Infinity unveils its futuristic QX Inspiration crossover EV

Aug 02, 2019

With most major OEMs pivoting towards the e-Mobility Era, Infinity has unveiled its QX Inspiration concept EV car, providing a major insight into where the carmaker sees itself in the near future. As have many other brands, Infiniti has elected to enter the EV market with a mid-sized crossover SUV, basing its design on its Japanese heritage. The car’s futuristic exterior follows the Japanese spatial concept of ‘Ma,’ which considers the open space between lines to create tension.

Says Karim Habib, Infinity’s Executive Design Director: “New technology has given us the opportunity to evolve our design philosophy — and the new vehicle communicates the ‘serene strength’ at our core. Starting with a blank slate allowed us to question everything about vehicle interior design. Taking advantage of the space an electric vehicle (EV) has given us, QX Inspiration introduces a lounge-like interior rich in luxurious, unconventional materials to create a relaxing space for four.”

A “seamless entry” to the future: Following the principle of Japanese hospitality (omotenashi), the QX interior draws in occupants from the moment the vehicle’s clamshell doors open. The inspired cabin goes to infinity and beyond.

Motor Trend’s Alisa Priddle explains that the QX “has a large, open interior with the cab pushed forward, and a flat floor allowed designers to create a Japanese “living room,” complete with marble tabletops and Orient Express-style gold lamps. Up front is an infotainment screen that spans the width of the car, a futuristic steering wheel, and space age seats. Throughout are a suede floor that looks like Italian tile, deep chocolate woods and leathers, muted gold trim, and a lattice roof.”

Priddle: “Overhead is a lattice glass roof with slats that gently twist. They are black when viewed from inside, white from the bird’s-eye view. There is the startling use of marble on the door sill and center console that extends to the back seat like a coffee table, complete with a holder for the gold flower vase. The living room look will play well in the age of autonomous vehicles. Marble will not make it into production, but the idea will be replicated with lighter materials. In the front the marble morphs into a glossy black screen with myriad functions at the touch. Seats are molded and futuristic, accommodating four passengers. A screen is built into center of the rear seat with comfort controls.”

Nissan, Infinity’s parent company, used its London studio to design the interior and its Global Design Center in Atsugi, Japan to create the exterior styling. Describing the exterior, Alisa Priddle says: “The future has a wide stance, deep creases on the sides, and a smirking face with no grille and a prominent logo.”

Priddle: “The front has a shark nose and a strip of light that looks like the shark is smirking after a good feed. The back-lit and hollowed-out Infiniti logo is prominent on a face with no grille, a functional element that electric vehicles are making extinct. Cooling for the electric vehicle comes via air intakes on each side. Although the signature double-arch grille is gone, designers paid some lip service to it with a hood that appears to have a larger arch on top and smaller one below. The headlights (or eyes) of the vehicle have narrowed. They are linear and deep with piercing projectors of light and decorative Japanese-inspired etched lattice pattern insets. The crescent-cut C-pillar is also gone, replaced by a two-tone piece of trim under the small rear window. The trim has a strip in muted gold and a second strip in shuiro (Japanese vermilion, which is the spiritual red used in the gates of many shrines). The trim is repeated inside the vehicle. The brake calipers are also painted shuiro.”

The car will ride on a new, scalable, EV platform created for the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance. The EV-friendly platform – a concept many automakers have turned to – will support 70% of Alliance vehicles in multiple segments from 2020 onwards. Alliance plans include a new family of EV motors and lower-cost batteries. The Alliance companies say they’ll introduce 12 pure electric vehicles by 2022. Alliance e-Mobility cars will have a range of at least 373 miles and have the ability to quick-charge to a 143-mile range in 15 minutes. The brands will use Mitsubishi’s plug-in technology for compact and midsize vehicles.

The Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance is a French-Japanese strategic partnership  between the automobile manufacturers Renault (based in Boulogne-Billancourt, France), Nissan (based in Yokohama, Japan) and Mitsubishi Motors (based in Tokyo, Japan). Together, they globally sell more than 1 of every 9 vehicles. The car group sold 10.6 million vehicles worldwide in 2017, making it the leading light vehicle manufacturing group in the world. As of January 2018, the Alliance is the world’s leading plug-in electric vehicle manufacturing group, with global sales since 2010 of over 500,000 EVs, including those manufactured by Mitsubishi, now part of the Alliance. The top selling Alliance EV vehicle is the Nissan Leaf, the world’s best-selling electric car, with more than 400,000 units sold worldwide through March 2019.

Where does Infinity fit into the Alliance? Infinity’s roots go back to 50’s Japan, to the Prince Motor Company, which built sports cars, then segued into creating popular luxury vehicles. Its two most famous car lines were the Skyline and Gloria. Nissan merged with Prince in 1966 and later developed the popular Japanese Skyline and Gloria for sale in the USA as the Infinity G and Infinity M. Infinity became the luxury division for Nissan, which introduced its upscale cars to the United States in 1989. The Infinity brand was created around the same time as Japanese rivals Toyota and Honda developed their Lexus and Acura  premium brands.

In January 2018, Nissan’s President and CEO, Hiroto Saikawa, announced that the Infiniti brand would be transformed into an e-brand, with all new vehicles either being hybrid or all electric by 2021.

The QX Inspiration designers call their electric midsize crossover “Baby FX,” drawing on the legacy of a past Infinity vehicle, the FX, also known as the “bionic cheetah.” The Infinity FX climbed to the top of the luxury SUV market and became a legendary car which other premiere SUV makers chased for years.

But back in 2,000, when Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan Motor’s global design chief, saw the FX designs, which were ready for production, he wasn’t so sure. They looked like “an egg had swallowed an aircraft carrier.” And yet, the straight line from the hood corner to the back of the vehicle captivated him. “I fell in love and am still in love.” said Albaisa, who in the years afterwards, owned eight FX vehicles. “I hunted down the designer. To this day I look at him and I see what a human being can do, in the context of nothing because there was no benchmark, no obvious trend, and he created something so magical and important to the automobile world.”

Motor Trend’s Alisa Priddle explains, “Fast-forward to today. The job of recapturing that magic for future Infiniti crossovers fell to Karim Habib, the Infiniti brand’s executive design director. The first sketch came out of Japan a year ago. “I tried to do a few unconventional things,” Habib said as he explored what the first Infiniti electric vehicle should look like and how to use the brand’s Japanese roots as a guiding light.”

“Albaisa thinks the cheeky QX Inspiration has the same bravado and arrogance to be another black sheep like the FX, in an industry hurtling toward electrification and autonomous driving.”

Priddle: “Although the Q Inspiration was a long, lithe, and elegant flagship sedan, the QX Inspiration SUV is more compact, foretelling a compact or midsize crossover such as the QX50. The design is scalable to encompass the full QX crossover lineup with the exception of the QX80, the full-size body-on-frame flagship SUV known for its functionality. The QX80 must retain a large presence while the QX Inspiration is designed to appear more nimble and energetic.”

Infinity’s FX is long gone. New Infinity models have taken its place. But the automaker’s ability to weave together elegance, style and innovation hasn’t been forgotten. With a nod to Japanese aesthetics and a proud history, QX designers have thoughtfully merged Infinity’s past and present, transforming them into a compelling vision for the future.

Alisa Priddle’s QX review, which inspired this blog article, can be found at: https://www.motortrend.com/news/infiniti-qx-inspiration-concept-first-look-review/