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Nissan IMs Concept Wraps Exotic Tech in Shapely Sedan

Nissan IMs Concept; Manufacturer images

Looks like: An autonomous electric car that's not weird, unless you think those all-wheel-drive "four-door coupes" so beloved by European luxury brands (e.g., the BMW X6) are weird

Defining characteristics: Sleek, chiseled styling wrapped around a lounge-like interior with a video gamer's dashboard

Ridiculous features: Rear seat converts to a central BarcaLounger throne for autonomous commuting; augmented-reality front "passenger" avatar to keep lonely occupants company

Chance of being mass-produced: Slim as an overall concept. Minus the more exotic details, the shapely exterior and electric drivetrain could hit the road tomorrow, but the interior is strictly show business.

Nissan is not pitching its new IMs all-wheel-drive electric concept car as an SUV, a body style being stretched beyond recognition these days — nor did it adopt the even fuzzier logic of "four-door-coupe," though it resembles one. Instead, the automaker says that the IMs concept unveiled at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is starting its own new category: the "elevated sports sedan."

Related: More 2019 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

The IMs concept is elevated literally by 22-inch show-car wheels and relatively high seating, but it's also elevated in concept by clean, sharp creases and nice proportions worthy of a sports sedan. The IMs concept for an electric sedan with front and rear motors and autonomous driving capability follows Nissan previous IDS and IMx concepts for electric vehicles with similar capability, but it loses such jarring design elements as the more extreme vertical bumper wings.

The IMs looks simple and clean, helped by disappearing door handles and, in place of side mirrors, tiny cameras that retract when the car is in autonomous mode. The coupelike roof of smoked glass has a line of gold trim to highlight its shape. The headlamps integrate into a horizontal blade of lighting that runs across the hood. In autonomous driving mode, the headlights and rear combination light turn blue and pulse at the center of both ends to warn others that the car is driving itself.

But the IMs really loads up on show-car fantasy inside, beginning with rear doors that open from the front to create a yawning interior that opens with no B-pillar in the way. The opening reveals a lounge-like, high-tech interior that appears quite spacious thanks to wheels stretched to the corners and a battery pack located skateboard-style under the floor.

Nissan calls the seating layout "2-plus-1-plus-2," as it combines front bucket seats that appear to float with a wraparound rear-seat area. The backseat has outboard sections that fold down to create large padded armrests flanking an oversized central "throne" seat, with a BarcaLounger-style footrest for autonomous commuting in comfort. Nissan calls it the "Premier Seat." The tasteful dark gray and cream upholstery scheme is accented by gold-mesh fabric, gold-tone trim and cream LED outlines.

If you get lonely on the road, the IMs offers the company of a virtual "passenger" that's a 3-D avatar. In autonomous mode, the steering wheel retracts and the front seats turn inward to enhance the lounge-like feel. Wrap your mind around the virtual possibilities.

Related: Heads Up, Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3! 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus Series Goes Long

Designed for both manual and autonomous operation, the sculpted dashboard has four screens with an "invisible-to-visible" interface displaying information from the visible and virtual world. It can, for example, see around corners and plot new routs around traffic. Different layers in the displays separate critical information from other data. Nissan announced such Omni-Sensing technology at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The concept powertrain envisions front and rear electric motors for a total of 483 horsepower and 590 pounds-feet of torque. They draw power from a 115-kilowatt-hour battery that would offer an estimated 380 miles of range.

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