Continuing with design themes established with last year’s Q30 concept (see http://articles.sae.org/12454/), the Infiniti Q80 Inspiration hybrid concept that debuted at the 2014 Paris Motor Show also showcases what’s on the horizon from the luxury brand in the powertrain and connectivity realms.
“Q80 Inspiration is how we see the future in terms of moving people in the higher end of our portfolio,” said Francois Bancon, Infiniti Vice President, Product Strategy. “This car is making a statement. Q80 Inspiration is a precursor of a production model in this segment and, as such, integral to our future.”
Taking about 15 months to travel from initial designs to the Paris show floor, the four-door full-size fastback is Infiniti’s vision of a range-topping luxury sedan. The Q80 Inspiration, which employs both aluminum and carbon composite bodywork, is 5052 mm (198.9 in) long, 2027 mm (79.8 in) wide, and 1350 mm (53.1 in) tall.
Up front, active grille shutters open at lower speeds to cool the engine, and close at highway speeds for better aerodynamic efficiency. Slender full-length hood vents help the engine breathe at higher speeds. Intelligent LED headlights are linked to the car’s satellite navigation system and automatically adjust brightness according to the situation.
The body design also features “portal-style” doors that create a wide opening to the interior, and functional C-pillars that serve as cool air intakes for the hybrid-boost battery pack.
Modular engine family, hybrid boost
Powering the Q80 Inspiration is an all-new, downsized 3.0-L V6 with direct fuel injection and twin turbochargers, coupled with an Adaptive Direct Response Hybrid system. The electrified powertrain is expected to produce a combined 550 hp (410 kW)—the V6 providing 450 hp (335 kW) and an electric motor powered by a Li-ion battery pack adding 75 kW of boost when required, including during acceleration to counter turbo lag.
“If the car detects pressure on the gas pedal then it will add to the fun. There isn’t just one setting, it’ll constantly adjust for the most satisfying drive,” said Bancon. “It can also instantly back off the hybrid power boost if the vehicle detects too much speed is being carried into a corner.”
The company anticipates fuel efficiency in the range of 5.5 L/100 km (42.8 mpg) and CO2 emissions of about 129 g/km for the hybrid powertrain, which is coupled to a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
The aluminum-based engine will be part of a new engine family expected to be introduced to the Infiniti portfolio within the next two years. The automaker plans to double its powertrain offerings over the next five years.
“The compact V6 engine will replace capacity with a smarter intent—to deliver no-compromise performance and efficiency,” said Bancon. “Modern consumers are interested in smart powertrains like this.”
Driving the 22-in rear wheels under normal conditions, the vehicle’s anticipated 750 N·m (553 lb·ft) of torque can also be split by up to 50% between the front and rear axles. The “smart” drivetrain will switch from rear-wheel to all-wheel drive as conditions dictate, or when manually selected by the driver.
Philosophy on autonomy—less is more
Infiniti states that the Q80 Inspiration offers a preview of its philosophy on autonomous technology—“that it should enhance the driver and not restrict them.” Using cameras, lasers, and sensors, on-demand assistance systems can be employed by the driver when needed through a button on the left-hand side of the steering wheel.
With the car’s head-up display (HUD), the driver decides what is projected onto the windshield via an Infiniti InTouch-style touchpad in the center console. The system emits tones suggesting a course of action in heavy traffic or in highway mode, which the driver can heed or ignore.
“Infiniti considers that autonomous driving is an integral part of a premium car of tomorrow. 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,” said Bancon.
The “1 + 1 + 1 + 1” interior concept attempts to bring “everything to everyone onboard, when and how they want it.” Infiniti designers go about achieving this goal by providing a small, personal touchscreen in the headrests for rear-seat occupants. The front passenger has a HUD for display of external information via a smartphone connected to the vehicle’s telematics system.
“There is a tendency with modern design that every time you add interior features and technology you add complexity,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti Executive Design Director. “The idea with Q80 Inspiration was to redefine and simplify how we interact with people in the car. Of course the Q80 Inspiration has the key features which are premium, smart, and engaging, but simplicity was our main objective.”