Nissan is trying to do something different with the all-electric IMs concept that it just unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.
For one thing, the company claims that the shape — sedan-like but also kind of bulky like a CUV — puts the EV into its own, brand-new segment: the “elevated sports sedan.”
For another, Nissan invited Alfonso Albaisa, its global head of design, and Giovanni Arroba, program design director, to take over the Cobo Hall stage for a 20-minute talk about the design of this smokey new electric vehicle.
The main reason the IMs claims to be something new starts with the fact that it has an electric powertrain. Because there’s a flat battery pack in the floor and no driveshaft tunnel, Albaisa, Arroba, and their teams were able to emphasize the interior space. Then they stretched the wheelbase to 114 inches and raised the ride height to further increase the roominess of the cabin.
Figuring they could go even further, the rear seats are an unusual setup where you can arrange them in the traditional three-across bench seats or you can fold the side away and emphasize the center seat and really give one rear passenger the feeling of traveling in style. Given the concept car’s autonomous driving features, this rear seat seems like the place to ride, should anything like the IMs ever make it to production.
Emphasizing the rear seat is not just an idle thought exercise. Nissan sells around 1.5 million cars a year in China, where rear seats are more important, and designing for that market — which is also still strong with EVs — is a smart commercial move.
“Advances in electric vehicle technology and autonomous driving have allowed our designers to break free of the platform and packaging rules that constrain traditional passenger vehicles, to create a completely new type of car,” Albaisa said in a statement.
EV-accentuating touches can be found throughout the car. Some of the most obvious are the yellowish roof lines that stand out from the otherwise grey vehicle. During the on-stage presentation, Arroba said these color choices were totally deliberate.
“The black and the copper-gold and the stealth satin body color gives it that very stealthy jet look,” he said. “Copper is a conductor of electricity, so it does play with the whole electrification theme. We wanted a very solid body block and a very light architectural upper.”
The concept as a whole was supposed to embody three keywords, Arroba said: sleek, sexy, and seamless. The exterior certainly manages this, with two slim headlights (sorry, “V-Motion light blades”) — the main attraction up front, and large, 22-inch wheels dominating the side profile. The wheels repeat the black and copper-yellow color tone of the roof line.
Inside, the IMs is supposed to look somewhat mid-century, Arroba said, and it tries to capture something optimistic about that time period. This is the feeling he gets from electric cars, and he wanted to reflect that in the design.
“[You can] eliminate some of the inessential things we won’t need in an EV. We got rid of the driveshaft tunnel, we actually got rid of the center console. You have all of the controls you need on the driver’s seat. Moving the HVAC into the engine room really opens up and creates a new EV space.”
In the end, Albaisa and Arroba said that the IMs mixes two seemingly opposite ideas. The concept vehicle is meant to be both a driver’s sports sedan as well as a space to just enjoy the ride in autonomous mode.
“It’s like stepping into a movie theater and experiencing something new,” Arroba said, “to really enjoy the autonomous ride as a thrill.”
Despite the fact that the IMs is an auto show concept car, Nissan provided technical details. Two electric motors, one on each axle, offer up 483 horsepower (360 kW) of power and 590 pound-feet (800 Nm) of torque. The 115 kWh battery gives the IMs a 380 mile estimated range. For now, of course, the IMs won’t move much past the auto show stage, but it’s fun to dream.
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