Neo Class

A class in retrofuturism from 1989. Driven to Write dons a black polo neck to pronounce upon Nissan’s Neo-X concept.

(c) old concept cars

During the late 1980s, Japanese car design appeared to be going through something of a purple patch. By way of illustration, the 1989 Tokyo motor show marked the introduction of three fine Nissan concepts – the Primera-X, (not to be confused with the 1990 production car it prefigured), the ‘Pike Factory’ Figaro concept, but also the subject of today’s retrospective – Nissan’s take on a full-sized saloon for the 1990s.

Three years earlier, Nissan had shown the highly acclaimed Cue-X concept, a superbly accomplished Euro-centric take on luxury saloon style which anticipated their Infiniti premium brand. However, while clearly intended to illustrate a progression in form vocabulary, Neo-X illustrated just how profound a stylistic shift had taken place in the interim, tilting more towards domestic market offerings such as Nissan’s own upmarket Gloria model and embodying a far more reserved form of formal minimalism.

The most striking aspect of Neo-X is its utter simplicity of line. Pared to its essentials, the virtually unadorned body relies upon the cool drama of its proportions, the elegant sweep of its c-pillar and the subtlest of detailing to make its visual statement.

There is something almost Lyons-esque about the manner in which it embodies a dramatic form where all extraneous noise has been removed to reveal the distilled essence. Neo-X’s stylistic flourishes lie within the details; the subtle light lines, the intricate wheeltrims, the flush fitting circular door handles, the striking vertical tail lamps, each contributing to an austere richness.

Curiously, the frontal styling eschews the self-importance normally associated with a luxury sedan. It is perhaps a little too self-effacing to be viewed as a complete success, and seen in profile at least, might have benefited from a slightly longer overhang to balance that of the rear.

On the other hand, the interior is a beautifully simple shine to quiet opulence. The utterly simple dashboard and instrument panel presents the driver with the required information, but doesn’t overwhelm. The use of a free-standing touchscreen too is a prescient and well executed touch. The Neo-X cabin is about luxury without ostentation, about having it but not flaunting it, about luxury being centred around fine materials set within an undistracting, airy environment of indulgent calm.

Under the bonnet lay an advanced four-cam V8 engine, but one can’t help feeling something akin to a gas turbine or an electric motor might have been a more appropriate propulsion system for such an intriguingly modernist take on a luxury vehicle than some unschooled internal combustion unit.

But regardless of motive power, this was a remarkably mature concept design from a styling team who clearly had immense confidence in what was obviously a clearly articulated vision.

(c) old concept cars

Thirty years ago the future looked something like this. What’s abundantly clear however is that whatever the future is now, it’s not what it used to be.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “Neo Class”

  1. Once more you reveal a car to me never before seen, ta. Thirty years ago I might’ve dismissed this simply due to being an older teenager and probably drunk. Today it looks a wonderful proposition with its jaguar-esque lines and frankly superb minimalist dash. There’s some Granada/Scorpio at the back to me but I like the whole proportions. Returning to the dash, I do like some chunky buttons or devices to twiddle with. But I much prefer this clean and simple take to that of today’s cross between rocket ship and Vulcan bomber cockpit with over-informative details. But I’m also guessing that the touchscreen technology back then was more like Pong than today’s kill everything twice in 3D version 4 video game.
    Excellent door handles looking like the old C&A shop logo and mesmerising hub caps too. Hindsight, eh?

  2. There is a city called the Gotham city where cars roam stealthy and sleek. It’s only when the menace hits the streets that they have to hurry, and, oh boy, then they can run and turn in a rubber burning way. But, during their run away, a few miss the right turn, ending up mysteriously somewhere called “an automobile exhibition”. There they remain safe until the dust in Gotham city settles down, and then they return home. But sometimes a few just stay away, and live nearby next to us…like this one has:

    1. Absolutely nobody is going to be surprised when I say I gave a squeal of delight when I saw the Insignia. That is a rather nice photo too. It took me a few years to accept it; the concept it was supposedly based on made me very cross (I don´t get cross about car design any more). It´s only if you try to position it in relation to the Rekord/Omega and Ascona/Vectra that it is hard to judge. It´s more like the majority of Opels in that it embodies contemporary good taste rather than being a high concept. Just today I saw its successor which made me think of a low-flying jet or some aeroplane. I suppose that´s the idea. Similar sized cars from Audi and BMW are not attracting my attention and I should say a car doesn´t have to be good to attract my attention. What I mean is BMWs and Audis aren´t doing anything to alert me, with the exception of a short glimpse of an A4 in Copenhagen last week. “Is that really an Audi?” I asked myself.

  3. Your article prompted me to see what else Nissan were doing around that period, and I came across the site, below, which runs through their concepts by decade. The mid 80’s to the late 90’s seems to have been a particularly productive period. One of my favorites is the AP-X (interesting wheel arches, too, it has to be said and hints of the Coupé Fiat).

  4. Charles! How dare you!
    More time spent looking at Japanese concept car history equals ear ache from the misses. Chores to do, etc.
    But just look at this qashqai concept from 2004, darling…

  5. I know – I was both delighted and yet terrified at the prospect of where the time would go when I opened the link.

  6. Is it possible some of the feeling of the concept saloon ended up in the 1993 Nissan 200SX? It´s not the details so much as the determined way the lower body goes from front to rear,

    1. Did anyone notice the little crests or faint summits at the end of the rear wing. If you see them you´ll see also a hint of the same element in the 2002 Maserati QP (where it is much more explicit).
      I have to say the Fulvia Zagato doesn´t resonate much with me – I can something in the lower bodyside around the front wheel. At the back the Zagato is characterised by the way the bodyside flows around to the tail. The Neo has what is more like a truncated tail. There is a small radius from side to rear and from the bootlid to the vertical rear panel on which the lights sit.
      That said, I am grateful to be asked to consider the Fulvia Zagato. It is a jewel of a car.

    2. Absolutely Robertas, my initial thought was that it evoked Lancia rather than Jaguar. Rather than Fulvia, I can see shades of Flaminia in the proportions, the clean sides, and the gentle descent of the tail.

      Maybe just me, but I also see a slight mid sixties Cadillac influence, particularly in the rear end. The faint summits which Richard mentions on the rear wings have a hint of fin about them, particularly with the vertical tailights.

  7. I can see the relationship between this concept and the production Q45. I found that car to be very appealing, especially the absence of the grille air intake. Ford was also fond of that idea, early 90’s Mustang GT, Mercury Sable, Crown Vic, etc. It seems that every manufacturer had to go back to the grille to regain sales. Nobody forgets the Chrysler Airflow! I think that Cadillac got it pretty right with the ’92 Seville. It combined a sleek minimalist body design and rear end with a toned down but still “prestigious” looking front end.

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