Nissan reveals Xmotion Concept, a ‘Design Exploration’

Model to appear at the Canadian International AutoShow, Feb. 16-25 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald January 22, 2018
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Detroit, Mich.- Nissan unveiled a work of art at the Detroit Auto Show on Monday when it took the wraps off the experimental Xmotion concept car.

Whether the Xmotion — pronounced “Cross Motion” — will ever see the light of day is debatable. There is no doubt that parts of it will be included in Nissan products in a few years, but the whole car? I think it’s safe to say forget it.

But that’s what concepts are all about: experimentation. Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice-president of global design at Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., called the three-row, six-passenger Xmotion a “design exploration for a potentially groundbreaking compact SUV.”

In other words, there might be a real car incorporating elements of this concept in a few years — but not now.

As is the case with most concepts, there are some features that could only be called — in the vernacular of the 1960s — far out. For instance, inside the car, there are a total of seven digital screens. There are three main display screens along the dash, one in the ceiling, one in the centre console and one at either end of the dash.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Gestures, eye movements — yes, eye movements — and voice commands control the displays on those seven screens. Nissan says this is so drivers can concentrate on driving and not be looking away.

Now, I’m going to quote from the media release for the next two paragraphs:

“Signalling the future of Nissan design, the Xmotion concept’s stunning exterior features a powerful dynamic presence with understated sculptural beauty, including unique U-shaped highlights and a bold evolution of Nissan’s signature V-motion grille.

“The visual simplicity of the Xmotion concept exterior is contrasted by the rugged, metal-crafted wheels and all-terrain tire design. Like the rest of vehicle, the mechanical tool-inspired wheels and all-terrain tires coexist as one piece, with the tire tread physically laminated over the 21-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Additional exterior features include a retractable “rooftop box” and a unique tail light design, which was inspired by Japanese woodwork.”

The reason I did that is because the creativity shown in composing a press release is frequently as complex and all-consuming as designing a corner of a car. Left to me, I probably would have written, “The headlights are U-shaped,” and, “the wheels are big and you could take this car off-road.”

Which is not too far removed from what Albaisa actually said during a presentation to introduce the Xmotion to the media. “We envision the Xmotion concept, which features hints of a traditional SUV with a high stance and bulked-up fenders, to be a highly functional SUV that can be driven every day, yet can take the owners and friends to a national park or recreation area on a whim.“

Key specifications of the concept include an overall length of 4,590 millimetres, an overall width of 1,940 mm, overall height of 1,700 mm — which is really getting up there and would likely disqualify this vehicle from indoor parking garages at places like Toronto Pearson airport — and a wheelbase of 109.6 inches.

This concept is not small.

Albaisa is, if nothing else, passionate about his work. To say he lives and breathes design would be an understatement. In an interview with the Star, he was quick to declare that while the concept was designed by his team, he didn’t design it himself.

“I wish I had, because it’s stunning, superb.”

Albaisa, who was born in Cuba and became an American as a child before finding his calling in design and landing a job at Nissan, where he’s been climbing the corporate ladder ever since, said the hardest part of a project like the Xmotion is to make something iconic with only a few elements.

“The body side was quite simple,” he said, “but when we look at components coming together, I really love how you can take a fender and bring it over and how it interlocks with the (head) lamp. It’s not a superficial line; you’re using the composition of elements to make something memorable.”

I told Albaisa that what he was talking about wasn’t a car you’d find at a dealer’s but something that wouldn’t look out of place at the Ontario College of Art. He didn’t disagree.

“For me, we (auto designers) do cars as an expression of a human desire to make things. As art, we are the only species that spends a lot of time dreaming up things to make. So, when we’re making design, for me, it’s about humanity.”

He said “just beyond 2020” is when elements of this concept could find their way into Nissan products, “which seems like a long way away, except that I just looked at the calendar this morning and it’s 2018 already. Whatever, we’re talking a production cycle away.”

Albaisa revealed that the Xmotion concept will be at the Canadian International AutoShow Feb. 16-25 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre downtown. And will he?

“Maybe — but I never know where they’re sending me until I get on the plane and strap myself down in the seat. We’ll see.”

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