PARIS – A low-slung, powerful concept car called the Q80 shown to journalists on the eve of the Paris auto show precedes Infiniti’s launch of a “bold new entry in the large premium-car segment,” says Francois Goupil de Bouille, European managing director.
The fastback is one of three new Infinitis that will expand the Nissan luxury brand’s range in the next five years, along with the Q30 due in 2015 and an unnamed product that will make up the rest of the “60% increase” de Bouille promises.
Infiniti has five models now: the Q50 and QX50, Q70 and QX70, and the Q60 coupe and cabriolet. De Bouille says more pictures of the future range will be presented in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The Q80 Inspiration Concept is 199.2 ins. (5,060 mm) long and 79.1 ins. (2,010 mm) wide but only 53.8 ins. (1,350 mm) high. While the appearance is exaggerated, such as the huge wheels with no room under the fenders for a bounce and the sedan-style doors, the general shape reflects the brand’s desire to be provocative and passionate, de Bouille says.
Global marketing chief Vincent Gillet says the idea is to appeal to younger drivers. Older customers for premium cars are unlikely to leave their preferred German brands, he says, but the new generation coming into money is ready to consider Infiniti.
The brand has been working to identify and clarify what it wants its image to be, and Gillet says it will have completed that work in several months. Infiniti has not always had a clear identity, he says, and having one will help everyone in the company, from designers and engineers to salespeople.
The interior of the concept car hides most controls in an iPod-like design. “The simpler the better,” says Gillet.
The driver and front passenger each have head-up displays, while backseat passengers each get a touchscreen. Infiniti calls the layout “one plus one plus one plus one” to make clear that all four passengers control their own environment.
Executive Design Director Alfonso Albaisa points out that the interior has Alcantara, saddle leather and furry carpeting for a variety of sensual input. Overall, he says, “it delivers feminine elegance and muscular menace in equal measure and strikes big in terms of styling, craftsmanship, choice of materials and attention to detail.”
The Q80 Inspiration’s engine is an aluminum-block 3.0L V-6 linked to a hybrid drive system that provides 420 lb.-ft. (570 Nm) of torque, while the fuel economy is rated at 42.7 mpg (5.5 L/100 km), or 129 g/km of carbon-dioxide output.
De Bouille says Infiniti will launch such an engine, with twin turbochargers and direct injection, in two years. He does not confirm it is one of the brand’s joint projects with Daimler. Infiniti is using more components developed by the German automaker in the early years of their cooperation, says Stefan Weinmann, general manager of global communications, but input will be divided more evenly when they begin to develop a platform together.
Weinmann, who came to Infiniti from Opel, says the company wants to grow and is “hiring a lot of people to make it happen.”
De Bouille says Infiniti also will be taking steps toward autonomous driving, providing a suite of driver-assistance functions that can be turned on with a button on the left side of the steering wheel. Such systems, he says, “will become an integral part of premium cars, but only when it enhances the driving experience.”