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.