Infiniti debuts QX50 concept at Detroit auto show

DetroitNews

Concept cars have long been a norm at the North American International Auto Show, but some are a little less fantasy-in-chrome than others – a list that, this year, includes the Infiniti QX50.

Roland Krueger, president of Infiniti Motor Company, Ltd. poses with the X50 Concept after the reveal on Monday.

Drawing inspiration from several earlier prototypes, including the Infiniti Sport Inspiration Concept that debuted only last autumn at the Paris Motor Show, the QX50 is expected to reappear in production form. It will introduce not only the luxury marque’s new styling language but a variety of technical innovations, including the world’s first mass production variable compression engine.

The QX50, said Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti’s design director, is meant to strike a “perfect balance between lust and logic.” It’s also meant to take advantage of the rapid shift from conventional passenger cars to light trucks, especially utility vehicles.

From a styling standpoint, the QX50 Concept picks up on cues first seen on both the Infiniti Sport Inspiration Concept, as well as the Q60 coupe concept. The new show car debuting in Detroit retains the familiar Infiniti grille and the distinctive boomerang kick in its D-pillar.

The overall look is more sculpted than the existing QX50. It gets a more coupe-like curve to the roofline, though the interior appears to be slightly larger. In concept form, the door handles appear almost invisible. Meanwhile, there’s a large skid plate which might not carry over into production.

The new look is "taking the language and showing what a crossover will be,” said Albaisa.

What’s likely to get people talking about the QX50 Concept, however, is what’s under that newly re-sculpted skin.

Normally, internal combustion engines are optimized to use a fixed compression ratio in order to deliver the best balance of performance, fuel economy and emissions. The VC-Turbo can adjust the length of the piston’s stroke, however, to what works best at any specific moment – anywhere from 8:1 to 14:1 -- depending upon driving conditions and the driver’s input.

Among other things, that could yield as much as a 27% fuel economy bump while also delivering V-6 power. The turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four makes an estimated 268 horsepower.

“This is the first engine that can make a choice between performance and fuel-efficiency,” said Roland Krueger, the Hong Kong-based President of Infiniti, during the preview of the QX50 Concept.

While Infiniti isn’t confirming final plans, expect to see the VC-Turbo show up in the production QX50, quite likely from the start of production, according to several insiders.

Also expect to see a completely revised infotainment system from the QX50 Concept make it into the production model to follow.

The use of the QX50 platform to launch all the new technology is no surprise.

The brand’s goal is to help motorists “see further, react faster and drive better,” said Krueger.

The steer-by-wire system first debuted on the current Q50 line, but the market has moved significantly since that sedan was introduced. Today, light trucks account for almost two-thirds of the American automotive market, and they are the fastest growing part of the luxury segment.

The current QX50 is, in fact, Infiniti’s fastest-growing model, sales rising an astounding 272% through the first 11 months of 2016 – all the more amazing when you consider the ute has been around since 2007 with only slight updates. That said, the QX50 is still an afterthought for most luxury buyers, the crossover generating 14,947 sales through the end of November. So, the maker clearly wants to send a signal to potential buyers.

From a styling standpoint, the QX50 Concept picks up on cues first seen on both the Infiniti Sport Inspiration concept in Paris, as well as the Q60 coupe concept. The new show car coming to Detroit retains the familiar Infiniti grille and the distinctive “crest-and-cut”D-pillar.

The overall look is more sculpted than the exis

ting QX50. It gets a more coupe-like curve to the roofline, though the interior appears to be slightly larger. In concept form, the door handles appear almost invisible. Meanwhile, there’s a large skid plate which might not carry over into production.

The new look is "taking the language and showing what a crossover will be,” said Albaisa.

For complete coverage of the Detroit auto show, go to detroitnews.com/autos/auto-show.