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The Nissan IMs Concept Is a Gilded Look at Nissan’s Future Sedans

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 1/14/2019 Clifford Atiyeh
a car parked on the side of a road: The sedan isn't dead; it's elevating.© Nissan The sedan isn't dead; it's elevating.

We have the AMC Eagle to thank for the modern crossover. Somehow, automakers never seem to mention that high-riding, wood-paneled wagon in their acceptance speeches. But throw on suicide doors and a giant glass roof, whittle the edges, and remove the sealed-beam halogens, and you get a radical future, as imagined by this Nissan IMs concept at the Detroit auto show.

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With its notchback body and tall ride height, the IMs shares a modern connection to swoopy four-doors like the Audi A7. Nissan calls it an "elevated sports sedan." We might call it a Maxima Cross Country, after the now departed Volvo S60 with the lift kit. But the key word is “sedan.” That's the style that Detroit's Big Three swear everyone has abandoned, when in fact, a stylish, fast, and well-appointed sedan is what many people continue to buy. And that's exactly what the Nissan IMs promises to be. It's especially intriguing since the Sentra and Maxima are the next Nissans in line to receive major updates.

As an evolution of the 2017 IMx concept, the IMs is fully automated and electric. A 115.0-kWh battery and two motors provide all-wheel drive, 483 horsepower, 590 lb-ft of torque, and a theoretical 380 miles of range. The steering wheel retracts and the car's exterior lighting glows blue to alert pedestrians in case the driver is asleep or playing poker with the passengers. It has side cameras in place of mirrors, big screens, and even bigger 22-inch rims. That's the trendy stuff automakers copy-paste from each other. The innovation is the central rear seat, a one-plus-two layout where the "king," as Nissan describes the driver, can recline as his subjects dote on him from every angle. That includes the front passengers, whose seats pivot inward during autonomous mode. Picture a McLaren F1 outfitted like a high-end French living room with gold accents, which is something Carlos Ghosn is certainly picturing at this very moment.

a close up of a car© Nissan

There's plenty of room to stretch. The IMs's wheelbase is three inches longer than Nissan's roomiest sedan, the 2019 Altima (the older Maxima is tighter). It's also one inch wider, two inches higher, and three inches shorter overall. The most intricate design comes from an instrument panel that resembles a miniature foot bridge. Hidden and illuminated behind the dash screens, Nissan replicated kumiko, the Japanese woodcraft of elaborate geometric patterns, as 3D-printed trusses supporting the instrument panel. On the glass roof, the IMs etches more Japanese patterns, called asanoha, that resemble the hemp plant. These are warm, physical touches in a cabin that doesn't prioritize pixels. They can be summoned, weirdly, with what Nissan calls Invisible-to-Visible technology. During a demo at the CES technology, Nissan showed the entire windshield displaying augmented reality and then projected an avatar in the passenger seat, as though someone Skyping could join you for a long drive. All that demo did for us was cause motion sickness.

But for pure style, the IMs is the welcome breath of fresh air Nissan needs to inject into boring sedans like the Sentra, a model we've found to have too much in common with Cream of Wheat. Now that would be radical.

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