The premium subcompact SUV segment only came into existence in 2011 with just three models competing, yet after seven years its ranks had swollen to an identical seven challengers with sales growth having…

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology Road Test

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
The QX30 is easily as attractive as the Mercedes-Benz GLA it shares underpinnings with, yet remains distinctively Infiniti in design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The premium subcompact SUV segment only came into existence in 2011 with just three models competing, yet after seven years its ranks had swollen to an identical seven challengers with sales growth having increased by more than 450 percent. That upward trajectory is hardly slowing either, with 2016 to 2017 year-over-year sales up by more than 25 percent alone. Per capita volume in this segment is higher in Canada than in the U.S. as well, so it only makes sense that all luxury brands want a piece of the action. 

In August of 2016 the QX30 became that seventh subcompact luxury SUV competitor, and thanks to a very affordable starting price that remains unchanged from last year at just $35,990 plus freight and fees, the new SUV simultaneously gave Infiniti a much-needed entry-level gateway model for thousands less than most rivals. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
The QX30’s styling delivers equal doses of sport and elegance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At that price one might think the QX30 is somewhat short on features, but a quick glance at its spec sheet will show the complete opposite is true. In fact, walk up to the little sport utility with key fob in pocket and welcoming approach lamps illuminate the ground to each side, while a proximity-sensing key lets you inside. Yes, I’m talking about the base QX30, not a fully optioned version. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
The QX30’s cat’s eyes headlamps are some of the most animalistic in the industry. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Continuing on that value-added theme, the standard features list is further bolstered with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, plus auto-dimming centre and driver’s side mirrors, while those turn signal-enhanced outer mirrors are also power-folding, making it easier to squeeze by in tight parking spots. A standard backup camera with dynamic guidelines makes reversing out of such spots less stressful too, while other thoughtful standard conveniences include dual-zone auto climate control, heated eight-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar support and three-way seat and mirror memory for both the driver and front passenger, while the standard upholstery is genuine Nappa leather front to back. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
The QX30’s fine details are beautifully penned. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Seriously, if you want to see a German blush from shame, match that list up to one of the QX30’s Teutonic competitors. This reality becomes even more awkward when you learn this elegantly styled Infiniti is actually a Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 under the skin. While its classy chromed double-arch trademark grille, cat’s eyes LED-enhanced headlamps, secondary trademark C-pillar kink, beautifully detailed LED taillights, and gracefully arcing rear window/liftgate design look every bit Infiniti, the interior is filled with clear giveaways to its Stuttgart-sourced underpinnings. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
The QX30 incorporates one of Infiniti’s most distinctive trademarks, this lovely kinked C-pillar. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I actually noticed the Mercedes-style key fob even before climbing inside, while repositioning the driver’s seat required adjustment via the German brand’s unique seat-profile shaped switchgear up on the door panels, where they’re easy to see and access. The power window and lock buttons, plus the mirror toggle and switches are Mercedes fare too, as is the shape of the steering wheel, yet while obviously pulled from M-B’s vast parts bing the buttons on the steering wheel spokes are totally different from those used for the GLA, as is the Mercedes-sourced gauge cluster and colour multi-information display, which comes complete with M-B fonts and graphics. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
These standard LED taillights are particularly attractive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The entire centre stack could be from a Mercedes too, especially the HVAC interface, but which one I’m not sure. The 7.0-inch touchscreen is filled with Infiniti’s familiar graphics and functions, but the infotainment dial and various buttons on the lower console are pure Benz, as is the satin aluminum-trimmed gearshift lever. 

Of course, Infiniti brands everything with its “two central lines leading off into an infinite point on the horizon” logo, and as importantly there isn’t much inside the cabin that looks remotely similar to the GLA from a design standpoint, which leaves Infiniti and its Japanese-luxury oriented fan-base happy with a subcompact SUV of their own, and Mercedes’ parent Daimler content that it has a B2B partner to share both development and production costs with. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
Infiniti crafted a unique high-quality interior filled with obvious hints to its Mercedes co-developer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s important to note, for respectability’s sake, the relationship between Infiniti and Daimler isn’t merely a one-way street. In fact it’s a comprehensive long-term strategic partnership founded in 2010 that sees Nissan, Infiniti’s parent, building 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engines for rear/all-wheel drive Renault/Infiniti and Mercedes vehicles in Decherd, Tennessee (the Q50, Q60, and C-Class included, whereas engines for the transverse-mounted front/all-wheel drive QX30 and GLA come from Mercedes’ plant in Germany); an assembly plant collaboration in Aguascalientes, Mexico for the new Infiniti QX50 (plus the upcoming short-wheelbase Mercedes A-Class sedan, and future Mercedes GLB SUV); Nissan Twingo architecture and powertrain contributions for Daimler’s Smart ForTwo (including the electric powertrain for Smart’s EV); the future Mercedes X-Class pickup truck riding on Nissan NP300 Navara hardware and built by Nissan at a Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina; etcetera. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
The dash design is purely Infiniti, yet many of the components are pulled from Mercedes’ parts bin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, Infiniti was involved in the QX30/GLA design from the ground up, and tunes the powertrain to its own unique specifications, resulting in a small SUV that feels a bit more luxury-oriented than the slightly sportier Mercedes, although the QX30 is no laggard either. The direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the latter from only 1,200 rpm, resulting in off-the-line performance that’s more than adequate and overall drivability that’s plenty of fun, especially when a curving roadway opens up ahead. Infiniti’s suspension tuning provides an excellent compromise between ride quality and road holding, delivering an engaging driving experience that’s nevertheless very comfortable, even over rougher patchwork pavement. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
While nothing like the GLA’s instrument cluster, it’s nevertheless sourced from M-B. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Both Infiniti and Mercedes have long employed seven-speed automatic transmissions, making them easy to interchange without anyone noticing. I certainly found the QX30’s dual-clutch gearbox quick-shifting enough and appreciated the standard steering wheel-mounted paddles as well, while the Japanese brand makes sure an effective Sport mode is also part of the standard package, not to mention an Eco mode that makes the most of auto start/stop, which shuts the engine down when it would otherwise be idling to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
If you compare the GLA’s centre stack to the QX30’s, you’ll see they have little in common. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The result is a five-cycle Transport Canada rating of 10.6 L/100km in the city, 8.0 on the highway and 9.4 combined with its as-tested all-wheel drive powertrain, making the QX30 one of the more fuel-efficient AWD models in its category. Of note, both base and top-line Sport trims are front-wheel drive and therefore even thriftier, with a claimed rating of 9.7 city, 7.1 highway and 8.5 combined, which is by far the best in class. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
This dual-screen parking monitor is a big help in tight spots. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Swift, comfortable and quiet, the QX30 could be the ideal subcompact luxury SUV. It measures up in most other respects too, with a superbly crafted interior above the beltline, featuring a padded and contrast stitched leather/leatherette (depending on the surface covered) dash top and instrument panel, steering wheel rim, door panels, and seat upholstery, high-quality soft-touch synthetic door uppers that extend into the back, shiny chrome and stylish satin-silver metal trim, plenty of piano black lacquered coatings, and features galore, the infotainment system in my Premium-trimmed and Technology-packed example even upgraded with split-screen rear-view and top-view surround parking cameras that were oh-so helpful, but others in the class provide clearer, higher resolution digital displays with more functions. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
Recognize the dual-zone auto HVAC interface? It’s a stylized Mercedes unit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Now that I’m grumbling, I’d also like to see more premium competitors in the entry-level luxury classes improve materials quality to the levels of compact and mid-size models. For instance, below the QX30’s aforementioned beltline are hard plastics most everywhere, including the glove box lid, while Infiniti, like Mercedes, only wraps the A pillars in fabric, leaving the B and C pillars with low-rent looking hard plastic covers. Most premium brands are guilty of such cost cutting, so I’m not singling Infiniti out, and their seemingly reasonable collective responses will no doubt be savings oriented, but with mainstream volume brands doing such a fine job of equipping their similarly sized yet much more affordable models to very similar levels of fit, finish and refinement as premium players, not to mention features, luxury brands might want to consider improving their lot to the point that their individual brand DNA remains consistent from their smallest to largest models. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
The dual-clutch 7-speed automatic delivers smooth, sporty performance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As it is, the current mindset rewards buyers of larger, less efficient vehicles with greater levels of luxury, and punishes those who might alternatively want the same level of pampering without a more powerful engine and larger, heavier footprint, nor the environmental impact this decision delivers. Again, this isn’t an issue with Infiniti or the QX30 per se, but rather with all premium manufacturers and, likely, the entire luxury ethos. 

As noted at length earlier, the base QX30 is very well equipped, with some features not yet mentioned including 18-inch alloys, auto on/off halogen headlamps, signature LED daytime running lamps, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/USB/satellite audio, all the usual active and passive safety equipment, and more. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
These lower console-mounted infotainment controls are well executed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Choosing all-wheel drive doesn’t add to any equipment levels, however it ups the starting price to $38,490 (also unchanged) while providing unique front and rear fascia designs, extended overfenders with reformed sill panels, a different set of 18-inch alloy wheels, a three centimetres-plus raised ride height, flashier glossy black mirror caps, and roof rails up top. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
For such a small SUV, the QX30 is certainly comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And what about all the features not yet mentioned? These are the result of a $5,000 Premium package that boasts LED fog lamps, a chrome trunk finisher, aluminum treadplates, rain-sensing wipers, heated windshield washer nozzles, a universal garage door opener, a colour multi-information display, more advanced Infiniti InTouch infotainment with Navigation and lane guidance, great sounding 10-speaker Bose audio, a fixed panoramic sunroof with a powered sunshade, and front and rear parking sensors. 

Last but hardly least, a $2,500 Technology package improves those cat’s eye-shaped headlamps to full LEDs with dynamic cornering capability and auto high beams, adds enhanced LED ambient lighting inside, plus adaptive cruise control, the superb aforementioned 360-degree surround parking monitor with moving object detection, semi-automated self-parking, forward emergency braking, blindspot monitoring, and lane departure warning. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
The panoramic sunroof adds an open airiness to the cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t go into the Sport model’s features right now, but hopefully will cover this model separately later in the year. Suffice to say it improves on styling, performance and standard features for $46,490. 

Along with its loads of features, the QX30 is quite accommodating inside as well, with plenty of room for most body types up front plus surprisingly spacious rear quarters. When I positioned the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight height I still had five inches left over ahead of my knees and more than enough space for my feet when wearing winter boots, plus there were approximately four inches over my head and about the same beside my outer shoulder and hips. You could probably stuff three side-by-side in back, but it’s a great deal more comfortable with two, especially when folding the centre armrest down and taking advantage of its pop-out twin cupholders. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
Rear seat roominess is quite good, while the seats are supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Further back, Infiniti provides a very roomy cargo hold measuring 544 litres (19.2 cubic feet) with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks upright or 963 litres (34.0 cubic feet) when they’re laid flat. Alternatively you have a best of both worlds scenario of stowing longer items through a pass-through down the middle, leaving the more comfortable outboard window seats to rear passengers. 

2018 Infiniti QX30 AWD Technology
Cargo space is generous and flexible. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, the QX30 is one very livable little luxury utility, with an emphasis on upscale refinement and comfort. Its enjoyable performance and generally easy driving nature weigh in its favour too, which would all come together to make this little Infiniti a worthy contender in the subcompact luxury SUV class even if its value proposition wasn’t so good. Yet there lies the differentiator. The 2018 QX30 drives excellent value along with its many other attributes, making it one of the better choices for premium buyers that want to get the most from their automotive investment. I certainly believe it deserves a lot more attention than it currently gets, so if you’re in the market for a small SUV I recommend a closer look at an Infiniti QX30.

Don’t get too excited. While last year’s sensational QX50 Concept was a definitive firsthand view at the future QX50 production model, Infiniti made sure to clearly state in the opening lines of its…

Infiniti brings Q Inspiration concept to Detroit auto show

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
The Q Inspiration concept provides a glimpse at Infiniti’s future styling. (Photo: Infiniti)

Don’t get too excited. While last year’s sensational QX50 Concept was a definitive firsthand view at the future QX50 production model, Infiniti made sure to clearly state in the opening lines of its press release that “the Q Inspiration Concept is meant to demonstrate future technologies and will not be available for sale.”

We car enthusiasts love to dream, and concepts like the Q Inspiration are purely designed for this purpose, plus providing a glimpse at tomorrow’s technologies integrated within a feasible luxury car, of course.

“The new Infiniti concept car will take the traditional sedan architecture to its next stage of evolution,” said Karim Habib, Infiniti Executive Design Director. “A shift towards smarter, more compact and less intrusive powertrains; we were able to create an alternative form with flowing gestures, more engaging in character and more enriching in experience. With its long cabin, balanced proportions and muscular stance, the concept heralds in a new era for Infiniti models.”

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
The glass roof adds to the Q Inspiration’s airy ambience. (Photo: Infiniti)

We’ll get to that powertrain in a moment, but the Q Inspiration’s styling might be the most talked about of its many noteworthy attributes just the same. Unique above all, a body-colour grille insert is filled with fine vertical slats that mimic baleen hair, as if their sole purpose were to extract floating krill from the atmosphere, yet as unimposing as that might sound to any creature more than a couple of centimetres long its surrounding “double-arch” maw and myriad ducts appear anything but passive.

The deeply grooved hood line seems pulled from a Formula One car’s fuselage, as does the lower front fascia’s intricate latticework of aero-formed wings. Even the headlamp clusters appear sliced into the composite, while deeply carved front brake vents are duplicated on the opposite side of the wheel cutouts, this time to allow that air to escape rearward via heavily sculpted door and fender panels.

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
There’s no shortage of swoopy ducts, the Q Inspiration one dramatic ride. (Photo: Infiniti)

“The premium sedan segment has become rather conservative,” said Christian Meunier, Infiniti Global Division Vice President. “The Infiniti Q Inspiration previews something that could appeal to a younger audience, who seek modern design and new technologies to inspire and empower them.”

Innovative lighting elements prove how LEDs can be minimized to the point they don’t overpower a car’s overall design, yet at the same time highlight specific details when daylight turns to dusk. Those up front are hardly noticeable under the sun’s rays yet encircle the entire grille cutout at night, while the headlamps get a narrow horizontal beam backed by multiple angled strips of bright light, whereas the single body-wide taillight design is used to broaden the car’s overall visual appeal from behind. Front and back emblems, plus the rear deck lid’s “INFINITI” branding light up in the dark as well, while a scripted “Q Inspiration” nameplate seems to hover on its own within a dual-plane integrated rear diffuser. If this is the future of Infiniti, we’re in for some pretty artistic rolling lightshows.

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
The Q Inspiration uses LEDs to highlight key design elements, such as the grille surround and emblems, at night. (Photo: Infiniti)

As should be the case with all luxury cars, Infiniti’s left the best to those inside. Wedged between open-pore birch hardwood planks is a full-width digital display that houses primary driving instrumentation as well as a multi-information display and infotainment interface, whereas a second tier of digitization floats above the lower centre console, featuring touch-sensitive access to the audio system, HVAC controls, and more.

Infiniti provides a two-tone leather-wrapped rectangle of a steering wheel who’s shape suggests inspiration from F1 as well, although its controls are an exercise in touch-sensitive minimalism compared to the motorsport series’ master of hub complications. Likewise for the cabin-length cream, black and orange decorated leather-covered centre console that merely houses an infotainment controller up front and a T-shaped ultra-widescreen monitor for two in back—so much for cupholders.

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
The Q Inspiration concept’s interior was designed to inspire, as the name suggests. (Photo: Infiniti)

These touchscreens are specified as “human-machine interfaces” in Infiniti’s press information, with each passenger getting their own display filled with the expected infotainment, plus a special “meditation-regeneration mode” that minimizes displayed info while providing a guided meditation designed to “leave any stress behind when they start a journey.” The system can also monitor occupant biometrics, or rather the measurement and statistical analysis of each individual’s unique physical and behavioural characteristics. Hopefully it only uses this highly private information to keep the driver relaxed yet alert and further unwind passengers.

According to Infiniti, the Q Inspiration’s unique design and the materials used maximize cabin space while minimizing exterior noise and absorbing the din within, the result being a calming, thoroughly comfortable environment.

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
A digital display spans the entire instrument panel. (Photo: Infiniti)

Further diminishing noise, vibration and harshness levels, the door inserts are finished in the same padded cream leather as the centre console, also enhanced by black and orange detailing plus birch woodwork for a cohesive look that’s rich yet mid-century modern chic, as if the entire interior were penned by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich.

In actual fact it was the work of Infiniti’s in-house design department under the watchful eye of Mr. Habib, introduced earlier, as well as Alfonso Albaisa, SVP Global Design.

“As a new wave of technologies begins to take shape, our Detroit concept car heralds a new generation of Infiniti,” said Albaisa. “A seamless and stunning new design philosophy demonstrating Infiniti artistry in the new age of autonomy and breakthrough drivetrains. In Detroit, shown alongside Prototype 9, Infiniti aims to showcase a new elegance, one that strikes harmony and simplicity in a complex world.”

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
The tufted leather pedestal seats look straight out of some futuristic airliner. (Photo: Infiniti)

It certainly lives up to Albaisa’s claim of harmony and simplicity, not to mention luxury. The seat upholstery, also finished in cream leather, appears craftily stitched into tufted golf ball dimples at centre with black piping around their edges, the seats themselves on raised pedestals and shaped like they were pulled from some futuristic airline’s first class section.

“The Q Inspiration interior is reduced to a minimalist expression of wellbeing and comfort, and strives to create a warm and uncompromisingly modern atmosphere, like one so often finds in Tokyo residential architecture,” added Habib. “The purpose being to enable users in a new era of connectivity, while simultaneously enriching the driving experience with materials of the best quality, crafted by the hands of the artist.”

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
Weight-saving hollowed out headrests look fabulous too. (Photo: Infiniti)

Despite its resplendent luxury and shapely form, the kilowatt-infused era we live in as well as the Q Inspiration’s pure-as-the-driven-snow paint scheme and shapely albeit chrome-less styling causes a person to scan its body panels for somewhere to plug it into an EV charger, but Nissan Leaf fans hoping for a premium version of their zero-emissions ride will have to wait a bit longer. Instead, this new concept is powered by Infiniti’s formidable yet efficient new VC-Turbo engine that was first introduced at last year’s Los Angeles auto show in the all-new 2019 QX50.

VC stands for variable compression, an industry-first technology capable of varying compression from 8:1 for high performance to 14:1 for best efficiency. While VC should work in any type of turbocharged internal combustion engine size or configuration, for this application a single-scroll turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder is used, and while Infiniti chose not to disclose output numbers for the Q Inspiration, it makes a considerable 268 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 280 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm in the upcoming QX50.

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
Each rear passenger gets their own personal infotainment display, this widescreen split in two. (Photo: Infiniti)

“As a brand with technological innovation at its core, the wider introduction of our advanced VC-Turbo powertrain is a natural next step for Infiniti,” said François Bancon, Vice President, Product and Programs. “After the recently launched QX50, the Q Inspiration proposes an alternative application for VC-Turbo technology in a potential new product.”

As you might expect, straight-line performance isn’t the only VC-Turbo attribute, with fuel-efficiency factoring into its design just as critically. Infiniti claims city/highway combined mileage of 27 mpg (8.7 L/100km) with the front-wheel drive QX50, or 26 mpg (9.0 L/100km) with the all-wheel drive variant, which is a 35- and 30-percent improvement over the outgoing V6-powered QX50 respectively.

“The beauty of the VC-Turbo powertrain is that it is a global technology,” added Bancon. “While we have plans to electrify our product portfolio in future, drivers all around the world are still reliant on internal combustion engines for their transport needs. This revolutionary engine offers a compelling blend of turbocharged performance and high efficiency. These qualities need not be unique to hybrids and diesels.”

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
Not your average rear door hinge, but the Q Inspiration concept is not your average luxury sedan. (Photo: Infiniti)

Yes, Infiniti promises the immediate torque and responsiveness of a hybrid or turbodiesel powertrain, while its all-wheel drivetrain means it should get off the line with minimal slippage no matter the weather or road conditions. The powertrain is compact for such a sizeable sedan too, which helped Infiniti make the most of available passenger space so occupants can stretch out and relax.

This is where a fully autonomous drive system would be ideal, and to that end the Q Inspiration includes the next best thing, Nissan/Infiniti’s semi-autonomous ProPilot system.

“The Infiniti Q Inspiration reveals the next stage of development for the brand’s ProPilot autonomous drive technologies,” added Bancon. “The new, near-future technologies previewed here seek to both empower and liberate drivers.”

ProPilot responds to the road ahead and surrounding vehicles via camera and radar technology, plus it can drive you to your destination effortlessly via the navigation system’s route guidance.

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
Look to the future for Q Inspiration inspired Infiniti product. (Photo: Infiniti)

“ProPilot empowers drivers with end-to-end autonomous driving, providing autonomous multi-lane highway driving and intersection auto-navigation functionalities,” says Infiniti. “These near-future technologies work alongside existing ProPilot Assist technologies, such as the capability to navigate stop-start highway traffic and monitor the positions of surrounding vehicles.”

As noted earlier, don’t expect to see the Q Inspiration piloting itself around your neighbourhood anytime soon. It’s a concept that’s been designed to inspire future styling directions, interior materials usage, and leading-edge technologies. To that effect it does a commendable job, although we’ll have to wait a few years to see how impactful it becomes to future generations of Infiniti vehicles.

For now, check out these videos of the Infiniti Q Inspiration concept:

“The next step in Infiniti design” (0:40 minutes)::

“Power beyond convention” (0:44 minutes):

Quick tech video (1:23 minutes):

Detailed overview (6:16 minutes):

Sometimes news stories fly under the radar, which is certainly the case for this year’s Toronto-based Infiniti Lab, an accelerator program created for growing companies focused on Internet of Things…

Infiniti Lab an innovative idea for assisting useful new tech startups

Infiniti Lab Toronto
Infiniti Lab Toronto focused on startups creating Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and smart city initiatives. (Photo: Infiniti)

Sometimes news stories fly under the radar, which is certainly the case for this year’s Toronto-based Infiniti Lab, an accelerator program created for growing companies focused on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and smart city initiatives.

The first Infiniti Lab was launched in the company’s global home base of Hong Kong two years ago, which makes its choice to follow that program up in Canada’s largest city quite the national compliment, while many of the startups chosen for the program could definitely improve life for people across Canada and the world.

Infiniti Lab Toronto
The successful Infiniti Lab Hong Kong proved as a testbed for the new Toronto program. (Photo: Infiniti)

The Toronto lab was a first for North America as well as the first such initiative launched by an automotive manufacturer in Canada.

“We chose Toronto as the first North American launch of Infiniti Lab because of its role as an IoT hub, and now we’re excited to see what the companies in our Toronto program can do on the global stage,” said Dane Fisher, General Manager of Global Business Transformation for Infiniti Motors.

Infiniti Lab Toronto
Most of the startups chosen aided drivers, but some had nothing to do with anything automotive. (Photo: Infiniti)

To make sure the Canadian program succeeded, Infiniti partnered with Toronto-based nonprofit Multiplicity, a group that already provided education and mentoring to startups.

“Canada is brimming with talent and opportunity when it comes to startups, and Infiniti Canada is proud to help accelerate the country’s next entrepreneurial stars,” said Stephen Lester, managing director of Infiniti Canada. “Multiplicity is the ideal partner for the launch of Infiniti Lab Toronto. Parallel to Infiniti, they do not wait for change to come to them, they are the change. They drive the ideas that will make a tangible difference to our daily lives.”

Rover Parking
Rover Parking, a shared parking app, earned the opportunity to continue the mentorship on a three-month program in Hong Kong. (Photo: Rover Parking)

A total of nine Internet of Things (IoT) and/or smart-city initiative startups were chosen mid-year, including DRVEN (connected cars and smartphones), InnerSpace (indoor mapping), NXCAR (connected vehicle safety), Pitstop Predictive Maintenance (virtual technician), Pull Technologies (contacts on IoT), RoadLaunch (shipment management), Rover Parking (shared parking), Tap Report (inspection tracking), and Ubiqweus Inc. (data sharing).

The companies were able to work with corporate and industry partners such as Techstars, OMERS Ventures, TELUS Ventures, the City of Toronto, and Fleet Company, all of which provided participants with access to technology, mentorship, and education throughout the month-long program.

RoadLaunch
RoadLaunch is an app for commercial shipment management. (Photo: RoadLaunch)

Infiniti Lab Toronto culminated in a demo day, where participating startups pitched their companies to a panel of Canada’s top venture capital firms. Rover Parking, a shared parking marketplace that lets users access available parking spaces throughout the city by smartphone, took top honours at the event, and was therefore fast-tracked into a further three-month program in Hong Kong that launched in July.

“Rover Parking came out on top because of the potential they have to use IoT to change our cities, and the impact we believe they can have as part of the Hong Kong program,” added Fisher.

NXCAR
NXCAR offers an app for connected vehicle safety. (Photo: NXCAR)

“We partnered with Infiniti to bring this program to fruition because we fully align with their focus on innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Chris Kay, co-founder, Multiplicity. “Infiniti Lab has produced two cohorts of IoT innovators in Hong Kong, and the Toronto program presents a huge opportunity for local founders who want to get noticed on the global stage.”

Pitstop Predictive Maintenance
Pitstop Predictive Maintenance provides a virtual technician app. (Photo: Pitstop Predictive Maintenance)

Some key startups benefiting from the Infiniti Lab Hong Kong program include Kraftwerk, a company that developed a breakthrough low cost, lightweight fuel cell; Drop.ai, a visual intelligence startup responsible for software that helps cars and drones make decisions through contextualized video and artificial intelligence; and Dagmy Motors, which helps lower the production cost of batteries and therefore the cost of electric vehicles.

Rover Parking, now dubbed the “Airbnb of parking,” is enjoying success in Toronto thanks to an innovative idea that’s been developed more fully through the Infiniti Lab program. Hopefully it will find its way to other cities in Canada and throughout the world.

For more about the Infiniti Lab program, check out this short video:

 

Looking for the ultimate luxury-sport sedan this side of a pricey BMW M3 or Mercedes C63 AMG? Infiniti’s Q50 Red Sport 400 might just be the answer, updated for 2018 yet still punching out 400-hp from…

2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Road Test

Sometimes subtle changes make all the difference. Not that the outgoing Q50 was unattractive. In fact it was just the opposite. I'd say it was one of the more aesthetically pleasing cars in its class, but this refreshed 2018 model adds just the right amount of spice to styling that was starting to lose its savour. Even the best designs do, and the old Q50 wasn't about to wear out its welcome.

The outgoing Q50 first arrived in 2013 as a 2014 model. Four years is hardly long-lived for a premium model, not even coming close to the brand's QX50, which when replaced next year will have been soldiering along with only minor updates for 11 years, but changes to the 2018 Q50 weren't anywhere near as dramatic.

The upgrades include a modestly reworked version of Infiniti's trademark double-arch grille that now includes more texture within its wavy mesh-patterned insert, while more muscular character lines now follow the upper outside corners of that grille across each side of the Read Full Story
With 2017 coming to a close, we’re taking a look at some of the year’s more intriguing concepts, with a sharper focus on those that have a better chance of being produced than the whimsical dream…

Infiniti Project Black S: A concept or a prototype headed for production?

2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept
Is the Project Black S a concept or potential reality? (Photo: Infiniti)
With 2017 coming to a close, we’re taking a look at some of the year’s more intriguing concepts, with a sharper focus on those that have a better chance of being produced than the whimsical dream cars that more often than not fill the front pages of buff magazines. Infiniti’s Project Black S fits that bill to a T. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s based on a car already in existence, the beautiful and formidable Q60 Red Sport 400. The Project Black S first hit the stage at the 2017 Geneva auto show earlier this year, with a matte grey paint job plus stunning gloss black and yellow highlights that paid homage to the Renault Sport Formula One team.
2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept
The Project Black S explores the potential for a new Infiniti high-performance model line. (Photo: Infiniti)
F1 fans will know that Infiniti is a Renault Sport Formula One team sponsor, its branding prominently displayed on each side of the race car’s cowl induction unit (the big air scoop above the driver’s head—in Renault’s case Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr.). Along with sponsorship, Infiniti also confirms it contributes “knowledge in hybrid technology and additional engineering resources” to the Renault Sport Formula One initiative. Readers well versed in the automotive industry will also know that Infiniti is the luxury division of Nissan, and that Nissan is part of a three-brand Franco-Japanese strategic partnership known as the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance (Renault–Nissan having purchased a controlling stake in Mitsubishi last year), this group responsible for one out of every 10 cars sold worldwide.
2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept
The Q60 Project Black S looks right at home on the track. (Photo: Infiniti)
With that backgrounder out of the way, the Renault Sport Formula One-inspired Infiniti Project Black S makes a great deal of sense, especially after appreciating just how much F1 technology gets infused within this proposed road car’s power unit. “Power unit” is the appropriate term, because the direct-injected and twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 borrowed from Infiniti’s Q50 and Q60 Red Sport 400 models gets an electrified power boost that goes beyond any hybrid ever seen on public roads, unless we’re talking single weekends each year in Sochi, Monte Carlo, Montreal (between the Pavillon du Canada and the Cosmos Bridge), Baku, and Singapore—street races on the F1 calendar.
2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept
Shown here making its Canadian debut, Infiniti’s Project Black S concept was on display next to a Renault Sport Formula One car and production Q60 Red Sport 400 during the 2017 Formula One Canada Grand Prix in Montreal. (Photo: Infiniti)
“Infiniti is leading the way with innovative new powertrain technology for consumers, such as the award-winning 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine, and VC-Turbo, the world’s first production-ready variable compression ratio engine,” said Francois Bancon, Vice President, Global Product Strategy, Infiniti. “With Project Black S, we are looking at how a unique performance hybrid energy recovery system could be adapted from Formula One for use on the road.” Certainly the Q50 Hybrid and Q70 Hybrid sedans offer a considerable performance advantage over their base counterparts, thanks to 360 net-horsepower from a 3.5-litre V6 and 50kW electric motor combination, but the Project Black S not only utilizes the much more advanced VR30DDTT engine noted above, its “instant, significant, lag-free acceleration” comes via a dual-hybrid heat energy recovery technology unique to Formula One, increasing the Red Sport 400’s peak output by 25 percent to a whopping 500 horsepower.
Renault Sport Formula One RS17
The Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 engine cover, shows the Infiniti name and logo prominently displayed. (Renault)
Breaking down the tech, most hybrid cars, like the Q50 Hybrid and Q70 Hybrid, utilize some form of regenerative braking system, which redirects kinetic energy from brake friction to a battery normally used for running ancillary features. This is similar to a Formula One car’s MGU-K unit, MGU standing for motor generator unit, and K for kinetic. The Renault Sport Formula One car’s MGU-K unit regenerates kinetic energy from braking and feeds it into a high-rate discharge lithium-ion battery used in turn to spin the engine’s crankshaft and exhaust turbocharger’s turbine blades quicker, resulting in more power. The second part of an F1 car’s dual-hybrid system is an MGU-H unit that harvests “heat” energy from exhaust gases to do the same thing as the MGU-K, more or less doubling the energy fed into the battery and subsequently the crank and twin turbines.
Renault Sport Formula One RS17
Renault Sport Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg (GER) at the wheel of the RS17 during the first day of 2017 season testing in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo: Renault)
The MGU-H is much lauded by forward thinking tech devotees albeit somewhat loathed by F1 fans, as it’s a common cause of power unit failures. Of course, the Project Black S road car’s internal combustion engine is nearly twice the size of the F1 car’s 1.6-litre V6, while it’s certainly not asked to rev to 15,000 rpm in order to make upwards of 870 horsepower, so therefore it’s nowhere near as stressed and should theoretically be easier to achieve reliability. This said the MGU-H has never been used in a production car before, and therefore if Infiniti were to build something along the lines of the Project Black S it would be an industry first. That F1 rivals Mercedes and Ferrari haven’t done so already is testament to the difficulty of the task, but considering that the ERS’ (energy recovery system’s) raison d’être in F1 is a form of road car relevance, necessary to attract big name engine builders like the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance (and Infiniti), integrating the MGU-H portion of the equation into a production vehicle is not only fitting, but important.
2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept
The 2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept shown track testing its F1-inspired dual-hybrid power unit plus upgraded bodywork and suspension. (Photo: Infiniti)
As part of the Renault Sport Formula One team’s motorsport technology transference, Project Black S also sheds curb weight from extensive use of carbon-fibre, which is nothing new to both motorsport and performance road cars. F1 cars are mostly made from advanced composite materials, whereas the Project Black S uses carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) for its large reshaped front splitter, rear diffuser, fenders and side skirts, “while ultra-thin aero ‘blades’ in the side sills ahead of the rear wheels channel air around the lower body of the car.” The sizeable rear wing, designed to increase rear downforce at speed, is also made from CFRP. There’s function to all the new forms too. The large frontal air intakes effectively channel cooling air into the engine compartment and onto the brakes, while new hood vents allow heat to escape. The Project Black S’ rear body panels are shaped to allow circulating air to flow away from the car as quickly and efficiently as possible, enhanced by vertical aero foils as well as the aforementioned rear wing.
2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept
The Project Black S Concept makes extensive use of lightweight carbon-fibre. (Photo: Infiniti)
Along with all the lightweight CFRP components, a set of forged 21-inch aluminum wheels also reduces weight while providing a larger contact patch to improve mechanical grip from wider, lower profile performance tires. Additionally, modified chassis settings improve high-speed stability and overall handling, while a high-performance titanium twin exhaust system increases flow and reduces yet more weight. These items, plus all of its tastefully applied aero elements penned by Infiniti’s Paddington studio in London, England, combined with the already beautiful new Q60 sports coupe, have resulted in a sensational looking road-going prospect. “Project Black S is a daring and elevated representation of Infiniti’s performance DNA,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Executive Design Director, Infiniti. “It expresses our desire to create cars that are designed to perform, marrying the potency of a high-performance powertrain with a muscular new design. This project has given us the opportunity to experiment with advanced materials to create a performance-inspired aesthetic that draws on Infiniti’s motorsport ties through the Alliance.”
2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept
Most body panels have been redesigned using lightweight CFRP, the hood also incorporating ventilation needed for cooling. (Photo: Infiniti)
Despite rolling on a modified Q60 Red Sport 400, Project Black S seemed more concept than reality when unveiled at Geneva in March, but when reintroduced at the Montreal Grand Prix in June, together with exclusive F1 tire supplier Pirelli, which came on as a new Project Black S partner responsible for supplying specially designed and constructed bespoke performance tires, its road-going prospects brightened. Pirelli announced its intention of supplying the Project Black S with a unique set of P Zero performance tires, from the brand’s F1-inspired Coloured Edition. F1 uses bright colour markings on its tire sidewalls in order to let fans and FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) marshals (the sport’s governing body) know which tires they’re running (tire use is regulated during each race), the 2018 “Pirelli Rainbow” tire lineup including Super hard (orange), Hard (light blue), Medium (white), Soft (yellow), Supersoft (red), Ultrasoft (purple), Hypersoft (pastel pink), Intermediate (green – used for light rain), Wet (blue – used for heavier rain), and now Pirelli has capitalized on this by offering road car customers hundreds of tire colour options to match their vehicles.
2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept
The wheels are lightweight forged aluminum alloys, while extra cooling vents have been added to the reformed CFRP fenders. (Photo: Infiniti)
“We are very excited about our ‘Project Black S’ and the work we are doing with Renault Sport Formula One Team on performance hybrid technology,” said Tommaso Volpe, Director of Infiniti Global Motorsport. “Having another key Formula One player involved is proof of the interest it generates and will add even more focus on performance delivery. As we explore the feasibility of ‘Project Black S,’ Pirelli’s input and knowledge – both motorsport and automotive – will be invaluable. We couldn’t be happier to have them onboard.” To be clear, Project Black S has been touted as a possible production car from its onset, with the initial Geneva press release stating the car “explores the potential for a new Infiniti performance grade” that Infiniti hoped would help “gauge potential interest in high-performance derivatives of Infiniti cars.”
2017 Infiniti Project Black S Concept
That’s one serious rear wing, also carbon-fibre of course. (Photo: Infiniti)
“We were fascinated with ‘Project Black S’ since Infiniti unveiled it at the Geneva motor show earlier this year,” added Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director for Pirelli. “We simply had to get involved. ‘Project Black S’ is the ultimate expression of innovation and cutting-edge technology transfer, which is in our DNA, so we couldn’t let this opportunity go by. We are thrilled to be a part of it and to support Infiniti on this project.” Does this mean a Project Black S-like Infiniti Q60 is destined for future production? Let’s say a dual-hybrid KERS motivated road car is more likely than the GT-R-powered Eau Rouge, which came too close to treading on Godzilla’s tracks. As it is, racing (and hopefully one day winning) on Sunday and selling on Monday is right up Infiniti’s alley, and no doubt Renault–Nissan would love to recoup some of the substantial F1 investment more directly than the global brand recognition it’s currently receiving. Only time will tell if a production version is imminent, but either way the Infiniti Q60 Project Black S is a concept car with a very interesting ongoing story. For more, check out the gallery above, as well as the following video of its Geneva motor show introduction by Roland Krueger, President Infiniti Motor Company, and Jérôme Stoll, President Renault Sport Racing: