Nissan Gripz concept

Nissan pulled the wraps off of its Gripz concept this week at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show.

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Believe it or not, this compact crossover pays homage to Nissan's 1971 Safari Rally-winning Nissan 240Z.

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The concept stretches the limits of the automaker's current design language with boomerang-shaped headlamps, the "V-Motion" grille and other angular elements.

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Like the Juke and Qashqui crossovers, the Gripz blends a coupe-like profile with the elevated ground clearance of an SUV.

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The chassis is composed of carbon fiber, upon which Nissan has laid a body of lightweight composite.

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Nissan says that the conceptual powertrain beneath the skin is a "Pure Drive e-Power" setup.

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The wheels are driven by an electric motor that is identical to that of the Nissan Leaf EV.

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The motor puts a stated 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque to the wheels via a single-speed transmission.

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The automaker says that "an efficient petrol engine" is used to power the electric motor (much like the Chevrolet Voltec powertrain), but did not state the specs of this generator.

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A motor identical to that of the Nissan Leaf seems to indicate that the Gripz is most likely only two-wheel drive. Its sporty character and Z-car heritage lean toward rear-wheel drive.

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The front doors swing up and away from the rear-hinged back doors to reveal a massive, pillar-less portal into the cabin.

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The compact concept has space for four in its sparse cabin.

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Honestly, I was a bit disappointed to see Nissan exploring a compact crossover inspired by the Z when the actual production Z languishes without major updates for another year.

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Nissan says that the concept combines "the stripped-back lightness of a Tour de France road-racing bicycle with the strength of a rally car." I suppose that both of those things have wheels? I'm not seeing the connection.

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Nissan's style still rubs me the wrong way, but Gripz's promise to blend the handling of the Juke and the Leaf's electric torque with a lightweight chassis seems promising.

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