The Nissan Z Looks Almost Exactly Like the Prototype. Here’s What Changed

Nissan’s CEO said the Z Proto was “95 percent there” when we first saw it last year. He wasn’t lying.

byKristen Lee|
Nissan News photo

To everyone who saw the 2023 Nissan Z last night and thought it looked just like the Z Proto—you're right! Save for a few details, it totally does. The mule Nissan showed everyone leading up to the production car's reveal (which we got an up-close look at earlier this summer) is basically the one that'll hit showroom floors.

In fact, during the car's official reveal, Nissan CEO Ashwani Gupta said the Z Proto was "95 percent there" in regard to how close it was to production spec. So what on the prototype didn't make it to the road-going car? I asked Jonathan Buhler, a Nissan sports cars and sedans product communications manager, to give me a tour.

Kristen Lee

As a quick refresher, here's what the Z Proto looks like. 

And here's the production version.

At first pass, they're almost identical. But the devil's in the details and the new Z's got a few of them.

First off, the front grille is new. On the Z Proto, the entire thing was black. On the production car, the top half has been done up in gunmetal gray accents. And because the new Z comes standard with driver-assistance safety systems such as cruise control and forward emergency braking, the lower half of the grille now houses the car's radar system.

I'm still not completely sold on the shape, but the rest of the car looks so good it hardly matters.

Because of DOT regulations, the production car now wears reflectors on the upper corner corners of its headlights. Around back, there are also reflectors on the rear quarter panels.

The Z Proto had a carbon fiber front chin spoiler, rear diffuser, and side skirts. On the new Z, these are painted gloss black. Carbon fiber is cool, but I guess you have to keep costs down somewhere.

The brake calipers are also different. The production car has four-piston front calipers and two-piston rear calipers—powder-coated to the color of the car—whereas the Z Proto had six-piston Brembo front calipers and drilled and slotted rotors from the Nissan GT-R. At the time of this writing, there is no option for drilled and slotted rotors on the new Z.

The door handles are also slightly different. Buhler explained this was because the Z Proto was designed to be displayed at auto shows so it had a B-pillar-mounted door unlatch button (presumably to make it harder for some goon to climb into the prototype). The production car has a more traditional and functional door handle. (This explains why I couldn't figure out how to open the Z Proto's door when I was checking it out. It's me, I'm the goon.)

The Z Proto also didn't have a rear spoiler. The Performance trim of the production car will come with a body-colored spoiler, which adds a nice detail to the car's fastback silhouette. The base car won't have a spoiler, however. And as cool as the "Fairlady Z" badge was on the Z Proto, it's been removed and the production car instead wears a silver Z badge on the right side of its rear.

But the hood and greenhouse—arguably the most visually magnetic parts of the car—are all exactly the same as on the prototype. The interior is also "identical to the Z Proto," Buhler said. "Even down to the stitching and pattern within the seat structure."

And as a fun Easter egg? The new Z wears a decal at the base of its rear window that reads "Since 1969" as a tribute to when the first Datsun 240Z was introduced.

Got a tip? Email me at