The Nissan AZEAL Coupe Concept, which makes its world debut at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is a fresh interpretation of the classic compact sports coupe - an affordable, performance-oriented entry-level coupe with the style and personality to match the active lifestyles of its young, active target buyers. The AZEAL design exercise is the first concept car created by Nissan Design America, Inc.'s (NDA) new studio in Farmington Hills, Mich.
"The idea behind the AZEAL is that an entry-level vehicle doesn't have to look entry-level. Though AZEAL has the compact dimensions of a small coupe, it projects a much larger presence in terms of style, personality and desirability," said David Wong, designer, NDA.
The AZEAL recalls previous small, high-performance coupes and sedans like the original Datsun 510 and Sentra SE-R - where compact dimensions and short front and rear overhangs were essential to the design and the vehicles' nimble performance.
"As opposed to other body configurations, the sport coupe is the most passionate purchase decision there is, especially among young or first-time new car buyers who typically are spending a much higher percentage of their income on the purchase," said Wong.
"We wanted to assure that the AZEAL had all the design elements that separate it from a sedan, including an aggressively sloped rear roofline, broad shoulders and wide fender flares and stance. As a result, AZEAL screams of independence."
The designers' challenge in creating AZEAL's exterior was in finding the right balance between these basic elements and the compact dimensions without going overboard. The main emphasis of the layout was biased toward the front occupants, but without compromising the rear seat area.
"In creating the overall dimensions of the AZEAL, we were obviously influenced by Nissan's current small car platforms. But the layout is actually closer to the Infiniti G35 coupe - slightly taller and aggressive," said Ken Lee, designer, NDA. "AZEAL captures the essence of emotional, aspirational vehicles like the G35 coupe or Nissan 350Z but in the entry-level segment. It doesn't cost anything more to style an exciting vehicle."
The front-wheel drive AZEAL utilizes a turbocharged version of Nissan's 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. It rides on 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with a unique sandblasted and painted surface treatment.
"AZEAL has a grounded look and feel, like it is magnetically connected to the road. Its wide, big-tire stance gives it a purposeful appearance," said Mark Milner, design manager, NDA.
The AZEAL exterior features an open, airy greenhouse contrasted with robust aluminum ground effects. The distinctive glass-panel roof is bisected by a body color "Mohawk" that leads visually into the aggressively sloped rear roofline. There are structural roof rails with built-in clips for mounting roof racks for bikes and other gear.
Individual body elements, including the side mirrors, headlights and taillights, echo the overall design look of square forms with rounded corners.
AZEAL's unique fog light construction is highly architectural and functional, with a prism-like protrusion that acts like a brake cooling duct. AZEAL also features an integrated, active airfoil located at the trailing edge of the roof.
"AZEAL's exterior is the embodiment of Nissan's current design language - sheer surfaces with hard edges," said Wong. Inside the aggressive AZEAL exterior is an equally modern, driver-oriented interior with 2+2 seating. Key elements include power front seats, split-folding rear seats with a ski pass-through feature and a center overhead storage console with integrated rearview mirror and mood lighting.
A modular center console includes adjustable armrests and an integrated electronic parking brake. Ambient mood lighting highlights the front doors and center console. The front seats are a ventilated design with under-seat storage compartments. There is also an auxiliary port for an MP3 player and PDA, along with a built-in navigation system with retractable screen.
The materials chosen for the interior - a fusion of metals, leather and glass - were inspired by the new NDA Farmington Hills design studio architecture. The seats are covered in perforated hide with Wasabi Chartreuse inserts, which contrasts the darker, more metallic and industrial appearance of the AZEAL instrument panel.
"The Wasabi Chartreuse color signifies the growing creative energy of our new studio," said Leslie Feiten, color designer, NDA. "The dark leather interior is contrasted with "Sinister Gunmetal" for a serious driving environment."
"Like the original import sports coupes, AZEAL has a bit of a dual personality for night and day," said Leon Carpenter, digital animator, NDA. "It excels at meeting all the basic transportation needs of an entry-level vehicle, yet has a wilder side for both driving and going out to clubs and other venues after the workday is done."
AZEAL follows the Nissan Actic Concept, which was shown at the 2004 North American International Auto Show, in exploring the needs of the diverse youth market.
"AZEAL and the Actic before it are both designed specifically to be personal vehicles, not the do-it-all multi-purpose vehicles that are so common in the entry-level segment today," said Wong. "Unlike many entry-level, youth-oriented vehicles, which serve primarily as a platform or blank canvas for personalization, AZEAL has all the right parts, pieces and styling buyers want right out of the box."
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