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Detroit 2019: Nissan’s ‘sinister’ IMs electric sedan concept

15 January 2019 | by Lem Bingley

Nissan revealed its IMs electric sports sedan concept at the Detroit show, a follow-up to the IMx electric crossover first seen at the Tokyo show in October 2017. It extends some of the ideas embodied in the earlier show car, including its exploration of traditional Japanese culture.

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“Inside, we have this unique gold, Japanese fabric,” notes Giovanni Arroba, Nissan’s lead project designer for the car. “We were also inspired by traditional Japanese architecture. The houses can be quite dark, but then they bring in a gold shoji screen that actually brings in reflected light from outside. We wanted to create a kind of moody, almost sinister cabin, but with some light in the tones.”

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The satin grey exterior finish adds to the sense of menace. “We wanted that kind of stealthy, SR-71 feel,” Arroba says.

“It’s an EV for an optimistic future, but usually EVs are portrayed as white and clean – which this is – but we also wanted to give it a different personality for this concept. So that was our goal. I think the dark graphite really plays with the highlights of the gold.”

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The IMs has a sedan’s outline, raised up on 22-inch wheels to give a crossover-like stance. The arc describing the top of the glasshouse is a single pen stroke, Arroba says, accentuated by a gold colouration intended to evoke the conductive copper tracks of a circuit board. The satin paint emphasises the sheer, simplified shapes of the car’s flanks.

“We have a very tensioned, almost vertical form,” says Arroba.

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Creases arrow inwards across the flanks, stretching from the corners of the fenders to fade away before they can meet across the doors. The creases are very crisply defined, as are the vertical slashes that define the visual ends of the fenders, which also serve the double function of creating air curtains around the wheel arches.

“Those fins frame the car, and help us reduce the impression of the overhangs,” Arroba observes. “We wanted to have a very compact feel, with short overhangs – wheels pushed all the way to the corners, and a sports sedan feeling.”

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The rear windshield of the IMs runs straight under the car’s short deck to merge into a full-width rear lighting strip. The same continuity is echoed at the front. “The headlamp surface goes under the hood, almost as if it reappears as the windshield,” Arroba says. “That was the theme and the impression we tried to give.”

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With a short rear deck, relatively short bonnet and a tall stance, the IMs more closely resembles a bustle-back hatch than a classical sedan. At the front, the intersection of A-pillar and hood doesn’t quite qualify for cab-forward status. “This is somewhere in between,” Arroba notes. “We did move the A-pillar base forward to capture that really sleek arc [over the DLO].”

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As Arrobo goes on to note, the skateboard shape of the underlying electric platform can support many different packaging solutions: “You can now choose where you want the space – do you want it under the hood, or in the cabin? We chose to move everything out of the cabin to really create a new type of space.”

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With heating and ventilation gear moved under the hood, the interior regains a lot of space up front. The party piece in the IMs cabin is a rear seat that converts from a three-abreast bench into a luxurious armchair for one, courtesy of folding seat backs in the outer two positions.

This innovation is aimed at providing a relaxing space for a single occupant riding in autonomous mode. The front chairs can be turned aside to give the rear seat a better view of the road ahead.

“Once you let go of the steering wheel and the gas pedal, there are multiple things you can do in the car. And that’s the fun frontier for us to envision and play with,” Arroba concludes.

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