Nissan Xmotion: A Concept Vehicle, Because One Was Needed

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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]

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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.

  • SilverCoupe I am one of those people whose Venn diagram of interests would include Audis and Formula One.I am not so much into Forums, though. I spend enough time just watching the races.
  • Jeff S Definitely and very soon. Build a hybrid pickup and price it in the Maverick price range. Toyota if they can do this soon could grab the No 1 spot from Maverick.
  • MaintenanceCosts Would be a neat car if restored, and a lot of good parts are there. But also a lot of very challenging obstacles, even just from what we can see from the pictures. It's going to be hard to justify a restoration financially.
  • Jeff S Ford was in a slump during this era and its savior was a few years away from being introduced. The 1986 Taurus and Sable saved Ford from bankruptcy and Ford bet the farm on them. Ford was also helped by the 1985 downsize front wheel drive full sized GM cars. Lincoln even spoofed these new full size GM cars in an ad basically showing it was hard to tell the difference between a Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile. This not only helped Lincoln sales but Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria sales. For GM full size buyers that liked the downsized GM full size 77 to 84 they had the Panther based Lincoln Town Cars, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Ford Crown Victorias that were an alternative to the new GM front wheel drive full size cars that had many issues when they were introduced in 1985 and many of those issues were not resolved for several years. The Marks were losing popularity after the Mark Vs.
  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.