Nissan's new Xmotion concept (pronounced cross motion, according to the company) debuting at the North American International Auto Show continues the automaker's experimentation with applying smoother, more streamlined styling for its crossovers. The firm intends to begin applying this sleek aesthetic to its production vehicles in 2020. If the models can maintain these svelte cues in the transition to the road, they should look fantastic, too.
The Xmotion refines Nissan's V-shaped grille by giving it an understated shape with gloss black louvers. Thin metallic trim outlines the edges and continues up the hood. U-shaped LED headlights accentuate the vehicle's width.
The front three-quarters perspective is the model's major highpoint. The subtle sculpting for the big fenders provides a smooth appearance, while remaining rugged. The pewter-colored paint accentuates these lines even more, and the company wraps the fenders and side sills in carbon fiber.
At the rear, Nissan's designers continue to apply delicately subtle styling. Skinny taillights wrap around the sides. There's no visible opening for the hatchback, the roof-mounted carrier provides a place to haul cargo.
Inside, the Xmotion fits six people side across three rows of two seats each, and a floating console runs down the center of the vehicle. The designers extensively apply references to Japan throughout the cabin, too. For example, the lower portion of the dashboard is wood and uses an architectural joinery technique that doesn't require fasteners or glue. In addition, when the infotainment system starts up, it initially takes on the appearance of a koi fish. The red and white upholstery reference's Japan's flag, too.
Nissan clearly sees the Xmotion as mainly a styling exercise because the company makes no reference to the vehicle's powertrain. The company says that the concept does pack the ProPilot semi-autonomous driving tech, though.
Live photos: Patrick Hoey / Motor1.com
Gallery: Nissan Xmotion concept
Nissan Xmotion Concept fuses technology with Japanese artistry
Dramatic three-row SUV concept signals a Nissan design direction for 2020 and
Stunning exterior features a powerful, dynamic presence with understated
sculptural beauty – including unique U-shaped highlights and a bold evolution of
Nissan’s signature V-motion grille
Crafted interior design symbolizes a Japanese landscape, honoring Nissan’s roots
while looking forward to an era of connected, autonomous vehicles enabled by
Nissan Intelligent Mobility
DETROIT (Jan. 15, 2018) – 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
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 lattice pattern 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
In the rear, the unique tail light 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 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,”
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
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 genuine
wood look was achieved by using veneers, 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 “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 has a 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
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
“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.”