Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Offers “A Glimpse into the Future”

Maker hints of "production intent" with sleek, fastback four-door.

by on Oct.02, 2014

A production version of the Q80 Inspiration would mark a return to the Premium Luxury segment for Infiniti.

Infiniti has had a history of delivering edgy design statements, starting with the brand’s original Q45 flagship. And it’s attempting to push the proverbial envelope yet again with the unveiling of its new Q80 Inspiration at the Paris Motor Show this week.

With a look that seems lifted from a sci-fi flick, the four-door fastback, with its 1+1+1+1 seating layout takes aim at a niche that Infiniti has long hoped to re-enter, the premium luxury segment, and though the Q80 Inspiration is being described as a “concept,” for now, it is meant to offer “a glimpse into the future of Infiniti,” suggested global operations chief Francois Goupil de Bouille.

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“We will have a car of this type in our portfolio,” he declared during an auto show preview. The only questions are: how soon, and how close the new flagship will come to the Inspiration show car.

The Q80 was a pet project of former Infiniti CEO Johan de Nysschen – who recently decamped for Cadillac, where he is, ironically, now overseeing the developing of a new flagship model for the Detroit brand.

(Click Here for complete coverage of the 2014 Paris Motor Show.)

The new Infiniti Q80 Inspiration is likely to undergo some tweaking before it reaches production.

Like Caddy, the Japanese maker has been a luxury market also-ran in recent years, in large part due to a lack of product in an industry where German leaders Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi are flooding showrooms with new offerings on a regular basis.

Bouille noted that Infiniti plans to increase its own portfolio by 60% before the end of the decade, and it has already confirmed plans for several models, including a compact crossover, the Q30. It is also developing a new performance line to compete with the likes of the Mercedes AMG and BMW M models.

But while a production version of the Q80 likely wouldn’t generate major sales numbers, industry analysts believe it would be critical to the Infiniti brand’s credibility.

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Going up against the likes of the formidable Mercedes S-Class won’t be easy, Infiniti officials acknowledge, and they recognize the need to develop both a unique design statement while also matching or exceeding the big Benz sedan’s impressive array of advanced technologies.

A glimpse inside the Q80 concept.

On the styling side, the Q80 Inspiration adopts a flowing, fastback design with a series of wave-like creases that flow rearward, converging around a lit version of the Infiniti logo. The goal was to find a balance of “classic and modern,” according to brand design director Alphonso Albaisa.

The Q80 is meant to be “both a driver-oriented car, but also person-habitable,” he explained, the overall look intended to turn heads while also providing a sense of muscularity and motion.

Inside, the Inspiration is divided into four almost cocoon-like zones, hence the 1+1+1+1 designation. Those four passengers are bathed in luxurious detail, including plenty of leather and Alcantara finishes. The classical luxury cues are complemented by more modern features, including a new, super-sharp head-up display, or HUD, system, that moves most of the information traditionally shown on dashboard gauges to the windshield.

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There are, meanwhile, quite literally just a handful of knobs and buttons, most vehicle functions operated by a tablet-like touchscreen display. One of those buttons, however, allows the driver to decide whether to operate the Infiniti Q80 manually or shift to a fully-autonomous control system.

With a production version of the Q80, Infiniti hopes to firmly position itself as a true Tier 1 luxury player.

Self-driving cars are set to dominate the road according to officials from Infiniti – whose parent, Nissan Motor Co., has promised to put a fully autonomous vehicle on the road by 2020.

Playing to the more traditional demands of premium luxury buyers, the Q80 concept packs 550-horsepower under the hood. But instead of using a big V-8, like the original Q45, there’s a twin-turbo, 3-liter V-6 paired with a hybrid-electric drivetrain. The new package is expected to go into production within the next two-years and should be a key piece of the promised Eau Rouge performance sub-brand.

While many of the details of the Q80 fall into the over-the-top category, including the rear-opening “suicide” back doors, Bouille asserted the show car has “a production intent associated with it.”

Though specific timing wasn’t discussed during the Infiniti news conference, officials hinted they should be revealing more in the near future, and the brand is expected to have a real Q80 anchoring the top of its line-up by sometime in 2016.

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