Infiniti is using this year's Paris Motor Show to share its vision for the "upper echelons of the premium sedan category." That vision is the Infiniti Q80 Inspiration, a concept car that pushes Infiniti styling, drive and technology into the future, providing an early look at a potential answer to the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series.
"The Q80 Inspiration concept was born to disrupt the premium sedan category," explains Francois Bancon, Infiniti vice president of product strategy. "Q80 Inspiration is how we see the future in terms of moving people in the higher end of our portfolio. Q80 Inspiration is a precursor of a production model in this segment and, as such, integral to our future."
While Infiniti may eventually compete in the full-size luxury sedan category, and while its sedan may be loosely based on the Q80 show car, we expect it'll look quite different. As Infiniti has done in the past with concepts like the Essence and Emerg-E, it uses a rather radical concept car filled with sumptuous curves and cutting edge technological bits to highlight a few things that will actually show up in production.
One of the things headed for production is the concept's downsized 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, which Infiniti says will lead to a production engine family within the next two years. In the Q80, that V6 teams with an electric motor for a total of 550 hp. The hybrid system allows for both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive and delivers an estimated 5.5L/100km (42.8 US mpg) fuel economy while puffing out CO2 at a rate of 129g/km.
The styling between the Q80's dimensional endpoints combines concave and convex surfaces with sharp angles and shapes and bold, oversized elements. The all-glass roof comes to a shield-like point in the rear, lined up with the inner pinnacle of the centered Infiniti logo. That windshield terminus is surrounded by bolstered C pillars trimmed in lustrous metal. Up front, the imposing grille is flanked by two wing-like headlights and underlined by split intakes.
The Q80's interior opens wide thanks to the B pillar-less suicide-door design. That quilted leather and Alcantara-dressed interior has four seats separated neatly by a front-to-back center console. Both the driver and passenger have individual head-up displays, the driver's for key road information and the passenger's dedicated to infotainment provided by a connected smartphone. The two rear passengers have more traditional touchscreen displays for multimedia.
The Q80 concept includes an automated technology suite built to "enhance the driver, not restrict them." The driver can turn the automated drive hardware on at the poke of a steering wheel button, choosing when to relax and rely on the onboard cameras, lasers and sensors and when to rely solely on his own driving acumen. Unlike other automated systems that override the driver, Infiniti's design makes suggestions but leaves actual action in the hands (and feet) of the human driver.
"As part of our creativity and exploration philosophy, Infiniti considers that autonomous driving is an integral part of a premium car of tomorrow," explains Bancon. "In our case, we have taken the approach that autonomous driving should empower and enhance the driving experience, not do the driving. Our path of development is not taking us into the area of self-driving vehicles."
It's not clear how much of the Q80 will work its way into Infiniti's production line, but it is clear that Infiniti is serious about pursuing a full-size flagship sedan.
"Q80 Inspiration is a concept vehicle, but there is a production intent associated with it," concludes Bancon. "The naming of the car indicates that something like the Q80 Inspiration will be in our portfolio of the future. This vehicle will inspire all of our future products."
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