In true rebellious fashion, Nissan has gone to the wild side with its latest concept reveal — this time ruffling fesathers and turning heads at the 2016 Frankfurt Motor Show, with what it calls “a new breed of sporty compact crossover for a new, younger generation.” Code-named the Nissan Gripz Concept, this unusual automobile is taking the Internet by storm, as Nissan claims that it “blends the ability and practicality of a compact crossover with the excitement and performance of a sports car.”
Originally inspired by desert rally cars and racing bicycles, this oddity is an EV that was conceived by designers both in Europe and Japan. Even though it is about the size of a compact crossover, the Gripz rocks a lot of sports car lines, with a raised ride height and tons of attitude to match.
A blatant homage to the iconic Safari Rally-winning Nissan 240Z cars of yesteryear, this car features many of the same styling cues as its ancestors. Its raised ride height, over-engineered suspension, and matte-black, blood orange two-tone body color speak to Nissan’s tradition. Back then, Nissan was on a mission to prove that sports cars didn’t have to be low to be fun, and from the looks of things, they are back it again with the Gripz blazing the way in a fiery orange inferno.
But are the rumors true that this machine is set to replace both the 370Z and the Juke all at once, and potentially piss everyone off in the process? Nissan says no, claiming it is meant to be seen more of as a “design statement rather than a replacement for an existing model,” which we want to believe, but deep down know that any car can get the axe at a moment’s notice.
This is a pretty far-out, futuristic move even for Nissan, which has shown us concepts like the Bladeglider in the past; while there is no denying how creative and utilitarian this vehicle could be, not everyone wants a hybrid or a compact crossover this radical. Only time will tell if this brainchild will ever come to be birthed, so for now all we can do is rely on this glimpse of automotive gene-splicing, and hope that it will be just as badass to drive as it is polarizing to look upon.
Equipped with an EV hybrid system called “Pure Drive e-Power,” the powertrain combines Nissan’s various control technologies from its years of experience developing EVs, and blends them all together in order to offer a “smooth, refined, and exhilarating driving experience with outstanding fuel efficiency.”
Pulling from four key design elements found in the equally wild Nissan Sway, the Gripz features a V-motion grille, boomerang lamps all around, a floating roof, and a kicked-up C pillar. The exterior utilizes what Nissan calls “emotional geometry” body sculpting, which capitalizes on strong contrasts through a “dynamic, tensional, yet edgy surface.” Featuring a carbon frame and body panels that closer resemble armor from Halo than exterior design cues, the Gripz is not afraid to showcase its carbon skeleton in key areas, further embellishing upon the boomerang shapes you see here today.
Sporting four doors, the Gripz has deep “dihedral” front doors that swing out and up, and rocks a pair of rear-hinged half-doors in the back. There are no B-pillars, so access to the 2+2 interior is similar to what you would find in the now defunct Honda Element, and honestly this is a pretty neat idea. Nissan’s V-motion grille is mounted low and is accompanied by rectangular headlights on both sides, which have forward-facing cameras embedded in them for recording purposes so that a live feed can share someone’s adventures in the Appalachian Mountains or a quick trip to the liquor store.
Matte-black is everywhere on this thing, and can be found on the extended wheel arches, the pinched and indented sill (which has been raised to increase ground clearance), and the A-pillar leading to the floating roof. Note that on this concept, it’s constructed from a central glazed piece with bullet grey-colored composite panels on either side, which makes it look almost like a reverse Targa top as it reduces in width toward the rear of the car and blends into the rear lamps. A pair of trapezoidal exhaust pipes rests beneath the duckbilled tail, and to finish the external styling in grand fashion, Bridgestone brought out some three-spoke, 22-inch wheels for this thing (which were also inspired by racing bicycles).
While the exterior of the car was 100% created in Europe, a Japanese team designed the interior so that it would better match Nissan’s goal of “functional simplicity.” A mixture of matte-grey and more blood orange with its exposed tubes, deep-molded bucket seats, and layers of plastics that are obviously built to match the car’s external armor. Even the door pulls are fashioned after saddles from a racing bike, and the three-spoke steering wheel looks like a miniature version of the car’s wheels — even sporting the same graphics found on the tires.
Takeaways from the Gripz are a bit muddled at this point; at the end of the day, this is nothing more than a concept car filled with “what ifs” and “maybes.” Nissan is not guaranteeing anything and is more interested in gauging our reactions and interest levels than proceeding with production plans. Want our reaction? It’s an interesting concept, and with the way the compact crossover market is evolving it really could be a hot seller one day. But rebadge it as a high performance Infiniti; we all know it’s going to be a bit pricey, and maybe while you’re at it please choose something other than “Gripz” for a name. It sounds like a snack college kids eat when they’ve got the munchies, and doesn’t really inspire us to take it all that seriously.
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