The sea state is slight, there’s a gentle South-Easterly and the the sun is beating down. Lets cast our nets and see what fishy automotive goodness the ocean of historical automotive literature can provide. Welcome back to The Carchive. Last week, in typically balanced Carchive fashion, we covered those closely related exotics the Ford Transit Minibus and the Ferrari Testarossa. Today we’re heading for uncharted waters, putting one foot tentatively into the future of luxury motoring. Or at least the future as it was seen in 1985. It’s the 1985 Nissan CUE-X Concept. Antti covered it here, last year…. but now we Have The Brochure. I love concept cars, I always have. Look back to the Seventies and you’ll see no end of glittering beauties by the Italian styling houses of Bertone, Giugiaro and Pininfarina, each one more flamboyant than the next. Then there are those which seem to be tantalisingly close to production likelyhood; see many of the Ford / Ghia and GM concept cars of the early ’80s , or watch Back To The Future II and see many of them driving around an MGM backlot. My favourite concept cars are those which point towards the near future, rather than distant fantasy. The Ford Probe IV (as covered here) seemed tangible enough to appear at your local dealership in a few months time; most of the technologies that it exhibited already existed (albeit very expensively) and could have been productionized so long as the buying customer could stomach an astronomical price tag. The same goes for the CUE-X, except even more so, because it’s Japanese, and Japanese concept cars are always amazing. All images below can be embiggened for enhanced decipherableness. “CUE-X has been styled to express a cerebral elegance that will suit the tastes of the high achiever urban executive” This is one of my favourite brochures in the whole of The Carchive. It presents the car as if it were just another car in the Nissan range, rather than a high-budget non-production dream car. It’s also ridiculously comprehensive in terms of detail and illustration. We start with a three-view of the CUE-X in all its glory, and I think it looks amazing. Some people would call it bland, and they’d be idiots to do so. The side view puts me in mind of the Audi A8 of of nine years hence, and the front view makes me think of Olds Aurora. Then, as if to remind you that it’s Japanese, the rear end comes into view and reminds me of a Subaru XT. It’s fantastic. “CUE-X is an international car, a personal transcontinental express with aerodynamics that include a drag coefficient of 0.24 to allow for more than 250 kilometres ro be crammed into every hour” Neither the flush-fitting doors and glazing, nor any number of retractable spoilers could achieve this on their own, a suitable power-plant was necessary and so Nissan dreamed up an Intelligent Engine, named VG30. The basics, twin-cam, four valves per cylinder were up-to-date but not exactly futuristic; twin variable nozzle ceramic turbochargers were a bit more like it, but when we start seeing Variable Impedance Aspiration, Latent Heat type intercoolers, whisker-reinforced conrods and bulge-formed hollow camshafts, we know we’re heading further into Star Trek territory. This was a car which used Drive By Wire at a time when Commodore 64s were still flying off the shelves. There was four wheel drive with variable torque vectoring, and it was mated to an electronic automatic transmission for the first time. The suspension was of the electronically controlled air variety, brakes were anti-lock, HICAS rear-wheel steering was present and it all sat on a set of high-speed run-flat tyres “newly developed” in conjunction with TOYO. “The high achiever urban executive at whom CUE-X has been targeted is expected to want a car that matches its high level of performance and refinement with a tasteful and extremely well appointed interior.” If the exterior styling and the oily bits beneath were cutting-edge for 1985, the interior was grabbing the future by the lapels and giving it a damn good shake. The driver (pilot would be just as apt a term) sat behind a brightly coloured information display assembled from two CRT’s and an LCD. Vital statistics were displayed either in faux-analogue or by way of digital bar-charts, depending on how much you enjoyed high-school maths lessons. You could also dial up service information, torque output and various other values which could be plotted graphically. Equally colourful was the Multi-Information Display on the centre console, which resembles the Visual Information Centre display found in certain Olds Toronados several years later on. Again it centred on a colour CRT, this time with a touch-screen matrix applied, and allowed you access to the following things, listed here in the order of how awesome they were. *Climate Control settings *Audio settings including CD player (Pretty impressive for 1985) *Chassis Information (Ride height, Spring rates, switchable ABS Modes, HICAS settings) *Map display and route guidance instruction. Now, this latter feature was cool to an almost unprecedented extent for 1985; considering that Delta L1011s were flying solely using inertial navigation systems well into the ’90s, having actual GPS on a car in the mid-eighties was all the more amazing. The damn thing even had a Tractor Beam! Well, nearly; the button on the steering wheel marked Laser Radar incorporated both those technologies to measure and automatically regulate the distance to the next car in traffic. It would take ages before Mercedes would start fitting Distronic radar cruise control to their S-Class. And even longer before they started to fit their Maybach with an auto-darkening electrochromatic glass roof; here to be enjoyed in the CUE-X. And for enhanced driving comfort, the luxurious throne into which he sunk was fitted with electronic ride control which would work in conjunction with the car’s suspension, dampening those last few through-the-arsebone nuances that the air-ride couldn’t conquer. Meanwhile, the front seat passenger could recline on their relaxer seat, affording multiple articulation for support in the right places during the longest of journeys. “Nothing in CUE-X is beyond the realm of practical reality, including the fundamental design concept. This does not mean you can expect Nissan to market a car based on CUE-X in the near future, but it does mean that CUE-X is meant to be taken seriously.” As I mentioned earlier, I love concept cars, and my rose-tinted specs tell me that the concept cars of the past were more exciting than those of today. The reason for this is that a concept car typically ends up being very much of its time. The CUE-X, although a whole lot of the technology showcased would turn up on regular cars within the next twenty years, it’s interesting to see just how many obvious omissions there are. For example, even though steering wheel airbags were already available on several markets, there are none in the CUE-X. And though there is an integrated telephone, nobody had guessed that there might end up being a wireless connection possible between the car and your own mobile phone. We take Bluetooth absolutely for granted today, and it’s hard to think back to a time where the very concept was more out there than, say, radar / laser cruise control. For those three or four of you who have read this far; what forward-looking, never-seen before technology could a 2015 CUE-X follow up possibly offer us? Assuming we don’t end up on the miserable, Google-Knows-Best driverless future, what technology can you think of that has never been offered on a top-class luxury sedan? Where might Nissan go from here? (Disclaimer; All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Nissan, who ten years later sold a car called the QX, which was approximately a millionth of a percent as interesting)
The Carchive: 1985 Nissan CUE-X Concept
RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.