Andy Palmer stood on the stage in front of three cars. One was the Nissan Sport Sedan Concept, just having made its world debut at the North American International Auto Show moments before. The others were the two Nissan IDx concepts, revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show late last year, the IDx Freeflow and the IDx NISMO. It was for the moment a rather uneventful press introduction, with the two North America debutants backing up the newly revealed concept that’s an obvious precursor to the next Nissan Maxima.
Then Palmer, chief planning officer for Nissan Motor Co., said something interesting. “Two of these models,” said Palmer, “are set for production in 2016.”
That provides the timing of the next generation Nissan Maxima, still two years to go and further than we’d like. But it also meant one of the two IDx concepts would be made. Though which Palmer wasn’t saying which.
A bit of background: The IDx models are designers’ flights of fancy, using phrases like “digital natives” and “feedback into the creation process,” and even “co-creation dialog.” The design, according to Nissan, “incorporates digital natives’ direct expression of the ideal form of ultimate simplicity in a compact sedan.” The “ID” comes from “identification” which relates “to the things all individuals relate to on a personal level in the car.” Meanwhile, the “x” stands for the variable—remember the algebra you thought you’d never use?—“representing the new values and dreams born through communication.”
In other words, the designers put together a pair of three-box sedans, the Freeflow in beige—or rather, “white and flax”—that “reflects the sensibilities of the co-creators—the outlook of people who seek natural and tasteful things in every aspect of their daily lives.” No doubt these people know how cook pomegranates and grow their own sandals, or at least buy them at the farmers’ market. We’ll point out that the IDx Freeflow “come(s) from a powertrain with a 1.2-liter or 1.5-liter gasoline engine mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission.” It’s all for the “requisite high level of fuel economy and driving performance.” More, we’d say, of the former and less of the latter.
The Nissan IDx Freeflow is tofu on wheels.
Enter the Nissan IDx NISMO. Anyone who knows Nissan performance knows NISMO, covering everything from performance enhanced production models to Nissan’s involvement in international racing. So the Nissan IDx NISMO not surprisingly reflects the digital natives who “grew up playing racing simulation games that feature cars of the past and from all corners of the globe.” The IDx NISMO would be a way for them to realize that virtual driving experience.
In other words, the IDx NISMO is the car of their digital dreams, at least within the typical income levels of those born in the ‘90s.
The IDx NISMO “took the distilled heritage of Nissan’s basic box-shaped racing of the past”—to stop beating around the bush, it’s the fabled Datsun 510—and “married it with various intriguing new details.” Meaning, it’s not a retro 510. Car designers simply can’t leave things alone, you know.
Comparing the IDx NISMO with the IDx Tapioca, er, Freeflow, the two cars are the same length and height, but the NISMO is a significant 3.6 inches wider. One of the hallmarks, says Nissan, of the “box-type racecars”—Nissan just can’t say Datsun 510—is “speediness conveyed by a reverse-slanted nose,” more exaggerated but recalling the 510. Other changes to the classic Datsun’s contours are front and rear and left and right aerodynamic spoilers. Side mufflers, to use Nissan’s words, exude cool. And reportedly sound good too.
Inside the IDx NISMO has “racing-inspired” red Alcantara-covered seats along with racer-like plain instrument mounting. Metal surfaces contrast with bright red suede trim with blue stitching.
That’s easy enough, but the Nissan IDx NISMO designers went with lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels with 225/40R19 tires, and under the hood projects a “high-performance, eco-friendly 1.6-liter direct-injection turbocharged engine. The transmission Datsun 510 enthusiasts will likely find cringeworthy, a “sporty” CVT, that even with a 6-speed manual shift mode and synchronized rev matching will leave them cold. But important to the box-type racecar enthusiast, rear-wheel drive. It’s an imperative.
According to Shiro Nakamura, senior vice president and chief creative officer of Nissan Motor Co., “This machine’s soul-stirring design echoes the racing car imagery of the past united with the buzz digital natives get from the virtual world they know well.” At least, we’d say, if they get out of their parents’ basements. “That this car could result from co-creation dialog alone exemplifies Nissan’s fresh approach to contemplating car design, and even kindles a fire in the hearts of people fond of the good old days of high-performance cars.”
Nakamura-san might be talking about the hard-core Datsun 510 enthusiast, who by eavesdropping on the social media conversations of the predominantly digital natives of the internet, we found a certain equivocation about the Nissan IDx NISMO. We’ve taken the liberty of transcribing a couple: