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Nissan’s New EV Concept Tries to Save the Full-Size Sport Sedan

Is the IMs the next Maxima, an upcoming autonomous EV—or both?

The reversal of the longstanding trend of longer, lower, and wider cars started in the 1950s is complete with Nissan's unveiling of its IMs "elevated sport sedan," a 59.0-inch-tall EV that looks like it could become the next Maxima. Nissan calls the design a "slipstream cabin arch over a B-pillarless interior space."

Nissan placed the IMs's flat, high-capacity battery pack under the passenger compartment, a space which designers prioritized by visually separating the greenhouse from the body, according to the automaker. Lack of a traditional internal-combustion engine allowed Nissan designers to emphasize roominess to create "an open, airy cabin that can play the dual role of a commanding cockpit or a lounge-like room."

The Nissan IMs concept points to the future of four-door sedans. Target constituents would seem to include aging baby boomers who may not want to step up or step down into a vehicle, as well as shared ride services such as Uber and Lyft, whose customers would appreciate easier ingress and egress, too. To that end, the roof of the Nissan IMs sits just 0.1 inch lower than does the Infiniti QX30 crossover's. Its other exterior dimensions are fairly typical of modern midsize sedans, with a 190.0-inch overall length and 74.0-inch width on a 114.0-inch wheelbase.

The IMs uses what Nissan calls a new electric vehicle platform, with front and rear electric motors powering all four wheels. Here, the dual motors combine to make a claimed 483 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, and the 115-kWh battery pack offers, Nissan says, 380 miles of range. Despite the design flexibility allowed by electric powertrains, the IMs design has front-wheel-drive proportions, like a Nissan Maxima. It rides on an air suspension with adaptive ride sensors, and the car offers fully manual and fully autonomous driving modes.

The Nissan IMs's concept car tricks include handle-less suicide doors, no B-pillar, and cameras in place of the sideview mirrors that fold into the body when the car is being driven autonomously. The concept also has 22-inch wheels and tires, a glass roof, thin pillars, and "super-flush" side glass. There's also an "Invisible-to-Visible" augmented reality display that uses sensors and cloud data help occupants or drivers see things around the car that might otherwise be hidden.

The interior features what Nissan calls a 3D-printed "kumiko" structure on the instrument panel, as well as a driver display that uses a floating clear screen with dual layers. Nissan calls the center of the wide rear seat a "Premier Seat," and the slim outboard seats can be folded into a delta shape for private jet-style travel. The instrument and door panels are covered in a woven black material with gold fabric mesh accents. The interior floor is covered in custom carpeting with a "Shock Diamond" pattern.

The concept's exterior lighting features a horizontal light blade in front that sends pulses of light to the interior and on to rear holographic lamps, where they meet at the center of the rear end before the sequence begins again at the front. It looks cool, but the purpose is unclear beyond that. Strip away the show-car fanciness, though, and at the very least you can see the design language likely to be adopted for the next-generation Maxima due for the 2021 or 2022 model year. The IMs concept also appears to be a peek at what Nissan is envisioning for an autonomous electric vehicle that could come within the next decade.