The Nissan Max-Out concept doesn’t take any cues from previous Nissan models, but it’s aesthetic is decidedly retro. There’s a lot of 80s contour grid patterns and neon colors, and the entire presentation evokes an Out Run-type video game that never was. Best of all, it’s a two-seat roadster.
The EV paradigm shift has us concerned about cars, not because we are anti-EV. It’s more that we want cars that are fun to drive. Sure, instant torque and all that, but there’s more to driving fun than acceleration. Enthusiasts are, and always have, seeking out qualities like responsive steering or a communicative suspension. In an age when even a Hummer can hit 0-60 in 3.3 seconds, outright speed isn’t going to distinguish one car from another. Agility and feedback are going to be much more important factors.
Enthusiasts have always known this to be true, which is why they gravitate towards cars like the Miata and 86/BRZ. They’re often derided as underpowered but are a blast and a half to drive. The question is, who will be the first carmaker to build a fun-to-drive EV? The problem isn’t inherently in the drivetrain; it’s that automakers believe EVs have to be marketed as futuristic. So everything becomes digital, including throttle, steering and brake inputs, and even once-simple things like adjusting the vents or changing the radio station are now accomplished on a touchscreen three menus deep. And let’s not forget features and horsepower that can only be unlocked by manufacturer-controlled software.
Of course most gasoline cars are drive-by-wire now too, which is probably why we prefer cars of the analog era. But there are some, like the aforementioned Miata and 86/BRZ, that have managed to retain the fun quotient despite digital trickery. There’s an untapped niche here. Who will be the first company to make a car that’s powered by electrons but still drives like a classic sports car?
We’ve pretty much assumed that the answer was going to be Mazda. They keep saying that the Miata will stay in the lineup forever, even if it becomes fully electric. But maybe it’ll be a dark horse candidate like Nissan. They’ve already tossed around ideas like an electric Silvia, and certainly have experience building beloved enthusiasts’ cars.
Aside from a few generations of the Fairlady in the 1960s, however, Nissan hasn’t really built a true roadster. Their other sporty droptops like the Siliva and Z have started out as coupes and had their tops chopped off. This Max-Out could change all that. What would really be cool is if it looked like an SRL311 as well, like the Mitsubishi Debonair-based Grandeur concept, but the public probably wouldn’t get it.
The Max-Out concept was revealed today at an event called Nissan Futures in Japan, which talks about the company’s plans for “mobility” and “sustainability”, two buzzwords that carmakers can’t get enough of. A rendering of the car had been unveiled in November 2021 along with other EV concepts like a small pickup and a (you guessed it) crossover, but those never advanced beyond the 3D rendering phase. The Max-Out revealed today in Yokohama exists, as the kids say, IRL.
It’s loaded to the gills with that 80s matrix landscape pattern. The floorpan looks like a holodeck on the Enterprise. The motif is repeated in the fang-like headlights, taillights, and even the wheels, which look like they’re portals to wormholes (I guess this thing just begs the Star Trek references). It’s all very cool and retro-futuristic.
We dig the whole vibe, but perhaps Nissan’s own description of it is most promising (emphasis ours): “Created on the fundamental concept of being one with the car, the Nissan Max-Out two-seater convertible is designed to provide a liberating sense of openness while offering an enhanced, dynamic driving experience.” If that doesn’t sound like an e-Miata, I don’t know what does.
Since this is merely a concept, Nissan hasn’t given any specs on the powertrain or performance. After the whole Nissan IDx will-they-won’t-they fiasco, it’s probably wishful thinking to expect Nissan to actually build the Max-Out. But if they did, and stuck to the principles they’ve outlined, it could be the first truly fun-to-drive EV.
Images courtesy of Nissan.