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Infiniti will build a 550bhp 4-dr supercar
Infiniti bosses are being remarkably un-coy about their new Q80 Inspiration concept car, launched today in Paris. Something very similar is headed for production.
Its design communicates Infiniti’s values of “seduction and mystery”, apparently, and it has an “unmistakably romantic presence” said Infiniti design chief Alfonso Albaisa.
Well, something similar is coming to production, but without the clap-hands doors and four individual seats, maybe. But the 550bhp hybrid drivetrain, including 440bhp of all-new three-litre twin-turbo V6 and nine-speed auto, will survive to production.
The car’s initial design was done at Infiniti’s new studio in Paddington, London, under the direction of British-born Simon Cox. Cox has form on concepts, having done a string of dramatic and highly influential Cadillacs in the early 2000s. The design was then transferred to Japan, finished and built there for its global debut in Paris.
The Q80 is a full-size fastback saloon, more like a Porsche Panamera than a Mercedes S-class. It’s more than 5 metres long, a distance children are awarded for swimming. However, Cox and other senior Infiniti managers tell us that although they will definitely enter the big-car segment in “three to five years” from now, it’s possible the tail of the car will take a slightly different form, perhaps a notchback.
The twin-turbo V6 engine is all-new and will be launched in a production car within two years. They aren’t saying which one, but Infiniti’s head of product strategy, Francois Bancon, says it’s a ‘high-performance’ engine, to be used only in Infinitis because it’s too expensive for Nissans.
Infiniti is struggling to sell cars in the UK and Europe right now but it’s doing OK elsewhere round the world, albeit only selling one-eighth of BMW numbers in all. To grow some more, by 2019 the brand intends to bolster its market coverage by increasing its range by 60 percent, and adding even more powertrains.
Right now in Europe they have the new Q50 saloon, elderly Q60 coupe, and the recently facelifted Q70 saloon, and a couple of crossovers, the QX50 (formerly called EX) and QX70 (formerly called FX, if you’re still following).
Next year they will add a smaller hatch built at Sunderland, the Q30. It’s based on the Mercedes A-class platform, one of several co-operations between Mercedes and Nissan-Infiniti-Renault.
And they’ll go smaller than the Q30 eventually. Shiro Nakamura, Nissan Group design chief, says they are looking at ideas for a Q20. Nissan-Renault chief Carlos Ghosn told us “The competition is going to smaller cars, and Infiniti will enlarge our product offer.”
The production Q80 will round out the range at the top.
The Q80 Inspiration concept has a new form of autonomous driving tech. When turned on, the system suggests how the drive should turn or brake or accelerate through traffic. It does this using audible tones. Hope it doesn’t squalk too bossily. But it’s always down to the driver to choose whether to obey.
As Ghosn puts it: “We are pioneering autonomous drive because it gives more control to the driver not less. It’s not the driverless car – it lets the driver drive when he wants.”
And Bancon says there will be a performance version of every Infiniti. “There’s an intention to do the Eau Rouge,” he says. That’s the 4WD Nissan GT-R engined Q50 saloon. A Japanese BMW M3 in shorthand. Only much more powerful and 4WD. He says we can’t expect all performance Infinitis to be that extreme, mind.
Well, the Q80 Inspiration hardly hangs about. Infiniti’s boss for Europe, Francois Goupil de Bouille, says the intention is to have a production version make 0-62mph in less than four seconds. “It will have the highest performance in its segment.” He too clarifies how serious they are about production. “You remember the show car for the Q30. It was 90 percent of the real thing. We have the same intension here.”