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