Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Concept: 550-HP Hybrid Previews Future Flagship

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Ahead of the 2014 Paris Auto Show this week, Infiniti has revealed full details, and a full set of images, of a concept car that strongly hints at the direction of a future flagship Q80 production model—and an inspiration for all future models from the brand.

Its 550-horsepower, all-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain, with an estimated fuel efficiency of over 40 mpg, might be a game-changer in the luxury segment if the model can arrive to market this way.

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Essentially a four-door fastback, the Q80 Inspiration looks ahead to a flagship model that would parallel the Audi A7, Mercedes-Benz CLS, Porsche Panamera, or Aston Martin Rapide. At about 199 inches long and 79 inches wide, the Q80 fits right in among these other models, although it’s several inches shorter/lower in overall height (around 53 inches) than most models in this class.

In a release out ahead of the concept’s show debut, the brand called it “Infiniti’s first foray into the premium sedan category.” Lest they forgot about the Infiniti Q45, the model that kickstarted the brand in the U.S. for the 1990 model year.

Penned and planned as a premium-sedan ‘disruptor’

Infiniti calls the Q80 Inspiration a disruptor in the segment, and based on its layout, roofline, and extremely long, low, swoopy design, it sure looks like one from the outside. Said to deliver “feminine elegance and muscular menace in equal measure,” it looks like it combines the roofline of a sports car with a cockpit-like yet softly sculpted and finely detailed interior. Big 22-inch wheels help give the low-set body an even more hunkered-down, exaggerated stance.

In front, the Q80 Inspiration has what we’d characterize as a somewhat lower yet more assertive version of the front-end styling of contemporary models from the brand, like the current Q50 sedan. But what’s happening with the aggressive side-sheetmetal sculpting and a rear window that tapers back to a point, framed by the angled-inward rear pillars—and a shape that, from overhead, looks like it visually narrows—is something completely new. Altogether, it borrows some from the 2009 Essence concept, yet makes its own new and distinct statement. The Q80’s rear-hinged rear doors allow a wide opening to the cabin; and while the configuration has been quite common in concept cars for years, it’s made it into very few production models (Rolls-Royce is one of the few exceptions).

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Inside, the design team has aimed for a look that’s simple, yet premium, smart, and engaging, incorporating milled aluminum-satin trim pieces, Alcantara and leather trim, and horse-hair carpet. With the so-called ‘1+1+1+1’ layout, each passenger gets a color touch screen, while there’s a rear seat-mounted, silver-plated beverage flask. A special micro-stenciling process helps with projection from the sound system.

550 horsepower, 40+ mpg

What powers the Q80 Inspiration is nothing familiar either. Here we also see a hint—in this case, a very strong hint—of what’s to come, with a new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and hybrid-electric powertrain altogether delivers 550 horsepower and up to 553 pound-feet of torque, while the hybrid system allows an on-demand shift from rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive as the conditions require.

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