Amid a slew of multipurpose vehicles being shown at the Frankfurt auto show, Nissan upped the ante on genre-bending cars with its Gripz Concept. Lauding it as "the most crossed over of crossovers" by Nissan Europe Chairman Paul Willcox, the Gripz holds surprises that go deeper than its wild-looking, carbon-infused skin.

The Gripz Concept was inspired by a 1970s 240Z sports car that Nissan transformed into a lifted, rally-winning dirt devil, as well as the automaker's more recent traditional SUVs.

"This concept demonstrates how a crossover ... can evolve to become a performance car, what we call 'Crossover Sport,'" said Nissan Chief Creative Officer Shiro Nakamura. "Crossover Sport suggests a sense of duality. It is capable of off-road and city driving."

And yet this isn't solely a hopped-up crossover SUV. Nissan already has one in the current Juke. The Gripz concept goes even further with its powertrain and technology. And, of course, its sense of style.

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Surprise! It's a hybrid

In addition to melding past and present Nissan sports car and SUV characteristics, the Gripz is infused with powertrain elements of the Leaf, Nissan's groundbreaking electric vehicle. Unlike the Leaf, which is powered by a battery-operated electric motor, the Gripz utilizes a series hybrid system. A gasoline engine is used to power the electric motor, a system that would enable extended range similar to a Chevy Volt. Nissan is keeping mum on specifics such as power output or even the size of the gasoline engine/generator, but that's hardly a surprise given that the Gripz is a concept, after all.

Adding further credibility to its sport-crossover claim, Nissan says the Gripz is endowed with a 4x4 mode that "offers ultimate traction for slippery conditions such as mud and snow." But it's another driver-selectable setting intrigues us: "drift mode." Nissan says that when this is selected, "the Gripz will make the most of the electric motor's torque and power to give the feeling of a rear-drive sports car."

Lights, action cameras, live streaming

The Gripz also stands to be an exercise in forward thinking when it comes to technology. The concept goes several steps beyond Nissan's impressive Around View Monitor, which uses multiple cameras to create a virtual birds-eye view to help when parking. The Gripz has video cameras built into the headlamps that enable a driver to record trips similar to a dashcam. But as they say, Wait! That's not all you get. The Gripz goes one better by allowing the car to live-stream what is being recorded, with the video accessible remotely via a smartphone. So even if your friends can't join you in all the fun you're having, they can at least watch it from their phone.

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Wild style, but is it real?

There's no denying the Gripz is a looker. This sporty crossover boasts sharp creases, a shapely roofline, big 22-inch wheels and more stylistic surprises than you can shake a stick at. Beyond those small cameras looking at you, just look at the Gripz's alien headlights and its arrow-like side sills. Even the doors are crazy. Totaling four, the front doors open upward in a dihedral fashion, while the two rear doors are hinged at the back to open wide for easy access. Exposed carbon bits are also part of the mix because, well, why not?

Inside, the cabin has a 2+2 seating arrangement. The interior as a whole is a rather minimalist affair, and for a concept doesn't seem all that far-fetched. Elements such as a wide, thin display sitting atop the dash and various vents and knobs all look as if they could do duty in a not-too-distant vehicle.

But if you're hoping this concept vehicle will be replicated as a production reality, don't bet on it. According to Nakamura, this concept is not seen as a direct replacement for the Juke or the Qashqai - an SUV Nissan sells in Europe - but the Gripz "does show the extremes to which the compact crossover can be pushed."

We saw those extremes first-hand, and if this concept is any indicator, it shows Nissan has a good grip on creating genre-bending vehicles that can mix versatility, efficiency and excitement.

More Concept Vehicles...

The Honda 2&4 Concept delivers instant exhilaration

Hyundai HCD-16 Vision G Coupe Concept previews a premium future

Toyota's Urban Utility Concept is loaded with potential

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