The 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show will be a big event again this year, as many carmakers have model reveals planned. None are more central to the carmaker's brand image than the upcoming Z-car launch expected from Nissan in the form of the all-new 370Z. The latest reports indicate that the company is eying the Porsche Cayman with its new sleeker design and up-rated power, just as its bigger brother the GT-R has taken on the 911 Turbo.

Controversy over the GT-R's rivalry with Porsche's top-of-the-line hardware has arisen just today, with Porsche accusing Nissan of falsifying its Nurburgring lap times. The 370Z's assault on the Cayman's position is likely to be as fraught with tension as the significantly cheaper Japanese car's styling and performance are - for some - approaching those of the established German builder.

The new 370Z, as the car is expected to be called thanks to its 3.7L VQ-derived engine, will feature a significant boost in horsepower over the 306hp (228kW) 3.5L unit in the current 350Z. The same 3.7L engine is rated at 328hp (245kW) and 270lb-ft (366Nm) of torque in the Infiniti G37, and the Z cars have a history of getting the most highly-tuned versions of the shared engine, so up to 350hp (261kW) could realistically be on the table.

Weight loss is also expected to feature significantly in the next-gen Z-car, the better to improve transitional response, acceleration and braking - all of which Nissan thinks will push it into the arena of Porsche Cayman performance, reports Automotive News.

"When we launched the current Z in 2002, it was a symbol of Nissan's revival, a kind of brand symbol, plus driving performance," said Tetsuo Shimada, Nissan's head of marketing in Japan. "This time with the 370Z, we are focusing more on the driving performance, as a pure driving sports car."

Whether the car will be able to live up to such lofty goals, given the nearly $20,000 price deficit between the 350Z and the Cayman is a question that only the trials of the marketplace will bear out. Nissan is also reportedly targeting the Audi TT.

The all-new 370Z is expected to begin hitting the streets of Japan in late December, with an early 2009 sales launch for the U.S. and the rest of the world.


Follow Motor Authority on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.