Nissan Xmotion: A Concept Vehicle, Because One Was Needed

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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nissan xmotion a concept vehicle because one was needed

For a long time I thought a concept vehicle’s purpose was to showcase new ideas as the automaker bends over backward to bring them to fruition. However, after becoming an automotive journalist, I learned that a great many exist only to take up floor space at various trade shows. Nissan’s Xmotion Concept may be one of these — a model seemingly created in response to an executive’s request to bring something novel to the North American International Auto Show.

Outfitted with seven touchscreens, the Xmotion (pronounced “Cross Motion”) is a mishmash of advanced tech and “traditional Japanese architectural wood joinery technique” called kanawa tsugi. Basically, it’s an autonomous six-passenger SUV entirely dependent upon touch controls with a wooden beam running down its middle. I’m sure Nissan presumed the opposite pairing of old and new would achieve some kind of synergy, like sweet and sour chicken, but the balance wasn’t met and we ended up with a cat food jello mold.

Let’s start with this minimal interior design scheme. The dizzying number of touch screens (including a digital rearview “mirror”) allowed for Nissan to keep the interior simple and, for the most part, that’s exactly what it did. But what is there sticks out like a sore thumb. The honeycomb headrests might as well light up and flap because they are the first thing you notice — followed by the glowing red light emanating behind the natural wood latticework positioned beneath the dash.

While not gorgeous, the exterior is far easier on the eyes and resembles something humans may someday agree to purchase. C-shaped headlamps flow into large air curtains and straddle the gigantic grille. The profile even vaguely resembles the old Xterra… or am I just imagining things? Is that what this is supposed to be? What is happening?

“In the Xmotion concept, we explored the more rugged and powerful side of Nissan Intelligent Mobility. Bold and powerful forms and proportions are, upon closer inspection, contrasted with aspects of traditional Japanese craftsmanship expressed in a contemporary way,” explained Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice president of global design at Nissan Motor Co.

“The exterior’s combination of western and eastern concepts continues inside the Xmotion, where advanced connectivity and autonomous technologies mix with modern Japanese digital art and cultural craftsmanship. At a glance, Xmotion may appear to have a minimal design language, but a closer look reveals layers of detail that make this concept exceptional.”

I wouldn’t consider borderline nonexistent interior styling that’s bizarrely contrasted with a cedar pole “exceptional.” Although it does smell nice inside.

Other than it also being self-driving, that’s all Nissan really had to say on the Xmotion. It’s just kind of here at the Detroit Auto Show, taking up space that could be handed over to something the company is actually building. In fact, the only genuine tidbit of information garnered from the model’s existence is that portions of it signal the future direction of Nissan design — similar to the Vmotion 2.0. We’re betting that traditional Japanese wood joinery is unlikely to become a fleet-wide staple, so anticipate those headlamps and a more pronounced venetian grille making an appearance on future Nissan vehicles instead.

The Xmotion Concept is also supposed to allow drivers to manipulate the infotainment system using voice commands, hand gestures, and eye movement. While Nissan was unable to explain exactly how this technology works — or if it was being developed for production vehicles — it did say it would be an “smart, easy and safe” alternative to touch controls.

Interesting, but without a demo, the entire car feels like a convoluted missed opportunity. It’s not bonkers or beautiful enough to exist as an exercise in automotive design, and it doesn’t showcase enough tangible technology to serve as a hardware display. It’s an “ideas” car and it’s just sitting here at NAIAS, positioned next to the redesigned Leaf (a real car Nissan actually builds and sells) while simultaneously stealing its thunder. Maybe we’re being overly critical of a concept vehicle the automaker has no intention of putting into production, but we know Nissan is capable of far better than this.

[Images: Nissan]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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  • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Jan 16, 2018

    I want to know what the little flying saucer thing is on top of the beam in the rear. I don't know about the exterior being better looking than the interior at all. I kind of like the panoramic screen look of the dash even if it is not something that would actually be functional in the real world.

  • Willyam Willyam on Jan 16, 2018

    Well, I like it, and that's no Juke. Along with the 60's ashtray/bong back there I also want to know about the photon torpedo on the roof. I thought the entertainment roof pods would get smaller? I doubt I'll get to see this up close, as we don't get most show cars here, which is a shame. Everything pretty much looks the same when you're just walking rows of grey CUV's and bored show models that HATE your state and it's Doubletree.

  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.
  • Stuki Moi "How do you take a small crossover and make it better?Slap the AMG badge on it and give it the AMG treatment."No, you don't.In fact, that is specifically what you do NOT do.Huge, frail wheels, and postage stamp sidewalls, do nothing but make overly tall cuvs tramline and judder. And render them even less useful across the few surfaces where they could conceivably have an advantage over more properly dimensioned cars. And: Small cuvs have pitiful enough fuel range as it is, even with more sensible engines.Instead, to make a small CUV better, you 1)make it a lower slung wagon. And only then give it the AMG treatment. AMG'ing, makes sense for the E class. And these days with larger cars, even the C class. For the S class, it never made sense, aside from the sheer aural visceralness of the last NA V8. The E-class is the center of AMG. Even the C-class, rarely touches the M3.Or 2) You give it the Raptor/Baja treatment. Massive, hypersophisticated suspension travel allowing landing meaningful jumps. As well as driving up and down wide enough stairs if desired. That's a kind of driving for which a taller stance, and IFS/IRS, makes sense.Attempting to turn a CUV into some sort of a laptime wonder, makes about as much sense as putting an America's Cup rig atop a ten deck cruiseship.