Revitalizing the sedan isn't anything new to Nissan -- just three years ago it introduced the current seventh-generation Maxima as the new age affordable "four-door sports car" (or 4DSC) fit for mall sprees and canyon runs. Even still, Nissan's design leaders say, the well-aged segment remains bland.
For 2010 and beyond, there is a need for the sedan (otherwise known as the "rational or functional choice", Nissan Design America vice president Alfonso Albaisa explained) to evolve into a vehicle with "more emotion".
"A new customer is coming into this mature segment," Albaisa mentioned at a private media gathering. Said customer is no longer predominantly male and in need of an athletic everyday people mover.
"She's between 30 and 40 years old," the designer revealed. "She's always respected the sedan, but she might be one that has a crossover or something else. The sedan has a value, but she thinks the sedan has become boring."
Shiro Nakamura, Nissan senior vice president and chief creative officer (the main man in charge of all Nissan/Infiniti design), agrees. "Nissan crossovers are expressive. We're trying to bring expression to the sedan."
Under Nakamura-san's guidance, everything also adheres to the "Spirit of Iki". "Iki is the traditional Japanese way of expression," he said. "(It is) fashionable, but not too showy. It has been used for over 500 years in Tokyo -- mainly for common people."
With that entire mindset, the automaker's design houses in Kanagawa, Japan and San Diego, California collaborated to create the Ellure concept you see here.
Although completely fresh, its modern physique remains distinctly Nissan with broad elements, strong shoulders, and well-hidden traits derived from Japanese culture. The tension, release, and interception of dynamic shapes plays a key role in the styling philosophy, too.
Crystalline LED lights are one trait designers employed to express a new emotion. Kinked, boomerang-shaped headlights look futuristic in a Tron sort of way and are matched with equally chiseled and drastically kinked LED taillights.
In between both lamps sets resides a family of character lines. Long, curvaceous lateral forms emanate from the front grille (which is inspired by samurai wardrobe or kamishimo) and slice (no pun intended) right below the slim windows. A blacked-out b-pillar gives a sense of spaciousness and additional vehicle length, while the centralized door handles hint at the creative "suicide door" application.
Wide muscular haunches allow for a tabletop trunk lid with integrated spoiler. Designers penned it to mimic the traditional torii (gates) found throughout Japan. Think modern day Altima in terms of length and width and you wouldn't be too far off in imagining the Ellure's stature, though it appears to ride lower on its streamlined wheels.
One of the Ellure's more interesting elements is its short, blunt hood -- our intel indicates a proprietary hybrid (maybe a version M35 Hybrid's setup) or electric powertrain (possibly from the Leaf) motivates this theoretical ride. Further fueling our intrigue are the lack of exhaust cutouts and an aerodynamically efficient sealed underbody.
At our meeting, Nakamura-san only confirmed that the concept is a front-wheel drive, four-cylinder model. However, he did allude to it possibly utilizing hybrid or EV power in the future.
As you might expect, the female buyer's contemporary persona continues its influence within the design concept's interior.
"She's sophisticated, but has a rebellious spirit. She's intellectual, but emotional," Albaisa points out. "During the day she's in the office, but at night she's young, active, and going out."
Driver and her front passenger travel in a cabin gleaming with "effortless" haptic controlled technology (think iPad), comfortable leathers, and eco-friendly materials (a la the Leaf and PET). The air vents, central multimedia interface, and three-spoke truncated steering wheel take on the front grille's kamishimo shape. A reclining seat spoils the front passenger with a hidden ottoman.
On the black lacquer crust of the flowing dashboard is a full length high definition display showing pertinent vehicle details and multimedia functions. Its outermost corners serve as screens for rear points of view -- there are no finicky rearview mirrors to be found. Facing forward, the long, wide windshield provides a clear view of the road ahead.
Unlatch a wide rear-hinged door and a lounge-like atmosphere welcomes back passengers. Replete with ultra suede, LED lighting (found even in the seats), and supple recycled leather, the rear space is as capacious as it is dark, cool, and stylish -- it represents the "Eco Night Life", Albaisa noted. Look up and below to notice a rug and ceiling donning spiral designs colored in a black and glowing molten theme. Live fabrics (materials with imbedded sensors that react to human touch) line each of the four doors.
If you're wondering about a possible Ellure production car having all the above goodies and amazing technology, Nakamura-san explained it best. "It is a serious car. But our intent is to not bring it to market. It's our showing of design and future direction."
The Ellure certainly delivers on its promise of attractive expression and modern emotion. So will hordes of female drivers inundate Nissan's LA Auto Show display with deposits in hand? Probably not. But we wouldn't be surprised if it piques their interest, along with that of their male counterparts. Safe to say, it has ours.