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Cryo Chamber

Nissan creates the GenX Driving Machine

FORGET horsepower, forget miles per gallon: the key metric for judging the Nissan Urge, a design study to be introduced today at the North American International Automobile Show in Detroit, is polygons per second, an index of performance for video games.

Five hundred million polygons a second is the rating for the Microsoft Xbox 360 video game system tucked away in the car’s trunk. It pumps out images fast enough to generate dizzyingly sharp scenes of city streets and speeding cars on a display that folds down from above the windshield.

The Urge’s key trick is that when parked, its steering wheel and pedals can be used to control the Xbox. The game’s soundtrack of roaring engines and screeching tires play through the car’s speakers to accompany the action on the screen.

Many cars have had video game displays installed in their dashboards. The Urge is the first car to be turned into a game controller – the tail is now wagging the dog.

The Urge, created at Nissan Design America in the La Jolla section of San Diego, is another of the auto industry’s seemingly endless quests for "echo boomer" customers, a coterie that for carmakers gleams over the horizon the way the mythical city of Eldorado did for the conquistadors.

In part, the Urge is a response to an online survey, said John Cupit, a design manager for Nissan. Mr. Cupit interpreted the survey results in the bare, exposed look of the Urge, an articulation of the car’s parts aimed, he said, at giving the feel of a motorcycle.

The fenders and structure, mostly aluminum, stand out as separate parts. The engine – a piece of the car so unimportant in this case that Nissan did not even provide the usual specifications of horsepower and torque – is visible beneath a transparent hood. Nissan calls the look "minimalism to the maximum."

The bottoms of the doors are cut away, revealing a surrounding frame of aluminum rendered in "acid yellow," which Anka Mazzei, the color designer, said she chose to express intensity and speed.

The front end of the Urge is similar to the GT-R Proto, a concept that Nissan unveiled at the Tokyo auto show last fall. But one should not take the exterior of the Urge too literally. Its weirdness signals that it is unlikely to become a production vehicle. What counts is the concept.

Urge is an implicit response to cultural change: young buyers have proved more fascinated by the innovations of their new cellphones, hand-held devices and video games than by the automotive advances that captivated their parents.

The showcase game for the Xbox 360 is a special edition of Project Gotham Racing, one of the hit titles for the original Xbox as well. Mr. Cupit said that he and his colleagues at the La Jolla studio spend a lot of time playing on a huge plasma screen.

The project was a joint effort with Microsoft, so the Xbox 360 beneath the boattail- shape trunk, one of a half-million consoles shipped since the game system went on sale Nov. 22, is different from the others: no one stood in line to buy it.

Video gaming is not the only technology incorporated into the Urge. In addition to the Xbox 360, there is an iPod docking station and a cellphone that doubles as a "smart key" to start the engine.

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