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The Gripz rides on airy 22-inch wheels developed especially for it by Bridgestone to evoke bicycle wheels. (Dan Carney)

Nissan shows Gripz crossover concept

After a run of success with unorthodox SUV styling, especially in the Juke subcompact crossover SUV, Nissan has apparently decided to mine this vein as the company’s new signature.

The result, shown at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, is the Gripz Concept, a sleek crossover SUV that seeks to chisel another niche into the Nissan’s already-packed line of SUVs. “We want to redefine the crossover segment,” explained Giovanny Arroba, Creative Design Manager for Nissan Design Europe, the London studio responsible for the concept.

Citing the Juke as a prior success in this this effort, he said, “This is a very important segment for us, and we wanted to see how far we could push it.”

Far enough to ruffle enthusiasts’ feathers, who fear that the Gripz could be approved for production at a time when the 370Z may be dropped from the line, prompting them to view the Gripz as the Z-car’s replacement. Arroba insists that the Gripz stands on its own and is unrelated to other product decisions, but the company made enough attempts to link the Gripz to the Z that suspicions remain that Nissan views it as a next-generation Z.

Aside from the “z” at the end of its name, the Gripz Concept also wears a matte black hood with orange-red paint as a tribute to the Safari Rally Z, an off-road racing version of the early 240Z. Nissan won the Safari Rally with the car.

Aside from the nod to the off-road sports cars of 40 years ago, the main inspiration for the Gripz Concept was road bicycles, reported Arroba. The car features a carbon frame, with body panels mounted over it. Exposed carbon elements such as the boomerang-shaped door structure underscore its construction.

“The interior guys brought in the road-bike inspiration, and it spread to the exterior because it struck a chord with us,” said Arroba. The idea was to leave frame materials and vehicle componentry exposed as they are on bicycles, he said. “We’re not padding and insulating and hiding that,” he said.

Beyond the openings for the scissor front and rear-hinged rear doors, sharp angles abound in the Gripz Concept, from its V-shaped grille to its indented triangular sills. Even the exhaust pipe tips are trapezoidal.

It does have exhaust because there is an internal combustion under the hood, though the concept’s powertrain is a series hybrid, so the gasoline engine’s power spins a generator that powers an electric motor borrowed from the Leaf EV.

Nissan provided no additional technical details, just saying that the electric drive system lends the concept a smooth, refined, and exhilarating driving experience with outstanding fuel efficiency.

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