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Infiniti's Emerg-E: look familiar?

  1. Does the Infiniti Emerg-E remind you of anything? No, not the 458 Italia. Not the Acura NSX Concept, though both are fine guesses. We’re thinking of something older: in fact, something penned by the Emerg-E’s designer Shiro Nakamura many years ago. No? Then read on, fair TopGear.commer, and you shall discover that the new, shiny Emerg-E may not be quite as new as all that…

    The Emerg-E concept was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva motor show earlier this year, and now sits pride of place on the Infiniti stand at Lord March’s stately mansion, flanked by reigning Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel and his team mate Mark Webber, who piloted the very recently finished running prototype up the Goodwood hill on Sunday afternoon (following a rather embarrassing mechanical hitch on Friday where it stalled).

    Words: Vijay Pattni

  2. “It’s not like those instances where manufacturers show you a concept car but it’s actually the real car in disguise,” says Jerry Hardcastle, VP of vehicle design and development at Infiniti. “This is a concept car, and we decided to make it run. We’re showing a running concept in public two weeks after we’ve built it. It’s a little bit exciting and terrifying at the same time.”

    Terrifying, yes, especially when it breaks down. But the Emerg-E is ruddy exciting. Not least because it previews the sort of mid-engined madness Infiniti could cook up if there was a business case. Plus, it’s almost entirely British.

  3. “We took a Lotus Evora platform and stretched the wheelbase to match the design. We think it makes it look more beautiful,” says Hardcastle with a cheeky grin. “Then [deep breath] we put a Lotus range extender engine in there - a 1.2-litre three cylinder unit producing 47bhp - which drives a generator which charges a battery that stores the energy, which is then delivered through four inverters to two twin rotor motors.”

    Phew. At the moment, he reckons the car develops around 400bhp and an astronomical 737lb ft instantly. 0-60mph is benchmarked at around four seconds. “But it’s been raining every time we tried so we’ve not done that yet,” admits Hardcastle. “It’s done 130mph at Millbrook, and because it’s a work in progress, we don’t know what it’s capable of.”

  4. Shiro - chief creative officer at Nissan and Infiniti - hopes the Emerg-E will raise the awareness of the Infiniti brand within a UK audience still struggling to get to grips with Nissan’s luxury arm.

    “Our design language at Infiniti, and indeed strategy, has always been focused around a rear-wheel base,” says Shiro. “We are basically putting more energy in the front; that design theme is very dominant, starting with the grille, strong fenders, a long bonnet and a short deck. For us, it’s a good challenge on how to express a ‘midship’ design.”

  5. This Emerg-E concept is Infiniti’s first ever mid-engined sportscar. “It isn’t a traditional Infiniti,” says Shiro. “We are looking to the future. I wanted to go a little bit further, and showcase a language we will see on the next G series saloon.”

    Shiro tells us the Infiniti brief was to create something much leaner than anything they’d done previously. “The current G is sporty, but to me, it has far too much ‘meat’. I wanted to slim down the profile of all Infinitis. The language of the Emerg-E is definitely leaner, which you will see for yourself very soon,” he says, pointing to a 2013 release for the next-gen G, Infiniti’s 3-Series rival.

  6. He tells us the Emerg-E concept didn’t have as much ‘volume’ put into the front, instead adding ‘energy’ into the middle of the car, including that glorious air intake. “Everything is overlapping like a Kimono,” Shiro says. “I wanted to put more elegance into the rear end. I wanted to express an elegant sportscar, not a strong, macho mid-ship. Something a little more feminine.”

    But will we ever see the Emerg-E - or at least a mid-engined Infiniti sports car - on our roads? Gert van Avondt, Infiniti product manager, is tantalisingly obscure on the point. “After the new G launches next year, you’ll see a new small hatchback soon after. Then, perhaps, you’ll see an Infiniti halo model. At this point, we’re not sure whether it’ll be like the Essence or Emerg-E - it’s still open for discussion.”

  7. Hardcastle chimes in. “Even if somebody said ‘go’ today, it would take three or four years to do the development…”

    Here’s hoping Infiniti’s top brass push the button on this, lest it be cast aside much like the Emerg-E’s sort-of-predecessor, Shiro’s car we mentioned at the top of this piece.

  8. “Maybe you don’t remember, but I did a mid-engined car in 1989 in collaboration with Lotus,” says Shiro, “working with Lotus designers Julian Thompson and Simon Cox. That was the first mid-ship I had done, and it was also a UK-built car.”

    That car, TopGear.commers, was the Isuzu 4200R that took the 1989 Tokyo motor show by storm. Don’t remember it? Us neither. But, look up - that’s it right there, in all its eighties glory. “This is very similar to that, thinking about it,” says Shiro, with a smile. Good design, they say, never goes out of fashion…

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