As a brand of Nissan, a partner with Renault, it is hardly surprising that Infiniti is turning to a smaller front-drive platform for a future entry-level model. Although Infiniti has become established in North America since its launch in the 1980s, the brand has only recently been launched in Europe, and the models reflect the North American market where comparatively lower fuel prices suit the products better.
So the Etherea concept is an essential glimpse at the future for the company in Europe. In the words of Senior Vice President of Design Shiro Nakamura, “As an exploration into what a future entry-level Infiniti may be like, Etherea is highly significant.”
Infiniti describes it as part elegant coupe, part spacious sedan, and part practical hatchback. It’s a five-door hatchback, which could be a future competitor to models such as the BMW 5-series GT or Audi A5 Sportback. The driver hip or H-point is higher than these models but not as high as an SUV.
Etherea is designed around a gasoline/hybrid drivetrain derived from the recently launched Infiniti M35h, combining a supercharged 2.5-L four-cylinder engine producing 245 hp (183 kW) in parallel with an electric drive motor/generator using a continuously variable transmission. When a production version arrives, it will be the only front-drive Infiniti model.
The elegant body features rear-hinged back doors and no B-pillar, giving improved access to the interior. Exterior features are said to hint at future production models, such as the curving headlamps, incorporating daytime running lights in the form of a crescent-shaped LED array.
Inside, the dashboard is equipped with two screens; one has touch-screen display to control the climate control and entertainment systems. Concentric dials in front of the driver display engine and vehicle speeds.
Infiniti is introducing new designs and materials with the Etherea including “Kumihimo,” the piping on the seats said to be inspired by the kimono and “Inuyarai,” the vertical strips on the interior door panels. Infiniti’s newest trim is also used for the first time in the Etherea. “Kisane-Washi” adapts the parchment paper-inspired finish and uses a new way of layering the paper to enhance its texture.