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:
 
Infiniti started production of its refreshed 2018 Q50 sport-luxury sedan at the premium brand’s Tochigi, Japan facility on June 1, the announcement promising a Canadian market arrival time of late summer.…

Renewed 2018 Infiniti Q50 set for late summer availability

2018 Infiniti Q50
New 2018 Q50s are already rolling of the line at Infiniti’s Tochigi, Japan assembly plant. (Photo: Infiniti)
Infiniti started production of its refreshed 2018 Q50 sport-luxury sedan at the premium brand’s Tochigi, Japan facility on June 1, the announcement promising a Canadian market arrival time of late summer. “We can’t wait to bring the updated, 2018 Q50 to the North American market,” said Randy Parker, Vice President, Infiniti Americas, in a press release that accompanied the production announcement. “Its benchmark performance and athletic styling make it an important cornerstone in our product line. We are excited to get this newest sports sedan in the hands of our fans when it arrives in Infiniti showrooms later this summer.” Later this summer? Isn’t that right about now? With back to school supplies already lining store shelves it certainly seems like summer is winding up, but technically Infiniti has until Friday, September 22 at the very latest to produce the mid-cycle made-over model.
2018 Infiniti Q50
Infiniti’s Tochigi plant is known for its quality. (Photo: Infiniti)
Pent-up anticipation is reasonable, being that the current Q50 has been on the road since 2013 for the 2014 model year. Four years is hardly long-lived for a premium model, not even coming close to the brand’s QX50, which when completely replaced this fall will have been soldiering along with only minor updates since it arrived as the EX35 in 2007 (that’s 10 years for those not willing to do the math), but don’t get too excited about the renewed 2018 Q50 sedan as the changes made won’t be near as dramatic. Most will agree the current model is already an attractive design, which is reason enough for its relatively strong sales. I say relatively strong because the Q50 is Infiniti’s second-best selling model next to the mid-size seven-passenger QX60 SUV, and also because it’s neck-and-neck with Lexus’ IS for second-best selling bragging rights amongst non-German D-segment sedans, Acura’s TLX having long held best-of-the-rest status behind BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes’ C-Class, and Audi’s A4. On the positive, the three Japanese brands regularly sweep the floor with Cadillac’s ATS and Volvo’s S60, while Jaguar’s new XE and Alfa Romeo’s equally fresh Giulia are just trying to get noticed within the compact luxury car hierarchy.
2018 Infiniti Q50
The 2018 Infiniti Q50 will come in four distinct flavours, with two built for sport and the others more luxury-oriented. (Photo: Infiniti)
Without the need to totally recreate the Q50’s styling, or for that matter the entire brand’s Essence Concept-inspired design direction, a hybrid sports coupe prototype that was first revealed at the 2009 Geneva auto show as part of the Japanese luxury brand’s 20th anniversary, which by Infiniti’s seven-percent year-over-year gain in global sales numbers appears to be working very well, the design team was freed to mildly tweak details. The changes include a slightly reworked version of the brand’s trademark double-arch grille that now offers more texture to its wavy mesh-patterned insert, whereas more muscular character lines follow the upper outside corners of that grille across each side of the hood. These enhancements were joined by revised headlamps, featuring more eye-like illumination, and redesigned LED taillights at the polar end. While all these updates help modernize the Q50’s look, the new model’s most noticeable changes were saved for its lower front fascia, which now more clearly depicts the trim line, or rather “grade structure” being shown.
2018 Infiniti Q50
The 2018 Q50’s two luxury trims are called Pure and Luxe. (Photo: Infiniti)
For the 2018 model year the Q50 will be available in Pure, Luxe, Sport and Red Sport 400 trims. The latter two “grades” will be familiar to those who follow Infiniti’s products, although Pure and Luxe are trims not yet used by Infiniti (Daimler’s Smart brand was first to use “Pure” for its most basic ForTwo city car). Let’s be first to congratulate Infiniti for not including Limited or Platinum in their naming scheme, two of the most overused trim levels in the industry (the derivative “Premium” hopefully on the way off the Q50 options menu too), after which we should give them the nod of approval for more visually separating each trim line to benefit those paying more to move up into a higher-end model. “With the new Q50 we are introducing new model grades, each offering their own look and character,” said Francois Bancon, Vice President, Global Product Strategy, Infiniti, a press release that accompanied the launch of the new model in March. “Red Sport 400 in particular lets drivers express themselves with a more assertive design that clearly conveys the car’s performance potential.”
2018 Infiniti Q50
Sport and Red Sport 400 trims continue forward into 2018, but get much more dramatic bodywork. (Photo: Infiniti)
To this end, Sport grade offers “performance-focused” exterior styling, while yet sportier visual upgrades join the model’s most potent 400-horsepower engine in Red Sport 400 trim. Items specific to the two top-line grades include a more sharply creased front bumper and wider, lower air intakes, the corner vents edged in glossy black, while the rear bumper gets a bolder black diffuser embedded at centre, with a stainless steel exhaust tip at each corner. The Red Sport 400 takes things up a notch with some glossy dark paint and body-colour two-tone detailing within the latter, while the side mirror caps also get a gloss black treatment, plus a unique set of 19-inch alloys to finish off the look. Inside, Infiniti promises higher-grade “authentic” materials and more detailed stitching, “further elevating the level of craftsmanship” in every Q50, noted Infiniti in their press release. “The cabin of the Q50 has been created with human artistry in mind, enabling occupants to travel in style and comfort,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Executive Design Director, Infiniti. “The refreshed Q50 takes this artistry to a new level, with hand-worked materials giving a greater sense of craftsmanship than ever before.”
2018 Infiniti Q50
The top-line Red Sport 400 gets the most exciting aero and wheel designs. (Photo: Infiniti)
For instance Infiniti now uses double-stitched padded leatherette on the instrument panel, while luxury-oriented models with hardwood inlays incorporate a more naturally genuine look and feel than the usual old-school high-gloss affect. Sport models feature unique interiors with patterned aluminum inlays, matte dark-chromed accents, plus black cloth roof pillars and headliner, whereas the Red Sport 400’s cabin is appropriately highlighted with contrasting red thread, while Infiniti is promising a new sport steering wheel that’s better formed for performance driving, with easier access to the shift paddles in behind. The new leather-wrapped shift knob was ergonomically designed as well, enhanced with double-stitched seams, new chrome trim, and an Infiniti logo on top. Of course, Infiniti couldn’t hold back with the red stitching effect throughout the rest of the Red Sport 400’s cabin, but at least they didn’t go so far as to brighten up each and every diamond-quilted crevice of its Bentley-esque seats’ side inserts, the result looking rich yet nicely restrained. At least as importantly those seats include a more comfortable design that Infiniti dubs “spinal support,” which we certainly look forward to testing out. Lastly, the new Red Sport 400 gets special dark chromed primary instrument dials, although those fully infused into the digital age might feel the analogue gauges are a bit of a throwback when others in the class are offering fully configurable colour TFT instruments in their top-tier models.
2018 Infiniti Q50
The Red Sport 400 includes a two-tone black and body-colour rear diffuser. (Photo: Infiniti)
Despite the classic dual-dial gauge cluster, Infiniti might just pull some buyers over from its German competitors when it comes to centre stack infotainment because it chooses to use more convenient, tablet-style touchscreen interfaces instead of lower console-controlled dial, button and touchpad designs. What’s more, both vertically stacked Q50 displays are now touch-capacitive, the top one eight inches in diameter and the lower one seven. This allows the use of multiple functions simultaneously, such as the top screen for navigation mapping and the bottom one for audio control. Infiniti’s appropriately named InTouch infotainment system also lets driver and front passenger customize the car’s inner environment by storing detailed personal information for multiple drivers, such as memory seating and mirror positions, identifiable via individual proximity-sensing I-keys. Also new for 2018, the Q50 boasts an available 16-speaker Bose “Performance Series” audio system with advanced staging signal processing capable of “a precise, rich and nuanced acoustic experience,” says Infiniti, plus CenterPoint 2.0 surround-sound.
2018 Infiniti Q50
The Red Sport 400’s interior gets red stitching and diamond-quilting, while all Q50’s utilize improved materials. (Photo: Infiniti)
Possibly the biggest 2018 Q50 news is its suite of ProPILOT advanced driver-assistance systems, which include Active Lane Control (camera-sighted autonomous driving capability above 72 km/h or 45 mph), Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist, Backup Collision Intervention, Blind Spot Warning and Intervention, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Forward Emergency Braking, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, and last but hardly least, Infiniti’s exclusive Direct Adaptive Steering. “Infiniti has introduced a number of world-first innovations through the Q50 in recent years,” said Roland Krueger, President of Infiniti. “As Infiniti’s best-selling model [worldwide], the Q50 has always embodied our commitment to make driver-empowering technologies accessible to a large number of customers. The new model will let customers benefit from the latest advances in active safety with our driver support technologies.”
2018 Infiniti Q50
The redesigned steering wheel in Sport models get better paddle shifters. (Photo: Infiniti)
This is Infiniti’s second-generation Direct Adaptive Steering introduced in 2016 (the first version was launched in 2013), both of which are steer-by-wire systems that mostly do away with mechanically linked parts, and have been fairly well received by owners and auto pundits alike. Infiniti considers its Direct Adaptive Steering a “building block on the way to achieving fully-autonomous driving,” and for certain it’s a bit of tomorrow’s technology today. Along with reasonably realistic feel and ultra-quick responsiveness, Direct Adaptive Steering makes it easier to add unique driving modes for comfort or sport applications, the Q50’s Drive Mode Selector letting its driver modulate steering, suspension and drivetrain settings that include Personal, Standard (default), Snow, Eco, Sport and Sport+ modes. Those rightly concerned about no longer having a steering column connected to the turning wheels can take some confidence in knowing Infiniti has logged more than a million kilometres (625,000 miles) of tests on the second-gen Direct Adaptive Steering system alone.
2018 Infiniti Q50
Now both Q50 infotainment displays are touch-capacitive. (Photo: Infiniti)
Powertrains are all carryover, although this shouldn’t be a surprise as they were all just updated for the 2016 model year. Included is the base 2.0t, a Mercedes-sourced 208 horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder featuring 258 lb-ft of torque that gets mated to a seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, the latter two components also standard with the other two conventional engine choices. The performance-oriented 3.0t models include two different versions of Infiniti’s exclusive new in-house VR family of 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6s, which just like the old VQ V6 is once again a 2017 Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner. The less formidable powerplant is good for 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while as noted earlier the top-line Red Sport 400’s version manages to push out 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Lastly, Infiniti will continue forward with its high-energy Direct Response Hybrid powertrain consisting of its old 3.5-litre V6, 50-kW electric motor, and compact laminated lithium-ion battery. The combination makes a net 360 horsepower due to the internal combustion engine’s 302 horsepower and electric motor’s 67 horsepower (hybrid net output never adds up exactly), plus a non-advertised sum of torque, although the ICE’s 258 lb-ft and electric motor’s 213 lb-ft makes for a potent mixture, the latter available immediately at input.
2018 Infiniti Q50
All four 2018 Q50 powertrains are carryover, but with an efficient 4-cylinder, two turbo V6s making 300- and 400-hp apiece, plus a 360-hp hybrid, no one should complain. (Photo: Infiniti)
Last year’s Q50 Hybrid was good for a claimed 9.1 L/100km in the city and 7.7 on the highway, which made it quite thrifty considering the performance on tap, while the 2017 Q50 2.0t was estimated to get 10.7 L/100km city and 8.4 highway, thanks partially to fuel-saving stop/start technology. Additionally, the mid-range 3.0t achieved a rating of 12.6 city and 8.8 highway, while the top-tier Red Sport 400 earned an estimated 12.3 city and 9.2 highway, the latter strangely better in the city than the less capable engine. We’ll have to wait to see if the new 2018 model’s Transport Canada ratings do as well or possibly surpass the outgoing estimates, being that the reshaped body shell’s overall aerodynamics and its numerous unique design details are capable of literally causing turmoil with fuel economy figures. Of note, Q50s fitted with the larger engine will get Infiniti’s “Rack Electronic Power Steering” as standard, which can also be modulated via the Drive Mode Selector, while 2.0-litre Q50 models are equipped with more conventional vehicle speed-sensitive hydraulic electronic rack-and-pinion power steering. It’s quite likely the renewed Q50 will have what it takes to boost sales beyond the Lexus IS in Canada, the difference coming down to just 65 models at the end of 2016, although 2017 Q50 sales that were purposely slowed so as not to leave dealers with unsold inventory might mean we’ll have to wait until the 2018 calendar year to find out. Stay tuned…