NAIAS 2018 | Episode 11 : Nissan

Nissan debuted the X-Motion SUV concept, their new small Kicks SUV and the facelifted Leaf electric car.

The XMotion is a mid sized SUV concept defined by bold and dramatic shapes.  There are large front air intakes and lights; a big slatted grille framed by chrome strips extending up the hood to the base of the A-Pillar; huge wheels and tyres (featuring another trend at the show where the wheel structure extends over the tyre sidewall.  All rather impractical); built-in roof storage; diamond pattern “carbon fibre” wheel arch accents and pronounced shoulders over the front and rear wheels.
The minimalist interior featured floating seats (white in front, red in the rear); display screens across the entire instrument panel and a wooden center console running front to rear, complete with a perpetually spinning cone!

The Kicks small SUV joins the burgeoning ranks of similar vehicles available across all manufacturers.  It is a decent looking vehicle that slots easily into the Nissan range and design theme.  The interior is friendly with some upscale touches.

The new Nissan Leaf, brings this electric car into the real world.  The original was “dowdy” at best, but this version is a worthy member of the Nissan family and would not make us embarrassed to drive one.

NAIAS 2017 | Episode 11 : Nissan – Infinity

Nissan revealed the stunning Vmotion 2.0 large sports sedan concept. It is another one of our favourites from this show. The concept features what Nissan calls “Emotional Geometry” design language and defines the future styling direction for the brand. It is an evolution from the V-motion front-end design that we see on today’s cars. Predictably Nissan says that the concept incorporates “Intelligent Mobility Technology” – a must for every concept these days……

The sharp and aggressive surface language has crisp character lines throughout and the 3D shapes create a striking volume and architecture. The black roof that extends in a bold sweep from the middle of the hood (using black paint) to the deck lid is framed on either side by carbon ’pillars’ that incorporate silver threads adding a distinctive sparkle. This sparkle is repeated in carbon inserts on the wheels. The generous cabin with acres of wood is fully revealed by the ubiquitous show car trick of using ‘suicide’ rear doors and no B-Pillar. We like the bold shapes and design details, especially in the C-Pillar and tail lamp areas. Very nice.

Over on the Infinity display we saw the QX50 concept that is the product of ongoing collaboration with Daimler and shares underpinnings with the GLA and upcoming GLB. The concept reflects about 90% of the late 2017 production version that will be built in Mexico alongside its Mercedes stable mates.

The Infinity brand is all about driving and technology — or so we are told. The design language is “Powerful Elegance”. The proportions of the QX50 are driven by the front drive, transverse engine layout resulting in a short front overhang. To offset this factor the bold grille flows into prominent hood creases that sweep up and around the A-Pillar and into the belt line and all the way to the rear lamps. A lower A-Line crease flows from the headlamps and fades towards the edge of the rear door where it is ‘replaced’ by a pronounced feature line that rises up and over the rear wheel. The lights are distinctive front and rear.

The interior breaks new ground for Infinity. Gone is the so-called “dual cocoon”, which has been replaced by more driver orientation and a roomier feeling passenger side. “Dot” quilting was new and interesting on the seats and doors, with sweeping accent trim and multiple colour materials and leathers adding to the ambiance.

GENEVA 2015 : Springtime, Showtime – PART III

Part III | Lexus surprised all of us with the unveiling of the LF-SA concept coming from the designers at Toyota ED2 Sofia-Antipolis (based in the south of France) and managed by Lance Scott. This small urban car makes a very bold statement. Based on the Toyota IQ platform, it seems to be coming directly from the latest comic book!  It might be small, but it is heavily sculptured and the car looks rather ‘thick’ and ‘heavy’.


Specifications seem to dictate fun and luxury in a segment dominated in Europe by Twingo, VW Up and Smart…. The lines seem to be confused at first, but after a longer look, they are completely mastered. We know Laurent Bouzige, the exterior stylist of the project, very well, so his work is not strange for us; the lines have continuity and the highlights on the surfaces are a signature of his.  Strangely, there is not really a body feature line, but more a connection between the front and the backlight. The front is the most blatant. We do not like the grille on Lexus cars in general, but this one seems even more enormous, with excess relief and too much aggression – especially for a city car. The grille really is too much and this feature of the car disturbed most of our designer colleagues. In spite of all this, the concept is a success. Surface changes are extremely controlled. It is like a sculpture, a sculptured body. If we look carefully, the back is taught, like animal is ready to pounce! The wheel detail, with large blades extending over the tire is interesting, even it is only suitable for a concept car.
The interior comes from Jacomir Cech and is similarly imaginative, with tense curves crisscrossing the passenger compartment.  The addition of elliptic curves with new combinations of materials on the doors gives a light and spacious effect in this small volume. The interior includes many details: the driver’s seat is different from the rest of the interior – the seat is in blue leather/alcantara with beige stitching; the steering wheel repeats the grille theme and has spokes which have metal inserts with an interesting patina applied by a local artisan.  The rear view mirror is an LCD screen. The door panels and central console are made with a 3D printing process and realized in foam imitating a honeycomb stitch structure. They are very soft and comfortable.
The grey exterior and blue/ivory colors for the interior give the concept a luxury feeling not often found in the city car segment. Even though the design is outside normal convention, the graphic treatment works well. This Lexus LF-SA follows an expressive and emotional philosophy that is very unusual in the more rational world of European design thinking. Contrary at our initial impression, this concept is a success, and even if the aggressive grille seems contradictory for a car of this size, its luxury look should please the girls.
Nissan revealed the SWAY Concept. From some years Nissan in-house designers have worked to rebuild a style language for the mark. With patience and accuracy, with small touches, show car after show car, they have arrived at this very successful concept that will be the next generation Micra. Nissan seems to be moving away from the frequently copied Germany style. The SWAY is almost a monospace with strong worked surfaces and a pronounced “A line” down the profile. A small error for us is the exaggerated swelling at the base of the A-pillar that we feel is inelegant. The contrasting anodized look of the cant rails which are connected across the backlight and the black glass roof panel give the impression that the roof is suspended over the greenhouse. Subtlety here is helpful. Overhangs, front and rear, are minimized and the wheelbase is long.  There is space for 3 wheels between front and rear wheelarches where typically there would be just 2 and a half. Large wheel arches create an impression of real power. One small drawback: body surfaces seem to be a little too complex, causing reflections that hinder us from the reading the true form of the body side. But all of this should be corrected in the final version.


Mazda, the Japanese manufacturer that is less well known than the likes of Honda, Toyota and Nissan, but nevertheless has a large product range with its own personal style providing a great alternative for customers wishing to buy something different. In Geneva, Mazda revealed 3 new cars:
The CX3 is intended to take its place in the growth market of Crossover compacts. Exterior style follows the Mazda tradition with an expressive grille and a strong character line. Interior is modern with a visual effect similar to the one used by Mercedes.
The second Mazda introduction was the final version of the eagerly awaited new MX5 Coupe; the incontestable n°1 small sports car in the world for over 20 years!!! In order to continue satisfying its regular customers, the new MX5 body is a little more round than its predecessors, but a larger grille and slim headlights result in a more aggressive appearance. Nice work has been done with the light running along the bodyside. Reflections change with the angle you view the car giving life to the form. The “nose” is lower than the previous version and the light climbs in order to reach its peak at the level of the front wheelarch. The light comes down again towards the back, including over the rear wheelarch. This is all accomplished with a fluid movement along the body. Truly, it is a sculpture in motion.  An interesting small detail: the rear lights are simple and round, enhancing the sporty look, they will remind you of some Italian sports cars.  Most important for us is still the retractable roof. This is a very nice feature at the MX5 price point, especially in comparison with other competitive products. We look forward to the pleasure of driving this new toy.


To be continued…





NAIAS 2015 : AMERICA IS BACK ! – Part V [end]

Acura made the biggest splash among the Japanese brands with the long awaited production version of the Acura NSX.  The car is stunning, as well as being a technological tour de force.  Interestingly, the production design was completed in the US by a team led by Michelle Christensen, the engineering/development was done in the US and the manufacturing will be conducted in a new ‘craft centre’ at the Honda plant in Ohio.  Full marks to Honda for allowing the vehicle to be developed outside Japan and in its major market.  The final version is faithful to the concept model, even though the packaging went through several iterations to accommodate various different powertrain permutations and the dimensions grew in both length and width.  The end result is suitably dramatic from all angles — if only we could drive one.
During the press days Honda displayed their fuel cell concept, presumably to match the one also found on the Toyota stand.  Neither car is particularly attractive, but they are distinctive and standing out is certainly an appropriate goal for a vehicle powered by this future technology.  Now all we need is a hydrogen infrastructure……..
Honda also demonstrated their racing prowess with a display featuring the Honda powered 2014 Indy 500 winner and the 1965 Mexican GP winning F1 car.  We look forward to the return of Honda to F1 this season.
Toyota displayed the FT-1 concept car again — this time with gunmetal grey metallic paint.  Frankly it looked a lot better than with last year’s red paint job.  The big introduction for Toyota in Detroit was the new mid-sized Tacoma truck.  No big design breakthroughs here so let’s move on to Lexus.  The signature “bobbin” grilles are getting bigger and bigger, but they are still hard to love.  If you can get past the grilles, there are some decent looking products available from this brand — the GSF 4-door and the RCF coupe being two great examples.  The ground hugging GT3 racing version of the RCF coupe painted in bright white made a dramatic statement and a strong declaration of intent.
Nissan’s big news was also on the truck side of the business with the introduction of an all-new Titan full-sized pick-up.  Neither Nissan nor Toyota have been as successful in the large truck market as they expected, but this is probably another step in the right direction for Nissan, especially with a brand new V8 Cummins diesel available under the hood.
The Infiniti Q60 concept was one of the most interesting designs at the show.  The Q60 is 2-door coupe (yes, really!) with strong and interesting design cues from front to rear.  The front end is dramatic, with sinister ‘hooded’ headlamps, a bold grille with a large illuminated emblem and two large lower air intakes with integrated fog lamps terminating in bold character lines sweeping up towards the headlamps.  The side view is equally strong with big wheels, deep sculptured panels and an interesting quarter window termination.  The theme continues in the rear with bold shapes around the exhausts an integrated decklid spoiler and taillamps that echo the “hooded eyes” of the front.  Let’s hope they build this one!
It is good to see the success of Jaguar/Land Rover under Tata management.  Jaguar introduced the XE sedan (a BMW 3-Series fighter) at the show to complete their range of handsome sedans.  The XE has the appearance of being a little bigger than the BMW, but in our opinion it is the best looking of the three cars.  Land Rover came to the show with the latest version of the Discovery and some new diesel powered models.


All in all the Detroit show was good this year.  The atmosphere was upbeat and confident with some stunning designs to grab our attention.  The 4 cars that stood out for us were the Ford GT, the Acura NSX, the Buick Avenir and the Infiniti Q60.
Now it is on to Geneva.


On the first press day, Nissan displayed the IDx Freeflow and Nismo concepts that debuted in Tokyo last year.  This concept was an exercise in co-creation and was developed in close coordination with target customers from the “digital native generation”  — those born after 1990. They proposed a simple, ideally proportioned 3-box design, without legacy references.   Although it looked fresh, it did remind us of some older Datsun products, especially the B210.   A little bit « vintage », just enough retro…This might work in Japan, but we don’t see it as a global product.
On the second media day, Nissan unveiled the SSC or Sport Sedan Concept that is being positioned as a pre-curser to the Maxima replacement.  Resplendent in ‘Strad-Amber’ orange paint, it made quite a statement and is way sportier looking than the present Maxima.  The SSC might be overdone for that segment of the market and for many people at the show, but isn’t the whole point of a concept vehicle to stretch the thinking of both the designers and the customers?  We would expect that the aggressive “V-Motion” front end with flying V (some say boomerang) headlamps would be toned down for the production car, but its key feature, a long floating roof extending almost to the rear of the decklid is probably going to be retained to a significant extent.  This roofline gives the impression of a streamlined cabin with a substantial lower body.  The SSC and the Toyota FT-1 put the industry on notice that the Japanese manufacturers are intent on taking a new styling direction away from dull cars and into a dramatic new era.
Infinity unveiled the ‘in your face’ Q50 Eau Rouge, a four door sports sedan clearly targeted at Mercedes Benz AMG models and BMW M Series.  With a suitable powertrain – say from the Nissan GTR, this car could take the fight to establishment in Europe.  With the name, the F1 accents front and rear, great wheels, carbon fiber galore and Sebastian Vettel as the Director of Performance, this could really work.  There is a lot of uniqueness from the Q50, but let’s hope Infinity can make financial sense of this – it looks like fun.  By the way, inside there is red infused carbon fiber on the doors and the center console; outside the color was created by spraying 24 coats of red-tinted clear over a silver base coat.
Lexus should watch their friends at Infinity a little more closely.  The Infinity Q30 hatchback, compact SUV concept (yes, another one) in an interesting shade of copper is an example of how it should be done.  The vehicle is dramatic without being overdone.  The forms, proportions and features are exciting yet the vehicle looks real and production ready.  In this genre, Infinity may have one of the best solutions.