Future: Nissan Terranaut Concept
Ready to patrol the world's most challenging environments
The Geneva auto show isn't typically where one goes to see the latest in concept trucks, but you can always be certain that Nissan, which has a huge presence in the European SUV market, will serve up something special. This year, Nissan unveiled the Terranaut concept. This model offers a sneak preview of the styling package for the next Nissan Patrol, a midsize SUV not sold in North America but familiar to TV news junkies who see the current slab-sided Patrol, usually in white, emblazoned with big U.N. letters. It's the rugged transport of choice of peacekeepers and aid workers worldwide.
The Terranaut concept has two seats up front and a single swivel seat in the rear, parked in front of a command console/scientific workstation that looks as if it were lifted intact from the starship Enterprise.
The Terranaut features a unique three-door configuration with two suicide doors, hinged front and rear with no central B-pillar on the driver's side, and a single conventional door on the passenger side. Around back there's a conventional cargo door, while overhead the Terranaut is equipped with a glass roof above the front seats and a glass dome, which doubles as an escape hatch, over the rotating office.
The glass is highly reflective, helping maintain a controlled atmosphere within the cabin by reflecting external light, whether it's from the sun or glare from snow and ice. The off-white finish, borrowed from the aviation industry, is also highly reflective, keeping the cabin temperate. Its 4965mm length makes it a scant six inches longer than the Land Rover LR3.
On the inside, the Terranaut's project team of six designers put functionality at the top of their design brief. Rugged, purpose-built materials have been used extensively inside the cabin-the totally flat floor, for example, has an easy-to-clean rubberized covering-but all contact surfaces feature soft-touch materials. Touch pads used to open the doors are covered with a tactile silicon finish, while the seats, upholstered in warm beige and brown shades, are inviting and comfortable.
With a design theme of a manned mobile science laboratory providing three scientists with everything they'll need for a 10-day expedition, the Terranaut is meant to be a self-sufficient mothership equipped to tackle any terrestrial adventure. Strip away all the concept-truck gingerbread-the roof-mounted satellite navigation system and high-resolution camera, the on-board cooking facilities (a refrigerator and microwave are part of the package), the airlock at the rear where biological, geological, and chemical samples can be analyzed, and the handcarved Goodyear tires-and add a rear door on the passenger side, and you'll have a good idea of what the next Nissan Patrol will look like. It's expected in European markets in time for the 2008 model year.
The Terranaut shows that, while Nissan has design studios spread out all over the world (the Terranaut is the work of the London-based Nissan Design Europe studio), all its designers are on the same page. According to project leader Felipe Roo Clefas, assistant chief designer at Nissan Design Europe, the overriding theme behind the concept is one of function. "The Terranaut has been designed for observation and communication in all four corners of the world." This measure of functionality fits right in the middle of Nissan's current lineup of SUVs available in North America, between the Pathfinder and Armada (see chart).
The current U.K. version of the Patrol offers seven-passenger seating with a pair of foldout seats in back, so it's logical to assume that, in place of the Terranaut's command console, the next-generation Patrol will come with available seven-passenger seating, required of any vehicle that measures almost 200 inches long. And don't expect that the next Patrol will share the Terranaut's 82.7-inch width or 84.6-inch height, numbers that eclipse the full-size Armada built on the Titan's frame. Because of its bulk, Nissan's legendary 3.0-liter diesel is the most often specified engine choice in European markets, but it shouldn't present much of a problem to fit the Xterra's 265-horsepower V-6 in place of the oilburner.
Remove the Nissan badging, and you know at first glance, especially up front with its bold "balanced angle strut" grille flanked on either side by horizontal headlamps, that this truck's DNA is spliced from the same chains as those found in the Xterra, Pathfinder, and Armada. Should it choose to, Nissan would have little difficulty adding the Patrol to its already well-stocked lineup of SUVs offered here in North America.
With its rugged heritage proven in all of the world's global hot spots and built on one of the most capable four-wheel-drive platforms available anywhere, the next Patrol could fill a gap in Nissan's North American product portfolio for those enthusiasts who want an extreme, five- to seven-passenger SUV capable of meeting any earth-bound challenge.
| ||Nissan Xterra||Nissan Pathfinder||Land Rover LR3||Nissan Terranaut||Nissan Patrol (U.K.)||Nissan Armada|