We knew Nissan was bringing a new take on the Z car to the Frankfurt motor show. Based on the freaky teaser video, we suspected it would be some sort of crossover-type thing.
Yet we weren’t really expecting the Nissan Gripz (the “z” is for “Z car,” get it?!), a Maxima-nosed 4X4 concept supposedly inspired by the Safari Rally-winning Datsun 240Zs of yore. And it’s kinda cool, maybe. But we refuse to call it a Z car.
There’s a lot going on here visually. The front bears the hallmarks of Nissan’s “emotionalgeometry” styling language, which you’ll also see on the 2016 Nissan Maxima. Look closely, and you’ll notice that it’s actually a four-door (or five-door, if you count the hatch); the rear doors flip up, and the rear doors open suicide-style.
Functional? Sure, as long as you look past the nonexistent headroom that comes courtesy of the cut roofline.
As much as we want to believe visions of Isuzu Vehicrosses danced through Nissan designers’ heads as they sat at their drafting tables, the automaker is sticking with its Safari Rally 240Z story. Hence the aggressive, lifted stance, red paint and matte black hood. Also, it’s inspired by racing bicycles, which is why the steering wheel looks like a carbon-fiber racing wheel and there’s sort of a bike seat motif on the interior.
The powertrain, per Nissan, is a “Pure Drive e-Power” series hybrid system that uses a small gasoline engine to power a Nissan Leaf’s electric motor, presumably supplemented by a bank of batteries. Despite all that, it gets a pair of beefy exhaust tips, for some reason.
There’s a racing bike motif thing going on in here.
Though it’s a compact crossover, Nissan senior VP and chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura says the Gripz is “not seen as a direct replacement” for the Rogue or the Juke — which seems fairly obvious given its size and configuration. We hope it’s not considered a replacement for the 370Z, either; though the current Z car isn’t perfect, its formula is worth refining for future generations, not tossing out the window entirely.
So if this is built in any form, we hope it supplements a new two-door sports car rather than replaces it outright. Given the recent onslaught of crossover coupes, there probably is enough room in Nissan’s lineup for both, anyway — and in today’s market, it makes a heck of a lot more sense than the poor, neglected IDx.