By on January 16, 2018

Nissan Xmotion concept

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

Nissan Xmotion concept

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?

Nissan Xmotion concept

“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.

Nissan Xmotion Concept hace su debut en el Salón Internacional

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.

Nissan Xmotion concept

[Images: Nissan]

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27 Comments on “Nissan Xmotion: A Concept Vehicle, Because One Was Needed...”

  • avatar

    Where do concept car tires come from?

    • 0 avatar

      They are usually hand built, often with hand cut tread patterns. I know that Goodyear has done it in the past and I’m sure the other mfgs that supply OEM tires will also whip you up a crazy set of slicks and carve in the tread design of your choice. Seems like somewhere I’ve seen some that for example had model or mfg names or logos.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you for asking guardian452 and thank you for answering Scoutdude. This is one of those weird questions that goes through my head when I see a concept car at a show but before I can resear..SQUIRREL!

  • avatar

    Former Lexus intern’s summer project at Nissan.

  • avatar

    Whoever requested this should be fired. Whoever designed this should be fired. Whoever approved this design should be fired.

    My work is done here.

  • avatar

    Those wheels look really small. I hope this car doesn’t get stuck in the rugged terrain of the Arizona suburbs in those pictures. Or is that Cali? I can’t tell for sure.

    • 0 avatar

      The homes in some these articles are way more interesting than the subject car. Can we get a link to a house walk-thru ever? The palm trees point to the southern US, the Modern Architecture hints of Palm Desert, and the dramatic soaring, rocky hillside locks it in as a subdivision on the southwest end of Palm Springs.

      • 0 avatar

        “Today’s feature home is a split plan ranch in the southwestern architectural style. It is a bank foreclosure from a divorcing power couple who had leveraged an ARM (but were later rightsized during corporate restructuring). The landscaping complements the hilly backdrop. The side-entry main entrance opens up to an airy great room with a real fireplace and chimney. This spacious, beautiful home is in an exclusive neighborhood with good schools and a full time security guard.”

  • avatar

    It’s a little hard to tell from the picture, but the front grill looks very Lexus-esque.

    Is it just me, or is this thing lacking actual headlights?

    • 0 avatar

      I bet they’re probably in there, just really small. They can be the size of small driving lights using whatever the latest LED/laser/whatever. I miss the convenience and simplicity of big old sealed beams but I like the possibilities that modern technology has given us.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Stupid. Just Stupid.

    Stupid with its Lexus snout, which is marginally passable on a Lexus, but hideous on this stupid pile of trash.

    Stupid with its John Deere & Co. derived plastic looking tires/wheels that I see now on the larger zero turn JD mowers. I understand the use for turf. They look, well, amazingly stupid on this pile of trash.

    With such rapidly advancing technology, this is what they came up with? As noted above, some people need to be fired.

  • avatar

    Are you hoping if you’re salty enough it’ll make this concept rust away? Considering there are rumors about a new Xterra floating around, it’s a pretty safe bet this is setting us up for that. Plus, considering how few concepts NAIAS gets anymore, I’m thankful anyone is putting anything out there.

  • avatar

    This thing is actually less hideous than a C-HR. So I guess good job, Nissan designers.

  • avatar

    Hmmm… Let’s see just how “conceptual” a vehicle this really is:

    Wide-opening doors with no B pillar – check.

    Overwrought wheels and tires – check.

    Ridiculous exaggerated fish-maw front end and grille – check.

    Mashed-down roof with gun slit windows – check.

    Space-age looking interior featured that will never be in a production car – check.

    I see absolutely new here at all that hasn’t been done a million times by every other OEM, in fact, all these look exactly the same!

    Sorry, Nissan – go back to the drawing board, fire your so-called designers and infuse new blood into your creative department. Try something that hasn’t been done better already.

  • avatar

    Who or what requested it? Transformers for their new movie?

  • avatar

    If Xmotion is pronounced Cross-motion, does that mean X-Men should be pronounced Cross-Men?
    Brings a whole new meaning to the comic-book/film franchise

    • 0 avatar


      Even after I read how its supposed to be pronounced, every time I came to “Xmotion” in the article, my internal dialog pronounced it “ex-motion”. I guess like the Ford EcoSport, which is pronounced in my head the same way EcoBoost is, not “echo-sport”.

  • avatar

    Nissan, taking one for the team.

  • avatar

    Tasteless, yet gaudy.

  • avatar

    There are a few elements of the exterior I don’t hate. Otherwise, its terrible.

    The wood is a really cool touch…IF it was in the cabin of a new Infiniti flagship S-Class challenger, and not this pseudo SUV autonomous thing.

  • avatar

    “The profile even vaguely resembles the old Xterra… or am I just imagining things?” You’re imagining things. The Xterra’s roofline kicked up at the b-pillar, this actually tapers downwards. NIssan really phoned this one in. When will they ever get their mojo back? You think there’s be some young guy in that company that wants to be the next “Mr. K.”

    • 0 avatar

      That won’t happen, because there are quotas, budgets, quarterly spreadsheet targets, and group brainstorming sessions in place of creativity, drive, passion, and quirkiness.

      On the day everyone is average, guess what? Everyone is average.

    • 0 avatar

      Furthermore, this is a $249 lease special-ready Rogue replacement if I ever saw one. Even the hideous apron on the hatch between the pinched, too-high tail lamps featureless, low, dog-friendly bumper is ready for a rental lot near you.

      The interior quirks will disappear, the grille will be reduced 12% in size, and I’ll be tailgated by it by March 2020.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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