December 31, 2005

Car that lets you park and ride at 170mph
>From Chris Ayres in Los Angeles
MOTORISTS may soon be able to drive at 170mph through the gridlocked streets
of Manhattan ‹ from the safety of a Rotherham car park.

A new concept car aimed at the baggy-trousered, baseball-cap wearing
post-MTV generation will feature the world¹s first dashboard-mounted Xbox
360 video game system as standard.

It will not work while the car is being driven, but when parked, the Nissan
Urge¹s steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals can be used to control
the Xbox, which will come loaded with Project Gotham Racing 3. A 7 in video
monitor will flip down from the roof.

³Nissan conducted a survey of 2,000 Œecho-boomers¹, a majority of which said
technology and gaming are among the most important attributes in their first
car,² Bruce Campbell, vice-president of design at Nissan Design America in
La Jolla, California, said. An ³echo-boomer² is a child of a baby-boomer.

The car itself is a stripped-down, motorcycle-inspired design, with an
aluminium centre structure and a glass bonnet, giving a view of a small,
high-revving engine. It also features see-through door panels, a collapsible
canvas roof, a Formula One-style steering wheel, and lightweight mesh bucket
seats. The biggest draw, however, is the Xbox in the dash.

Putting video games in cars has long been popular with wealthy rappers, who
for years have installed PlayStations in the back seats of Range Rovers and
Cadillac Escalades. The concept gained momentum with the popular MTV show
Pimp My Ride, in which the rapper Xzibit takes a viewer¹s clapped-out banger
to the West Coast Customs workshop in Los Angeles to be remodelled.

The car usually emerges with brightly coloured paintwork, chrome wheel rims,
a leather interior, and a built-in video game console. To ³pimp² has now
become a widely used verb, meaning to improve.

Cadillac attempted to capitalise on the phenomenon by inviting rappers,
record moguls and athletes to a private viewing of its 2006 Escalade, at
which they could give feedback on the wheels, audio system and other
interior features.

The upshot was the Cadillac Escalade ŒPlatinum Edition¹, which features two
ceiling-mounted television screens, 20in chrome wheels and cup holders that
can both heat and cool drinks. It comes with a 6.0 litre engine, costs more
than $70,000, and does about 15 miles to the gallon.

Younger consumers, unable to afford luxury SUVs, have instead focused on
brands such as Nissan, largely thanks to the ³cool² factor bestowed on it by
the sub-culture of illegal street racing that became popular in California
during the 1990s.

Many street racers are young Asian-Americans, and their cars of choice are
heavily modified cheap Japanese saloons.

Although Nissan does not plan to put the Urge into production, some of its
features, including the Xbox, are likely to turn up in future models.
Project Gotham allows motorists to race virtually through the streets of New
York, London, Las Vegas and Tokyo, as well as the famous Nurburgring circuit
in Germany.

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