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Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Concept: 550-HP Hybrid Previews Future Flagship

Ahead of the 2014 Paris Auto Show this week, Infiniti has revealed full details, and a full set of images, of a concept car that strongly hints at the direction of a future flagship Q80 production model—and an inspiration for all future models from the brand.

Its 550-horsepower, all-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain, with an estimated fuel efficiency of over 40 mpg, might be a game-changer in the luxury segment if the model can arrive to market this way.

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Essentially a four-door fastback, the Q80 Inspiration looks ahead to a flagship model that would parallel the Audi A7, Mercedes-Benz CLS, Porsche Panamera, or Aston Martin Rapide. At about 199 inches long and 79 inches wide, the Q80 fits right in among these other models, although it’s several inches shorter/lower in overall height (around 53 inches) than most models in this class.

In a release out ahead of the concept’s show debut, the brand called it “Infiniti’s first foray into the premium sedan category.” Lest they forgot about the Infiniti Q45, the model that kickstarted the brand in the U.S. for the 1990 model year.

Penned and planned as a premium-sedan ‘disruptor’

Infiniti calls the Q80 Inspiration a disruptor in the segment, and based on its layout, roofline, and extremely long, low, swoopy design, it sure looks like one from the outside. Said to deliver “feminine elegance and muscular menace in equal measure,” it looks like it combines the roofline of a sports car with a cockpit-like yet softly sculpted and finely detailed interior. Big 22-inch wheels help give the low-set body an even more hunkered-down, exaggerated stance.

In front, the Q80 Inspiration has what we’d characterize as a somewhat lower yet more assertive version of the front-end styling of contemporary models from the brand, like the current Q50 sedan. But what’s happening with the aggressive side-sheetmetal sculpting and a rear window that tapers back to a point, framed by the angled-inward rear pillars—and a shape that, from overhead, looks like it visually narrows—is something completely new. Altogether, it borrows some from the 2009 Essence concept, yet makes its own new and distinct statement. The Q80’s rear-hinged rear doors allow a wide opening to the cabin; and while the configuration has been quite common in concept cars for years, it’s made it into very few production models (Rolls-Royce is one of the few exceptions).

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Inside, the design team has aimed for a look that’s simple, yet premium, smart, and engaging, incorporating milled aluminum-satin trim pieces, Alcantara and leather trim, and horse-hair carpet. With the so-called ‘1+1+1+1′ layout, each passenger gets a color touch screen, while there’s a rear seat-mounted, silver-plated beverage flask. A special micro-stenciling process helps with projection from the sound system.

550 horsepower, 40+ mpg

What powers the Q80 Inspiration is nothing familiar either. Here we also see a hint—in this case, a very strong hint—of what’s to come, with a new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and hybrid-electric powertrain altogether delivers 550 horsepower and up to 553 pound-feet of torque, while the hybrid system allows an on-demand shift from rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive as the conditions require.

The V-6, Infiniti confirms, is a precursor to a new family of engines that’s due over the next two years. The twin-turbo V-6 alone makes 450 hp, while the lithium-ion battery pack and motor system bring an additional 100 hp of total output.

It’s all delivered through an all-wheel-drive system with a smart mode that can send up to 50 percent to the front wheels, or operate in a pure rear-wheel drive mode as the driver selects.

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Infiniti estimates 0-60 mph acceleration at under four seconds, with a 155-mph top speed. And it should be very fuel-efficient; Infiniti claims a fuel-efficiency (Euro combined) of 42.8 mpg (U.S. gallons)—an astounding figure for such a large, performance-oriented model, and likely one that would translate to a U.S. EPA Combined rating of well over 30 mpg.

Futuristic interface, autonomous-driving features

The Q80 Inspiration is loaded with active-safety and autonomous-driving technology, and with its full set of camera, laser, and sensor hardware it can allow the driver to press a button on the left side of the steering wheel to engage the equivalent of an auto-pilot mode. With the system, Infiniti says that the final call on routes, or whether to brake and fall into the flow, or to overtake, will still rest with the driver.

What’s otherwise a highly simplified, low, and gently curved dash—the instrument panel of an exotic sports car, really—is complemented by some other wizardry. The windshield of the Q80 Inspiration serves as a complex head-up display (HUD), with displays controlled by a touchpad on the center console.

“There is a tendency with modern design that every time you add interior features and technology you add complexity,” said Infiniti executive design director Alfonso Albaisa. “The idea with the Q80 Inspiration was to redefine and simplify how we interact with people in the car.”

While more details on the production-bound Infiniti Q80 might be a year or more away, look for more on this powertrain, the design, and the technology in the Q80 Inspiration—as well as some live photos—as we cover the show this week.

Source: Motor Authority

By: Bengt Halvorson