Several articles are out with test drives of the "test mule"
And there are more statements from Nissan that it will be built in relatively large numbers, and sold at relatively low prices, in a few years.
http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/ne ... t-16178124
To be clear, I did not drive the Nissan BladeGlider concept. What I did drive was Nissan's proof-of-concept behind the BladeGlider: a test mule mocked up with a similar narrow-front-track suspension arrangement. It's meant to demonstrate the virtues of this unconventional setup to Nissan engineers and executives, and a handful of journalists.
Let me be clear on another point: This car changes everything—forget what you thought you knew about sports car handling.
For example: At Nissan's Arizona proving grounds, I'm driving a conventional Ariel Atom for the second time. It feels skittish after driving the narrow-front-track prototype, and I'm cornering much slower. Coming out of the tight left-hand turn on the test course, I can actually see and feel that the inside tire isn't providing much grip, which is why the car won't respond as eagerly as I want. But here's the crazy thing: Without having driven the Nissan narrow-front-track prototype, I would never have thought this was a problem. It was just a normal part of a car's cornering limits—even a crazy performance car. After just a few minutes behind the wheel of the proof-of-concept prototype, I realize I have to re-wire my brain to understand what's possible...
The difference between the two cars is stunning. It's hard to believe they share so much hardware. In the standard car, driving at the limit is a tricky balancing act between understeer (which is when the front end become unresponsive) and oversteer (which is when the back starts to come around on you). Nobody would ever suggest that a stock Ariel Atom is unresponsive, but the altered car drives like it's hard-wired into your brain. After just five laps around the improvised course, I'm converted.
The BladeGlider's electric powertrain makes it easy to achieve the rear weight bias needed for the narrow-front-track setup. The concept car uses two motors mounted directly in the hub of each rear wheel, and with 75 percent of the weight on the rear axle, it's safe to assume that most of the batteries are mounted in the aft section. The concept car's tires are even more extreme than the prototype's, with 100/80-17 rubber in front—essentially a motorcycle-tire dimension—and 285/35-19 dimensions in the rear.
Back in Arizona, Bowlby mentions that the added benefit of the narrow-front-track arrangement is that having all the weight and aerodynamic drag at the back of the car makes it naturally stable. Plus, he says, the altered suspension gives the test prototype 10 percent more grip than the stock version, even with the all-seasons mounted in front. As I take on more laps in the prototype, I'm amazed at how stable it remains, right up to the limit. The stock Ariel is thrilling, of course, but you're always reacting to the shifting loads through accelerating, cornering, and braking. The narrow-front-track car, in contrast, makes me feel like my reflexes are twice as fast. I've never driven a car that's so balanced.
Let the Waiting Begin
Nissan's statements up to this point have been clear: There will be a production derivative of the BladeGlider. And not just a few copies for the ultrarich, as is the case with the Juke R, but an actual car you can buy in the showroom. In speaking with Nissan executive Andy Palmer before the Tokyo Motor Show, he said that while he can't be too specific, it usually takes about three years for a car to progress from the concept to production stage. He also made it clear that the road-going BladeGlider will be built in numbers that make it accessible to anybody who wants and can afford one. Of course, both the cost and sticker price are pretty hard to figure out at this point. No carmaker has been as bold as Nissan in committing to such an unorthodox idea.
The BladeGlider concept's debut at the Tokyo Motor Show will find plenty of detractors, and with some reason. After all, nobody has even seen anything like this on the road. It's still hard to for me to understand how the car works from just looking at it. But having driven the proof myself, there's no doubt that anybody who drives the car will quickly convert from skepticism to believing that this is how every sports car should be made.
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