NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: AARON MAI

As we peer into the crys­tal ball of the au­to­mo­tive fu­ture, the di­rec­tion is an un­cer­tain one. Within the spec­trum are glimpses of pure ex­cite­ment for what may be headed our way, but lurk­ing in the same strato­sphere is sheer ter­ror. Our beloved man­u­fac­tur­ers, which are re­spon­si­ble for icons such as the R32 GT-R, 22B, and 86 are now cre­at­ing cars such as the Nis­san Leaf; a new gen­er­a­tion of Im­preza that would make the orig­i­nal one turn in its grave; and the Toy­ota IQ, which is es­sen­tially a dish­washer with wheels. With enough ugly to sink a ship, we then ar­rive at the au­tonomous-ve­hi­cle line of think­ing, where the ve­hi­cle ap­pears to be a gar­den shed with bub­ble glass win­dows.

When pre­sented with these types of au­to­mo­tive ap­pli­ances you would be for­given for think­ing that the fu­ture of our cul­ture is to­tally doomed, as the only fu­tur­is­tic cars tempt­ing red-blooded car en­thu­si­asts ex­ist in ren­ders, or in a video game — or so I thought.

The in­ner streets of the most ex­pen­sive real es­tate in Tokyo is the last place that you’d ex­pect to find a glim­mer of hope, but there, smack bang in the cen­tre of the Ginza Cross­ing, be­hind the pris­tine glass of the Nis­san Cross­ing show­room, sat the Nis­san Con­cept 2020 Vi­sion Gran Turismo. It’s not ex­actly a new kid on the con­cept scene — you may even have driven it your­self if you ever played the 15th-an­niver­sary edi­tion of Gran Turismo, which launched the con­cept in ’97.

The de­sign team had free rein over the con­cept; their only di­rec­tion was to create their take on a fu­tur­is­tic su­per­car. Un­known to the de­sign­ers, Nis­san’s up­per man­age­ment shifted the goal­posts. So im­pressed were the big wigs with what had been cre­ated that the 2020 skipped the clay-model stage and went straight to 3D de­sign.

This car was pri­mar­ily cre­ated for that afore­men­tioned 15thanniver­sary re­lease of Gran Turismo, yet, since then, Nis­san has openly hinted that it could well have a part to play in the next gen­er­a­tion of the GT-R, which is re­flected in the game-based con­cept’s driv­e­line.

While the 2020 that sits proudly at Ginza is de­void of any driv­e­line, in Gran Turismo, it pumps out 421kW from a high­per­for­mance hy­brid front-en­gined 4WD sys­tem con­sist­ing of a V6 twin-turbo en­gine mated to three elec­tric motors. The car also has ac­tive aero and is low and wide — just as a good sports car should be — while still be­ing in­cred­i­bly re­fined.

As the 2020 slowly ro­tated on the show­room turntable, I took time to soak in all of the styling cues, some of which feel very fa­mil­iar and can be seen cur­rently on other Nis­san mod­els. Sleek, sharp body an­gles, per­fectly ac­cented with car­bon fi­bre, have all come to­gether to pro­duce a de­sign that is un­mis­tak­ably Nis­san. It looked fast just sit­ting still, but, most im­por­tant, it was tan­gi­ble and not trapped within a plas­tic gam­ing con­sole.

While the on­look­ers at the Ginza show­room were quick to have their jaws hit the pave­ment, many, on closer in­spec­tion of the sight, ut­tered com­ments such as “It’s only a model” and “It doesn’t even have an en­gine”. For some, this was merely a fancy piece of art for a swanky Tokyo show­room, but, in re­al­ity, the sig­nif­i­cance of this par­tic­u­lar cre­ation is im­mea­sur­able for one sim­ple rea­son: it is phys­i­cal proof that sports cars aren’t ready to kick the bucket just yet. The Con­cept 2020 not only al­lows the pub­lic and car lovers to see at first-hand the fu­ture pos­si­bil­i­ties for the tun­ing car mar­ket but also phys­i­cally to touch them. A pic­ture might be worth a thou­sand words, but this con­crete dis­play is worth a mil­lion more.

We are all aware that it is un­likely that this is what will roll off the pro­duc­tion line, but, if the con­cept for the next gen­er­a­tion is even half as in­tense as this, we are in good hands.

The rea­son that many of us are car fans is that we ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­pe­ri­ence of driv­ing: the feed­back that you re­ceive through the wheel, ped­als, and gear­box; the sound of the ex­haust on full chat; and know­ing that your in­put is mak­ing the car do what it does best. Soft-sus­pen­sion, overly com­pli­cated, plas­tic A-to-B ve­hi­cles just don’t de­liver the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that many au­to­mo­tive con­nois­seurs yearn for.

The Con­cept 2020 shows us that, de­spite the dull, drab, plas­tic-dom­i­nated Ja­panese au­to­mo­tive world, there is still one man­u­fac­turer en­cour­ag­ing its de­sign­ers to create a mod­ern car that is non-apolo­getic in the face of global warm­ing and ris­ing petrol costs. So, while the drive home is likely to have me star­ing firmly at the back of a drab, un­ex­cit­ing box on wheels, I can rest easy that there are still some out there who are ac­tively fight­ing for the sur­vival of our beloved sports car.


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