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