Starts with a fingerprint scan, comes with a koi fish personal assistant. Yes.

This is the Nissan Xmotion concept (pronounced cross motion), which today made its world premiere at the Detroit motor show.

The 4.6-metre-long concept car previews a future mid-sized three-row SUV with rugged design, which could well fill a void in the company’s range between the X-Trail and Pathfinder, and take owners “to a national park or recreation area on a whim”.

Ok maybe we’re extrapolating a little. Nissan itself calls the all-wheel drive concept “a design exploration for a potentially groundbreaking compact SUV, building on the company’s long history of cutting-edge crossovers and SUVs”.

So what’s it got?

It’s a six-passenger (4+2) crossover that’s designed to fuse American-style ruggedness and Japanese craftsmanship, the company says. Add to this mix the latest iteration of Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility semi-autonomous tech.

At the same time, this show concept comes with precious few tangible tech details. There are no particular bold claims of Level 3 autonomy, and no mention of what drivetrain the concept's theoretical production end-point will use. An e-Power hybrid would be an obvious guess…

“At a glance, Xmotion may appear to have a minimal design language, but a closer look reveals layers of detail that make this concept exceptional,” reckons the company’s design head Alfonso Albaisa.

“It draws inspiration from the Japanese aesthetics and techniques that have been passed down through generation after generation. At the same time, it achieves the modern purposefulness required for drivers in the near-future era of connected, autonomous crossover vehicles,” he added. A good pitch.

Highlights include U-shaped headlights, an evolved Nissan ‘V-motion’ grille shape, chunky run-flat tyres and big 21-inch wheels, a retractable roof box, and tail-lights apparently inspired by Japanese woodwork. The boxy profile and flared contours make it look pretty tough.

“The U-shaped body sides presented a big challenge in changing from one surface to another while keeping the shape,” Albaisa said. “We went through a lot of clay modeling work to achieve the look.”

The concept is 4590mm long, so a touch shorter than the X-Trail, but its wheelbase is longer than a Hyundai Santa Fe’s, meaning the overhangs can be reduced to (a) make it look cooler, and (b) improve the approach and departure angles.

The three-row cabin with a gap between each pair of seats (said to represent the imagery of a river, in designer-speak, replete with the centre console acting as a 'bridge') uses a traditional Japanese architectural wood joinery technique, kanawa tsugi.

The Xmotion’s instrument panel design is called a modern interpretation of traditional kigumi wood joinery.

“By using the kigumi structure in the instrument panel and console, the vehicle’s interior suggests a robust bone structure, creating a sense of strength and trust,” Nissan’s press release says.

We don’t really know what it’s talking about, but sure.

The interior includes a total of seven digital screen portions. Three main displays and left and right end displays span the width of the instrument panel. There’s also a “digital room mirror” in the ceiling and a centre console display.

The displays and infotainment system can be controlled by gestures and eye movements, or by voice.

Perhaps most interestingly, fingerprint authentication is used to start the car. When the driver touches the fingerprint authentication area on the top of the console, the opening sequence starts, awakening the virtual personal assistant – which takes the shape of a Japanese koi fish.

“The koi jumps into the main screen. After linking with the driver's smartphone, the navigation system automatically recognises the destination, and other user information – such as weather, music and vehicle system info – will be activated,” Nissan adds.

“For example, in autonomous drive mode, while changing lanes or overtaking other traffic, the virtual personal assistant will pick up other “browsing” information about points of interest along the way. In this way, the koi acts as a storyteller to connect human and machine.”

Ok, that part has us intrigued.

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