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Nissan's IMx Tokyo Motor Show concept is much more than a Leaf SUV

Autonomous long-range crossover packs wraparound OLED dashboard and can be used as a mobile power station.

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For a while now, the automotive news rumormill has been breathlessly promising an SUV based on the Nissan Leaf. This just-revealed IMx Tokyo Motor Show concept vehicle appears to be both exactly that vehicle, and yet, not that vehicle at all.

Nissan's knife-edged IMx crossover is a long-range electric SUV that seeks to encapsulate the company's Intelligent Mobility initiative in a single vehicle. That means not only is it a battery-powered proposition, it also features a future version of the company's ProPilot automated driving hardware that incorporates fully autonomous running. 

Powered by a pair of electric motors yielding 429 horsepower and a whopping 516 pound-feet of torque, the all-wheel-drive IMx offers both complete hands-off driving as well as a manual mode if the driver wants to take the wheel. About the size of a Nissan Rogue, the IMx doesn't actually ride on a derivative of the 2018 Nissan Leaf's platform at all — it sits atop a new architecture that affords a completely flat floor and room for a high-capacity battery pack. At a pre-show seminar at its Advanced Technology Center in Kanagawa, company officials told me that by 2022, 70% of Nissan EVs will be built on this scalable new architecture. 

While Nissan hasn't spelled out how big of a battery the IMx packs, the company says it provides for 600 kilometers of range -- 372 miles -- on Japan's (comparatively lenient) JC08 test cycle. 

The IMx features a new platform that will provide the basis of many future Nissan-Renault Alliance EVs.


The IMx's interior features a wraparound panoramic OLED instrument panel as well as unusual seats that have been partially 3D printed and covered in material that features a laser-etched pattern. Switches and knobs are notable by their absence, with most functions being carried out by hand gestures and eye movements, as well as spoken commands. 

An already sleek cabin becomes even more minimalist when ProPilot mode is selected. The yoke-style steering wheel and pedals fold out of the way, and the seats automatically recline to encourage relaxation and conversation.

Nissan has been talking up the idea of using EVs as mobile, on-demand power stations for some years now, and the IMx takes this idea to the next level thanks to its automated drive capability. Theoretically, the vehicle could drop off its occupants and then be directed to go park itself, where it could connect and return power back to the grid. One can envision a day where this capability could be leveraged to autonomously drive vehicles without occupants to areas with power outages, using the cars to provide temporary emergency power relief to residences and buildings. 

Open up and say "autonomy."


Certainly, Nissan would be wise to consider producing an all-electric SUV to capitalize on the booming popularity of softroaders in major markets worldwide, but I wouldn't necessarily expect a production electric SUV to look much like the IMx seen here. After all, at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, the Japanese automaker revealed its racy IDS Concept hatchback, a show car that shared some of the IMx's styling ideas. That vehicle was said to presage the styling of the second-generation Leaf, but now that the production version has been revealed, we know that the vehicles look very different (with the retail model appearing significantly more conservative than the show car).

I mentioned 2022 earlier, and that won't just be the timeframe when Nissan's new EV platform comes of age. It's also the year that Renault-Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn referenced in mid-September when he announced Alliance 2022, an ambitious six-year plan calling not just for a dozen new EV models, but also new vehicle connectivity and mobility services, and the launch of a "robo-vehicle ride-hailing service." 

The accompanying new-model blitz also includes 40 different vehicles with varying levels of automated driving. These as-yet-unspecified models are to be launched under Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi nameplates, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see at least one battery-electric Nissan SUV in that total. We'll just have to wait and see if it looks like the IMx.