Such a Tease

Nissan Z Proto will debut in two weeks; here’s what it looks like

Nissan has released an image of the forthcoming Z Proto

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

We know that a new Nissan Z is coming. It’s been in the works for the better part of a decade as Nissan looks to enhance its sports car history. Before we see the IRL version, it looks like Nissan is planning on revealing a prototype called the Nissan Z Proto.

To tease the unveiling, Nissan released a series of photographs and video.

The Nissan Z Proto is coming www.youtube.com

The new Z is one of 12 models Nissan will be unveiling in the next year and a half. When it does come to market, it’s anticipated to wear the 2022 Nissan 400Z name. A video posted by the brand earlier this year showcased the model’s retro-inspired styling. It is slated to have a twin-turbo V6 under its hood (that's what powers the Infiniti Q50 and Q6 400 Red Sport today. In those cars it gets 400 horsepower and that's a figure that likely plays into the car's fresh name. Look for a NISMO-tuned edition of the model to push 500 horsepower.

Nissan will unveil the Z Proto on September 15 at 7:30 p.m. CDT. Ahead of that, AutomotiveMap did a bit of sleuthing using Photoshop and was able to uncover the looks of the model. The image isn’t perfect, but it is telling.

Nissan Z Proto Upping the brightness of the teaser image provided by Nissan allows the shape of the Z Proto to be seen.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Z Proto wears a a familiar nose, A-pillar, and fastback design. It’s headlights are unique to the Nissan lineup and its back end appears blunted with beefy haunches.

It is expected that the 2022 Z will debut in the sheet metal flesh next year and enter the market in late 2021.

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The King Ranch trim level has been added to the Ford Explorer lineup for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The 2021 Ford Explorer is getting a King Ranch trim level. The midsize SUV's new grade combines rugged appearance and premium appointments for a look befitting the Texas ranch's name. Ford currently sells King Ranch versions of the Expedition, F-150, and Super Duty as well.

"In 1853, Captain Richard King bootstrapped the King Ranch in the harsh landscape of southern Texas until it became a shining example of agricultural and livestock innovation and success," said Lee Newcombe, Ford Explorer marketing manager. "Ford Explorer families can now enjoy a piece of the King Ranch's renowned craftsmanship and the multi-generation legacy that still thrives 168 years after its founding."

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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The Explorer King Ranch gets a Stone Gray-painted mesh grille insert, 20-inch aluminum wheels with Running W center cap, liftgate scuff plate, King Ranch badging, and quad chrome exhaust tips.

It is powered by a 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine that delivers 365 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The new version of the Explorer adds a standard Class III Trailer Tow Package, which makes the SUV capable of towing up to 5,600 pounds.

The interior of the new model gets mahogany-colored Mesa Del Rio perforated leather seats. The leather extends to the armrest. Both areas wear the King Ranch Running W logo. Leather door trim rollovers, a leather-wrapped and stitched instrument panel, Sapele wood appliqués, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with Norias stitching and a Salepe wood insert add sophistication.

"Introducing King Ranch's specialty leather, genuine wood, crafted details and signature colors to Ford Explorer elevates the SUV's brand," said Janet Seymour, Ford color and materials manager. "The warm, earthy Norias colorway, natural open pore wood appliqués and rope perforation design on the seats are just a couple ways we were able to bring the King Ranch lifestyle to a whole new group of customers."

Introducing the 2021 Explorer King Ranch® Edition | Explorer | Ford www.youtube.com

Buyers can add the Premium Technology Package to the model, which will give them multi-contour seats with massage functionality, a 10.1-inch informant touch screen, and a 14-speaker B&O Sound System.

Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ is standard on the model.

The Explorer King Ranch edition will start at $52,350 for rear-wheel-drive configuration and $54,350 MSRP for four-wheel drive models. It will be available in dealerships this spring.

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Ahead of its reveal, the 2022 Nissan Qashqai was spied testing wearing camouflage.

Photo courtesy of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

You've seen the wrapped vehicles in spy photos. If you live in California, Arizona, or Michigan, you've also likely seen them on the streets. Automakers use camouflage wrap on their prototypes, mules, and modified models.

In just under a year, Nissan's test engineering team has gone through over two miles of the adhesive camouflage as they work to conceal the company's vehicles that are in development. The automaker recently announced that a large number of models are in the process of making their way to U.S. shores by 2022. That includes the recently arrived Nissan Rogue, Kicks, and Armada, and the Frontier and Pathfinder, which are arriving this summer.

Why camouflage? It helps keep company secrets. Camo can hide body design elements that may foretell a specific type of engine, exhaust, or drivetrain, and hide sheet metal design that isn't in its final form yet. While a trained eye can figure out many of the hidden secrets, the camouflage helps the company make a marketing splash with the greater public when the market-ready model debuts.

Nissan Pathfinder camo The Nissan Pathfinder was heavily disguised ahead of its debut.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan Pathfinder camouflage

"When we reveal a vehicle, it should be a very momentous occasion," explains Mike Rosinski, a vehicle development manager at Nissan North America. "However, before a vehicle is launched, we have months of work where we put the vehicle on actual roads for testing. In order to not take away from the excitement of the reveal, we have to keep the cars always in disguise and under wraps."

Prying eyes are always interested in vehicle testing. Automakers use the camo as well as garage lockup, transportation in encolested trailers, and testing in remote locations away from the general population in order to avoid their secrets getting out. Most companies own testing centers in multiple states, which allows them to control access to the products while they're being engineered. It can take the better part of a decade to develop a new product.

"Spy photographers will literally camp outside our testing centers," Rosinski says. "Sometimes, they even hide in the bushes. If spy photos get out, they can give our competitors a real advantage."

Michael Alcantar applying camo to the interior of the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of the most important elements of the camo is its pattern. Distinct black and white patterns are developed specifically to make it hard for a camera lens to focus. Nissan deploys a range of camo patterns and randomly assigns them.

"The patterns are key," says Sherri Bruder, manager, Engineering Fleet, Nissan North America. "If the material was just black or white or beige, you could see the body lines of the vehicle. The patterns make it tougher to see those body lines."

Covering the vehicle in camo isn't always good enough. Companies often take measures to conceal specific elements by painting them black, hiding interior instrument panels, removing automaker badges, and adding tape around the headlights, which helps to hide their new shape. A layer of padding or an extra structure taped on the back of the vehicle can further disguise it.

To conceal the Pathfinder's new grille, Nissan technicians added materials underneath the camo to greatly distort its appearance.

"Truly we have become masters in wrapping our 'presents' for the future," says Bruder of her department. "Our team has a sense of pride knowing what we're doing is very important. The process starts with us to make sure that we provide a wow-factor for all of the eyes that are watching for what's next at Nissan."

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