Nissan’s controversial Gripz concept has finally made its auto show debut, and contrary to popular belief the sporty crossover doesn’t herald a replacement for Nissan’s 370Z. Instead, Nissan is using the Gripz to gauge interest in the potential of an expanded Z car family, one that would include a crossover in addition to a coupe and convertible.

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The concept is also thought to hint at styling themes for Nissan’s next-generation crossovers, one of which is a new Juke. Nissan recently confirmed a new Juke and said it would ride on Renault Nissan’s CMF-B modular platform.

The automaker says the Gripz’s design takes inspiration from both the original Datsun 240Z as well as the world of cycling, with the dual sources of inspiration meant to signify the vehicle’s dual personality: a vehicle that provides sporty thrills and adventure on the weekend yet remains a practical and efficient means of transport for the daily commute.

Furthermore, the Gripz isn’t meant to be a pure sports car or a crossover but rather a combination of the two. To understand Nissan’s thinking, we need to once again look at the 240Z. In the 1970s, the 240Z was re-engineered using expertise gathered from Nissan’s 4x4 range to handle rough terrain. These off-road racers came with a raised ride height, toughened suspension and a distinctive matte-black hood and trunk.

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Interestingly, the powertrain choice for the Gripz doesn’t look towards the past, but rather the future. It’s a hybrid setup similar to the one in Nissan’s ZEOD RC experimental racer. The internal combustion component is a small gasoline unit and the electronic hardware is lifted straight out of the Leaf.

“What influence this concept’s design has on the next crossover generation from Nissan remains to be seen,” Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura said in a statement. “We are keen to gauge public reaction when it appears at the Frankfurt show.”

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