Dramatic three-row SUV concept signals a Nissan design direction for 2020 and beyond
DETROIT – Building on Nissan’s long history of cutting-edge crossovers and SUVs, including the recently introduced Nissan Kicks and Rogue Sport, the new Nissan Xmotion concept is a design exploration for another potentially groundbreaking compact SUV.
Unveiled at the 2018 North American International Auto Show, the Xmotion concept features strong hints of a traditional SUV – the high stance, high-utility proportions and bulked-up fenders, stuffed with all-terrain-ready wheels and tires. Yet as the name implies, the Xmotion (pronounced “cross motion”) concept fuses Japanese culture and traditional craftsmanship with American-style utility and new-generation Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology.
"The Xmotion concept is a study in how seemingly disparate elements can gain power and strength through coexistence," said Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice president of global design at Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. "It draws inspiration from the Japanese aesthetics and techniques that have been passed down through generation after generation. At the same time, it achieves the modern purposefulness required for drivers in the near-future era of connected, autonomous crossover vehicles."
The origin story
SUVs are essentially an American invention, originally created to take families where ordinary sedans couldn't go. They still have, to a large degree, a "Western" influence and utilitarian flavor – which tend to create a look of uniformity and lack of refinement.
The Nissan global design team behind the Xmotion concept wanted to bring something fresh to the segment by infusing Nissan's Japanese heritage and aesthetics – while also preparing for a new automotive world driven by autonomous technologies.
The goal was to allow contrasting ideas and attributes to coexist. The result is a vehicle that's quiet yet dynamic, calm yet emotional, and sophisticated yet tough.
Tasked with bringing that challenge to life, the team found inspiration in the Japanese sense of aesthetics, architecture, traditional crafts and landscapes – such as views of Mt. Fuji framed by an electric Tokyo cityscape.
To better understand the traditional crafts, spirits, techniques and materials that would be integrated into the vehicle, design and color team members studied at craft museums, even spending time with master woodworkers and carpenters who specialize in the construction of shrines and temples.
The Xmotion concept exterior: tough, yet sophisticated
Concept cars are a view to the future, a way to dream in three dimensions. As a window to the next generation of Nissan crossovers and SUVs, the Xmotion concept's exterior projects a bold dimensionality – what designers call "purposeful strength."
There's an instant impression of the body protecting both the interior and the occupants inside. The "outer" layer of the Xmotion concept is the protective armor over the solid foundation and core of the vehicle, which is exposed in the front and rear lower bumpers and side sills and signals its intrinsic toughness.
"The Xmotion concept's exterior is very dynamic, very wedged. The strong fenders are fluid and emotional, yet somehow very graceful," explained Albaisa. "That's a difference between this design and conventional SUVs with Western influence. The Xmotion concept embodies quiet dynamism and a purity that gives it a very unique presence."
Next-level Nissan design language
When viewing the new Xmotion concept for the first time, there's an immediate recognition of Nissan signature design elements, starting with the powerful front grille, fascia and "boomerang" headlamps.
Originally introduced as a key element of the broadly acclaimed third-generation Nissan Murano crossover, the V-motion grille has been refined and adapted to nearly all current Nissan models – capped by its new, more three-dimensional execution.
For use with the Xmotion concept, the V-motion grille has evolved even further – wider, deeper and more powerful than ever. This new form even inspired the name of the Xmotion concept itself and sets the stage for use on production crossovers and SUVs well into the next decade.
Adding to its powerful shape and presence, the new grille design features horizontal bars inspired by Japanese architecture and executed in a sharp, blade-like appearance with its deep carbon color and high-gloss finish completing the grille's dramatic appearance.
The sharp-edged design theme carries over to the Xmotion concept's interpretation of the signature Nissan "boomerang" headlamps, which resemble forged steel blades. The headlamps integrate all functions into a single unit – high beam, low beam, turn signals and positioning lamps. The intensity and color of the lighting changes depending on the function.
In the rear, the unique taillight design was inspired by the detail and warmth of kumiko, Japanese woodwork and puzzles. The structure of the lights is, in fact, an optical illusion created by hologram technology.
On the sides of the Xmotion concept, innovative U-shaped bodyside highlights impart a highly sculptural presence while creating a smooth, unbroken visual flow from front to rear fenders. The section is very crisp and deep, yet the movement it conveys is soft, subtle and quiet.
"The U-shaped body sides presented a big challenge in changing from one surface to another while keeping the shape," Albaisa explained. "We went through a lot of clay modeling work to achieve the look."
The sculptural 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.
This application has the effect of the tires becoming part of the wheel, making the rubber-oriented rims look larger than their actual size. The tires were developed in conjunction with Michelin and feature run-flat construction.
A "4+2" interior layout
Like the Xmotion concept exterior, the starting point for the dramatic interior was the coexistence of traditional Japanese elements with more futuristic technological lifestyle cues. The designers turned to traditional construction techniques, craftsmanship and materials but applied them with a modern design aesthetic.
With its long wheelbase, with wheels and tires pushed out to the extremes of the corners, the Xmotion concept allows for the creation of a fresh, "4+2" passenger layout. Featuring three rows of side-by-side individual seats, it's designed to provide a perfect space for a young couple, another couple and two children or pets in the third row.
"We envision the vehicle to be a highly functional, everyday SUV that can be driven every day yet can take the owners and friends to a national park or recreation area on a whim," said Albaisa.
In order to accommodate the extra row of seats, the Xmotion concept includes a retractable "rooftop box." The design is aerodynamically efficient and flexible enough to carry a variety of bags or recreational equipment.
A landscape with a bridge
The interior was created with the imagery of a Japanese landscape. The floor represents a river – with the center console acting as a bridge that connects the front and rear passenger areas.
The console, the core of the interior design, uses one of the many traditional Japanese architectural wood joinery techniques, kanawa tsugi. Found in the carpentry used to build religious temples and shrines, the technique doesn't use a single nail or glue and is known for its strength and durability.
Similarly, the instrument panel design is a modern interpretation of the traditional kigumi wood joinery. By using the kigumi structure in the instrument panel and console, the Xmotion concept interior suggests a robust bone structure, creating a sense of strength and trust that passengers want to feel in their vehicle.
Careful attention was especially paid to the grain direction, texture and even the aroma of genuine wood to look and feel as if the whole instrument panel and console were cut out of a single Japanese cedar tree. Out of respect for resource efficiency, the solid wood look was achieved by using genuine wood overlays, which were sliced out of a single tree that was selected from the woods in Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan.
Even the headrest design for the seats was inspired by kumiko woodwork. It not only provides necessary support but also creates a sense of togetherness inside the vehicle. With the see-through headrest design, the rear-seat passengers can enjoy layers of various patterns as they look at the headrest from different angles. Scarlet red paint, developed with Japan lacquer in mind, is applied.
"The seats are like ships that float and go slowly with the flow of the water. On the floor, we made a pattern that reminds the occupants of waves," said Albaisa. "There's also a hidden landscape at the third row when the door is opened, when Mt. Fuji appears dramatically and understatedly."
On the console, an item called a "floating commander" can sense a passenger's movement. It contains a motion sensor inside and scans the motion of a passenger's hand to control the entertainment system, as well as the heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Colors of the past and future
Like every other aspect of the Xmotion concept, the use of color was carefully considered in an effort to bring together tradition and modernity. Two colors were selected for use on the exterior.
A special shade of silver was created to resemble pewter, a very solid yet malleable metal traditionally used in Japan for fine, detailed handicraft work. The color showcases the various body shapes and contours, as well as resonating very well with the colors and materials used inside the Xmotion concept. The wheels have a hammered texture, suggesting handcrafted finishes of the metal.
The inner structure elements, such as the front and rear lower bumpers, side sills and overfenders, are wrapped in carbon woven in the Nishijin textile district in Japan, known for its traditional fine textiles for kimonos and tapestries – providing a unique texture and sense of strength. The idea of weaving carbon fiber in traditional Japanese patterns gives a twist on honoring tradition with a very modern material.
In addition, the Xmotion concept exterior features understated scarlet accents, representing energy and strength.
The interior palette includes colors representing Japan – red and white – as well as touches of black to symbolize modern technology. The interior colors transition gradually from white and grey in front – with some black accents to showcase the technology elements – to red in the rear areas.
Printed suede and laser-embossed suede are prominently used throughout the interior to convey comfort and serenity. Nishijin-weave carbon fiber accents are used inside as well.
The interior coloring was inspired by the notion of utsuroi, or "gradual transitions" – with the traditional red blending into the advanced future. White is purity, cleanliness and simplicity, while the scarlet red adds a brightness, strength and energy to the space.
A very human graphic user interface
The Human Machine Interface (HMI) of the Xmotion concept, like the vehicle design, is very simple. For example, the switch from ProPILOT drive mode to manual drive mode, and vice versa, can be done by using the PD Commander, located on the center console and steering switch.
The Xmotion concept also includes a total of seven digital screen portions. Three main displays and left and right end displays span the width of the instrument panel. There is also a "digital room mirror" in the ceiling and a center console display.
The displays and infotainment system can be controlled by gestures and eye movements. Intuitive controls and a voice command system allow drivers to focus on driving, helping them access various information in a smart, easy and safe manner.
"Floating koi" virtual personal assistant
Fingerprint authentication is used to start the operation of the Xmotion concept. When the driver touches the fingerprint authentication area on the top of the console, the opening sequence starts, awakening the virtual personal assistant – which takes the shape of a Japanese koi fish.
The koi jumps into the main screen. After linking with the driver's smartphone, the navigation system automatically recognizes the destination, and other user information – such as weather, music and vehicle system info – will be activated. The navigation system recognizes the surrounding "information" while traveling.
For example, in autonomous drive mode, while changing lanes or overtaking other traffic, the virtual personal assistant will pick up other "browsing" information about points of interest along the way. In this way, the koi acts as a storyteller to connect human and machine.
The Xmotion concept also uses a camera monitoring system in place of traditional door mirrors and displays images and other information on the end display screens. The system senses and monitors other vehicles around the Xmotion concept.
"The vehicle has a beautifully unique graphic user interface, or GUI, that's designed for the human in all of us – presenting a novel spatial world with digital precision," said Albaisa. "It puts powerful technology at the users' fingertips, including both the driver and passengers. It is designed to make your life easier and the journey and more exciting and enjoyable."
Xmotion concept – ready for the world stage
The Xmotion concept connects Nissan's Japanese roots and rich heritage of ingenuity. It is a new creation, while honoring the spirit and mind of those who have gone before. Its design and Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies are ultimately very feasible for the future.
"We see Nissan and the Xmotion concept bringing celebration to everyday life, to make every day feel like going somewhere special," Albaisa said. "We hope that those who view the vehicle at auto shows around the world will feel the very same way."
Xmotion concept key specifications
180.7 in. (4,590 mm)
76.4 in. (1,940 mm)
66.9 in. (1,700 mm)
109.6 in. (2,785 mm)
Nissan Intelligent All-Wheel Drive
diameter 780 mm
3-row, 6-passenger (three rows of two seats)
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