The Nissan Z is still new on the ground, but already a mysterious test mule has been spotted on a curvy mountain road wearing remarkably little camouflage. The partially veiled prototype is thought to be a performance variant of the 2023 Nissan Z, with a redesigned nose that may address one of the most controversial elements of the sports car's styling.
A photo posted to the web forum NewNissanZ.com shows what is unmistakably a 2023 Z with a disguised front end. Despite the mask, however, we can see that the grille is in fact split horizontally. It's reminiscent of 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 appearance since the concept was unveiled. While it hews faithfully to the grille on the original 1969 Fairlady Z — or 240Z for us Americans — on that car a chrome bumper visually bisected the aperture. With the 2023 Z there was no separate bumper, so between the unveiling of the Z Proto and the production Z Nissan added a lighter finish on the inset to help soften the grille's visual impact.
Forum members were quick to point out that the test mule was further distinguished from the production Z with Recaro seats as well. The racing buckets are one of the features that set apart the 370Z Nismo from the regular 370Z, leading some to speculate that the prototype is a Nismo variant of the new Z.
Past Nismo Z-cars have added performance via some combination of increased power, upgraded suspension, more aggressive wheels, chassis stiffening, and exclusive body kits.
While the presence of new sport seats and a new nose do not definitively augur the return of the Nismo Z, it's a good sign that whatever is being tested appears to be in a left-hand-drive layout and on a U.S. road.