Nissan's new compact SUV concept, the TeRRA, is going on show at Paris later this month, with the company using it to experiment with astonishing new tablet dashboard technology.
The TeRRA, as with all concepts, may never see the light of day. However it does offer a keen insight into Nissan's current priorities, and the direction it's looking to take to appease a younger, more technically-minded market.
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The TeRRA has a number of interesting features, including hydrogen fuel cell technology and a unique, diagonal interior layout.
But the thing we find most intriguing about the TeRRA is its detachable tablet dashboard that promises a 'seamless digital space'.
A TeRRA-ble idea?
Get in the driver's seat and the lack of a dashboard is striking. So where is it, how do you know how fast you're going? The answer lies on a detachable tablet that Nissan calls an 'intelligent key'.
The driver docks it when entering the car, where it will provide the bare necessities such as speed, fuel readings and more. The driver can then switch between other infotainment options on-the-go, and when they're not in the TeRRA it keeps them constantly in touch with the SUV.
And not much else has been revealed. It's a fantastic idea, and probably partly why the TeRRA is powered by a 4x4 fuel cell electric powertrain and compact hydrogen fuel-cell technology (a tablet that connects to all facets of the car will need to be powered by a lot of juice, we imagine).
But for however impressive it is, a number of key questions need to be asked. What happens if you lose it? Will the TeRRA be compatible with other tablets? Will the tablet be able to download any apps as standalone technology? Is it a replacement for the ignition key? How compact is it - when you go shopping do you have to carry it around with you and juggle it about with your bags?
"Redefining SUV heritage"
It's another leap forward for integrated in-car technology, and was probably always likely to happen given that cars such as the Leaf already offer iPhone connectivity (you can warm the seats up when you're not in the car, don't you know?)
Shiro Nakamura, Nissan senior vice president and chief creative officer says youths in northern Europe affected the TeRRA's design. "We took our inspiration from the lifestyles of youthful customers in Northern Europe. We heard their aspiration for sustainable mobility that can take them anywhere they want to go.
"Exploring our imagination of that natural space with the exterior, we have redefined the power of the SUV heritage in a much more athletic way, one that expresses our vision of the zero emissions future."
So, what other parts of the TeRRA complement Nissan's vision? It's an EV SUV perfectly capable of city driving and off-road adventuring with big tyres, high belt-line, thick pillars and thin side windows.
Oddly the concept has what Nissan describes as an 'implied structure for modern toughness'. That gives the TeRRA a large-looking front and rear, yet the compressed waistline of burlesque queen Dita Von Teese.
The interior, though, is much warmer and friendlier than its sharp, jagged exterior lines. It's welcoming, with a high-quality blond-wood trim in place of speedometers and other gauges. It's very clean looking, by-and-large due to the car's unique diagonal layout which positions rear passengers over the shoulders of those in front, rather than directly behind.
"For the driver to be nearly centred, not seated off to one side, provides a fresh, enlightened perspective with exceptional visibility," continues Nakamura. "The diagonal layout allows all passengers to share the vision of adventures up ahead."
Written by John Meadowcroft