The Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept might be the saviour of the petrol engine
Infiniti has surprised the motoring world by unveiling a futuristic new concept car… powered by an internal combustion engine running on fossil fuel.
Widely expected to preview Infiniti’s first production electric car, the undeniably good-looking Q Inspiration concept reveals a refreshing new design language but not the battery technology that is now dominating rivals’ concepts. Despite parent Nissan releasing the first mainstream electric car, the Leaf, in 2010, Infiniti remains the sole premium car-maker yet to play its electric-car hand.
“While we have plans to electrify our product portfolio in the future, drivers all around the world are still reliant on internal combustion engines for their transport needs,” said Infiniti product chief François Bancon at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit where the Q Inspiration is having its world debut.
As you might imagine of a technology “disrupter” like Infiniti the engine at the heart of the Q Inspiration is not your regular petrol-powered lump.
Under the bonnet is the firm’s VC-Turbo engine, what’s claimed to be the first variable-compression engine. A holy grail for car makers for decades, variable compression aims to combine turbocharged petrol power with the torque and efficiency of a hybrid or diesel engine.
Infiniti has been working on the technology for 20 years but this is the first time we have seen it installed in a car. The VC system works by constantly altering the engine’s compression ratio depending on throttle position. It operates in a range between 8:1 (for high performance) and 14:1 (for high efficiency) by continuously raising or lowering the pistons’ reach. Infiniti says its breakthrough is achieving this via a multilink arrangement of actuator arm working with a Harmonic Drive unit and control shaft connected to the crankshaft.
When the engine was unveiled at the Paris Show of 2016 it was in 2.0-litre four-cylinder form with 200bhp. Other than confirming it is a four-cylinder unit, Infiniti is saying no more as yet about the unit in the Q Inspiration concept. Other than the fact that this complex new tech is obviously taking a while to get into production, it is known that the plan is to have versions of VC-Turbo engines across a range of “near future” Infiniti models.
“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” added François Bancon. “The Q Inspiration proposes an alternative application for VC-Turbo technology in a potential new product.”
The hi-tech Q car is a mid-size saloon with not just a whole new cab-forward look for Infiniti, but new proportions for a roomier and flat-floored cabin. This is thanks to the compact new engine and an all-wheel drivetrain centred on a front-biased (so transverse mounted) mechanical layout. For decades Infiniti has traded mainly on its “sports car” inspired long bonnet proportions and classical front engine/rear drive architecture.
As a new-broom concept that Infiniti says previews a new generation of Infiniti cars, the Q Inspiration promises to mark a break with Infinitis of old, which have struggled to gain traction in Europe since arriving here in 2008.
With its crisp lines, lovely proportions and simpler, less heavily sculpted surfaces than recent models, we reckon the Q Inspiration is a stunner, outside as well as in the classily minimalist interior with its pillarless and rear-hinged back doors. We even like that blanked-off radiator grille… that looks decidedly electric car!
But while the all-electric Infiniti is coming (“soon” is the word used) this is the Infiniti model to show that there’s life in petrol power – which despite the hype most of us will be using for the next 20 years or so – yet. And if it looks like this and that clever tech really works, that’s fine by us.