual lamps, Nissan made the black taillight housing much thinner, visually widening and lowering the car. But Nissan also included a character line on the body itself extending down and across the bumper to form a larger rectangle, calling to mind the 300ZX’s blocky rear while appearing more lithe and athletic.

 

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