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Nissan confirms Z car

Nissan flagship: The Z car concept was unveiled at the Detroit motor show earlier this year.

Nissan will make the Z car its image leader in Australia

15 Jun 2001

NISSAN has confirmed it will bring the Z car to Australia, scotching speculation that the R34 Skyline GT-R would be the image leader for the brand here.

An arrival date for the Z car has been set down for late next year, when it will become a regular part of Nissan's model line-up, although it will make its local debut at the Sydney motor show in October.

"The answer for us is the Z car, as it has such universal appeal," Nissan Australia national marketing manager Philip Brook said.

"It will be fully imported, it's approved and it's coming, and if we can sell 10,000 a year we will be able to source them. The GT-R is sensational but it's a little bit niche.

"We've looked at GT-R and we will continue to look at it, but at this stage we're not going to bring it in. The ADR changes help but it's certainly not a case of just asking Japan to build some cars and send them. There is a lot of work to be done as it takes a lot of money, time and effort and you're limited to 100 units, so with the exchange rate that makes it a pretty expensive car." Nissan's answer to Audi's retro TT, the Z car concept was unveiled at the Detroit motor show earlier this year in near-production-ready form and will be built in Japan in both left and right-hand drive.

The new sports coupe is powered by a 3.5-litre version of the VQ-design V6 engine - a 3.0-litre version is found under the bonnet of the current Maxima - which will produce around 190kW and drive the rear wheels through a six-speed manual or new five-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic-style shift control.

Nissan has also confirmed it expects to have a replacement for the popular Pulsar SSS by mid next year "We're not 100 per cent sure, as it is still very much under discussion as to the exact details and time of release," Mr Brook said.

"They've (Nissan) got nothing at the moment in Japan, but we are evaluating about six different combinations - engines, transmissions and body styles - and we're just looking at what makes the most sense." Nissan continued with the previous N15 series Pulsar SSS for a number of months after the release of the current N16 sedan but sold the last of them in January this year.

The new N16 hatch has just arrived but will only be available in ST and Q grades with the 1.8-litre engine, so the company is looking at an 18-month wait until it can re-enter the hot-hatch segment with a genuine competitor.

In other product news, Nissan will add the X-Trail compact 4WD to its range before the end of 2001. It will be another new model on Nissan's stand at the Sydney motor show before going on sale around the same time.

Although aimed at the volume-sellers in that segment such as Honda's CR-V and the Toyota RAV4, Nissan credits the X-Trail with being a legitimate off-roader courtesy of its four-wheel drive system.

"It uses an advanced version of Pathfinder system, although its actually got buttons," Mr Brook said.

"So it's going to offer genuine off-road ability, but it won't be quite at the Pathfinder's level because it doesn't have low range." The Pathfinder is also due for an update early next year with some minor cosmetic changes and additions to its specification list. However, it looks set to continue with the existing 3.3-litre V6 engine, as the much-feted 3.5-litre V6 found in the US model appears an unlikely prospect at this stage.

"There are some major issues with the 3.5-litre V6 engine as it is set up for left-hand drive and to convert it to right-hand drive is going to be a huge problem," Mr Brook said.

"We've looked at it and looked at it again and we're still looking at it, but it is going to be really difficult." The Patrol wagon, Navara light commercial range and prestige Maxima sedan are also due to be revised in 2002, resulting in Nissan having revamped its entire 4WD range as well as having a relatively fresh passenger car range.

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