Frankfurt Motor Show: Nissan’s Gripz concept is the future of sports cars

Hot crossover is what Nissan’s new Z-car will be like

Nissan’s Gripz concept: a hint of what we can expect from the next-generation Nissan Juke

Nissan’s Gripz concept: a hint of what we can expect from the next-generation Nissan Juke

 

It’s shorter than a Juke, uses a hybrid drive system and has styling inspired by that of a sports bicycle. It also has a very silly name with a deadly serious intent. It’s the Nissan Gripz concept.

Now, ordinarily, we’d just call this a hint of what we can expect from the next-generation Nissan Juke, but the z at the end of the Gripz name reveals this concept’s true intent – Nissan is testing the waters to see if the buying public have any interest in a sporty SUV that trades on the firm’s Z-car heritage.

Indeed, Nissan’s product planners have already stated that they’re going to expand the Z-car lineup beyond old-fashioned rear-drive sports cars, and given the enormous appetite out there for high performance SUVs, consider this a done deal.

While Nissan says that much of the styling inspiration comes from modern racing bicycles, there are also strong links back to the 1971 Datsun 240Z rally car that won the old East Africa Safari Rally, thanks in part to some tall and rugged suspension that lifted the low slung sports car above the worst of the African terrain.

There are clever clamshell doors on both sides and a pared-back interior with a big, slim three spoke steering wheel that positively screams seventies Z-car. Although it’s shorter than a Juke, it’s also significantly wider and has a longer wheelbase, so it should be reasonably practical.

The Gripz is notionally powered by a petrol-electric hybrid range-extender setup, but that’s not very likely to make it through to any production model – expect turbo petrol and turbo diesel with front and four wheel drive if it’s given the sign-off – which it almost certainly will.

Although this doesn’t mean the death of the traditional Z-car as a sports car, it’s clear that Nissan wants to both leverage its experience in and tradition of making SUVs and also to give the Z-badge something else to do than just sit on the back of a relatively small-selling 370Z.