Les Halles, Paris - There comes a time when a luxury sedan ceases to be simply a more comfortable means of getting from A to B and becomes a statement
Infiniti has reached that point with the Q80 Inspiration concept - a big four-door fastback that's openly intended to stir things up in the premium sedan segment and yes, it's the precursor of a production model.
The maker calls it full-size: at 5060mmm long, 2010mm wide and 1340mm high we just call it big. With rear-hinged rear doors and no B pillars, the side of the car opens wide to usher the driver and passengers into four individual seats.
A simplified driver interface and head-up display keeps the complex technology in the background, displaying information on a 'need to know' basis. The front passenger also has a head-up display for external information via a smartphone connected to the cars telematic system, while each rear-seat occupant has a touch screen in the back of the front seat for access to their onboard entertainment package.
It's all finished in quilted leather, alcantara synthetic suede and satin-polished metal, bathed in light from a sculptural panoramic glass roof. Design director Alfonso Albaisa said at the Infiniti presentation it was intended to reflect a finely-detailed, almost feminine elegance, in contrast to the bold masculinity of the exterior styling.
“There is a tendency with modern design that every time you add interior features and technology you add complexity,” added Albaisa. “The idea with the Q80 Inspiration was to re-define and simplify how the car interacts with its occupants.”
BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN SLOW
The concept is a runner, with 405kW on tap from an all-new biturbo three-litre petrol V6 and hybrid electric powertrain. The new engine is the first in a family of engines that will be introduced to the Infiniti model range within the next two years.
In this application, the maker quotes fuel consumption in the region of 5.5 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions of about 129g/km, together with a 'smart' transmission that switches from rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive on demand, or as conditions dictate.
The concept also reflects Infiniti's take on autonomous driving - that it should assist the driver with on-demand systems, rather than make them a passenger.
It uses cameras, lasers and sensors - controlled by a button on the left side of the steering wheel and a touchpad in the cetre console - to provide an ongoing dialogue between car and driver through the head-up display but leaves the decisions to the driver.
The system emits tones suggesting a course of action for the driver in heavy traffic or in highway mode. The final decision - whether to accelerate and overtake or whether to brake and fall in behind the car ahead - always rests with the driver.
“Autonomous driving is an integral part of the premium car of tomorrow,” said vice-president for product strategy Francois Bancon, “but we believe 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.”