Johannesburg Motor Show - Infiniti is putting a distinctly sharper edge on its range of premium cars with the aid of a young German test driver called Sebastian something-or-other, and underlining the brand's sportier positioning with new names, each starting with a Q.
And the first of these is the Q50 sports sedan, on show at Nasrec ahead of its South African introduction in the first quarter of 2014.
It's the real-life, production culmination of three concept cars that literally shaped the future for Infiniti - the Emerg-E, the Essence and the Etherea - with design elements such as the crescent-shaped C pillar, three-dimensional double-arch grille and asymmetrical cabin layout.
QUICKEST HYBRID YOU CAN BUY
The range-topping Q50 Hybrid comes with a 3.5-litre petrol V6 mated to a full-hybrid electric drive, and disposes of the 0-100km/h sprint in less than 5.5 seconds. As of now, says the maker, it's the fastest-accelerating hybrid you can buy, although that is likely to change when when hybrid supercars such as the Porsche 918 go into production.
The Hybrid and 2.2 Diesel models on display in Johannesburg will introduce the Q50 nameplate to South Africa in 2014, and will be joined by a turbocharged petrol variant at a later stage.
WHERE DOES THE NAME COME FROM?
During the First World War the Royal Navy had no way to locate German submarines (Sonar hadn’t yet been invented) so it converted cargo ships into U-boat traps by fitting concealed heavy-calibre guns and filling their holds with blocks of balsa and wooden crates, making them practically unsinkable.
They were called Q-ships because the programme was carried out in great secrecy at the port of Queenstown in Ireland.
The plan was that the Q-ship would stooge along at a leisurely seven knots or so in waters known to be infested with U-boats, until it actually got torpedoed.
(Unbelievable? Believe it).
The Q-ship would then stop dead in the water but, hopefully, wouldn’t sink, so as to lure the U-boat into surfacing and finishing off its intended victim with gunfire - at which point the concealing bulkheads would be dropped and the Q-ship’s big guns would blow the submarine out of the water.
That was the plan, anyway; in the real world, British Q-ships sank 14 U-boats and damaged another 60 in 150 engagements between June 1915 and November 1918, for the loss of 27 of their own, while more than 240 German submarines were lost to minefields and depth-charges.
Nevertheless, the concept - heroic to the point of insanity - has gone down in the annals of naval warfare, and the prefix ‘Q’ has come to denote a vehicle that packs a powerful concealed punch. Like the Q50 Hybrid.
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