With exterior design by the manufacturer’s team in Paddington and an interior created by their colleagues in Tokyo, the Gripz is billed as “a radical new type of sports car” by Nissan.
As outlined by Autocar last month, the firm intends to gauge reaction to the idea of a sports crossover, but it has already decided to expand the remit of the Z sub-brand to include vehicles that are more ‘everyday’ than the existing 370Z.
The Gripz draws inspiration from two main sources: the classic Datsun 240Z rally car that won the East African Safari Rally in 1971 and sports bicycles that are used as commuter tools during the week but enjoyed at the weekend.
The ‘z’ in Gripz is a direct nod to the Z brand. Visual cues include a distinctive kink in the window line near the C-pillar and a carbonfibre bonnet that apes the black finish on the rally car’s engine cover. A simple three-spoke steering wheel looks like it could have featured on the rally car, although it is adorned with bicycle-influenced graphics.
The Gripz is slightly shorter than a Juke, at 4100mm, and its roofline is 65mm lower. The concept is considerably wider, by 135mm, and its wheelbase is 50mm longer. The front end of the car incorporates many of Nissan’s latest styling cues, including the strong ‘V’ below the prominent badge in the grille and boomerang headlights that are influenced by both the Juke and the 370Z.
The side stance is unmistakably that of a sports car, with references to the stance of the 350Z and 370Z, albeit jacked up on 22in wheels. The cabin appears to have been pulled towards the back, while the roof rails - a mix of body-coloured material and a contrasting metal finish - taper down towards the car’s rear.The rear treatment includes deep scallops in the bodywork, boomerang tail-lights and, in another nod to the 240Z, an unusual carbonfibre element that incorporates a lip spoiler.
The concept uses a version of Nissan’s PureDrive Hybrid system, with a petrol engine acting as a range extender to keep the batteries charged and electric motors driving all four wheels. A production model would be based on Nissan’s forthcoming CMF AB platform - set to be used by the next Micra and Juke - and wouldbe front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, with a turbocharged petrol engine.
The cabin is deliberately industrial, because Nissan’s designers in Tokyo wanted it to reflect the functionality of a sports bicycle. There are just a handful of materials on show, including artificial leather, carbonfibre and coloured metal with a mixture of gloss and anodised finishes.
Some of the leather patches are designed to be removed or changed for personalisation or if the owner wants even more of a bare cabin look. The layout is a 2+2, with two deeply scalloped rear seats cut into what looks like a single-piece panel.
A pair of carbonfibre spoilers at the end of the roofline give a modest boost to head room for the rear passengers, although they also house the hinges for the hatchback. The concept does without side mirrors, instead using cameras mounted in the ‘gills’ on the front wings.
Nissan says the Gripz is a design study, but the brief for the design contest was to consider how the firm “can continue to lead the B-crossover market” and a 2+2 sports crossover - positioned alongside or slightly above the Juke in the line-up and carrying the fabled Z badge - is very likely to make production.
Philippe Klein, Nissan’s product planning chief, told Autocar at the Frankfurt motor show: “The concept is an exploration, to see different trends in the market. With crossovers and SUVs we’ve strengths already. We see people still looking for a dynamic sports car. Fuel economy also, and alternative drive. All these topics. [The concept] explores the best way to combine all these."
Klein did however say that the 370Z remains a success and Nissan had “no urgency” for a replacement, although he did say that “standard evolution is not best for this kind of product”. “We won’t see a 390Z or 400Z,” he said, as it “doesn’t make a lot of sense” in the current market.
Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below: