In the fiercely competitive world of second-tier luxury car brands, Infiniti is gearing up for a fresh assault on the market.

As a self-described “challenger” make, Infiniti has had its work cut out to find a place on consumers’ shopping lists.

But with the backing of giant parent company Nissan behind it, Infiniti does have some advantages, including prodigious design and engineering resources.

From the start, Infiniti has tried with mixed results to make unique and compelling vehicle designs one of its main attractions. Now the brand is aiming to reboot its fortunes with a fresh design concept and the launch this year of a mid-size crossover, the QX50.

The “Q Inspiration” design concept will make its debut at next week’s Detroit auto show. The sedan concept’s design has an elongated silhouette, which Infiniti says represents the first look at a new form language for the brand.

According to Karim Habib, Infiniti’s executive design director, the concept aims to evolve traditional sedan architecture to account for smaller, electrified powertrains. “The Q is more flowing in appearance and muscular in stance, with an unusually long and balanced cabin,” says Habib. “The features a shorter hood and elongated body, with all the benefits to interior well being, comfort and space that this layout entails.”

The Q concept signals Infiniti’s longer-term intentions. In the meantime the brand needs to make progress with its existing models, especially in the hot selling SUV segments. Infiniti’s largest SUV, the QX80, just received a much needed design update and interior overall and an all-new QX50 mid-sized SUV goes on sale soon.

While a first drive of the QX50 is a few weeks away, we recently experienced the updated QX80. This large SUV has impressed buyers with its luxurious cabin but its ungainly exterior has been poorly received.

Anand Patel, senior Infiniti product planner, notes: “The old model was polarizing and some couldn’t get over styling, but once inside they loved it.”

The 2018 QX80, says Patel, is easier on the eye with its subtle styling refinements and design cues adopted from the new QX50.

The biggest reasons for purchase among past QX80 buyers have been its ride comfort and roominess, and the new version should maintain those appeal factors.

“We wanted the feel of a private jet inside,” says Patel. “To that end we have a new saddle-brown interior leather color, which is a buttery soft, semi-aniline leather.”

The spacious and inviting QX80 interior is enhanced by a comprehensive suite of safety features. One new feature is a rear-view mirror that uses cameras to create a digital image — useful when one’s actual view rearward is obscured. While the overall cabin feel is impressive, weak spots remain such as the dated navigation system.

In terms of powertrain, there is only one option, a powerful but thirsty 5.6-liter V-8. This is paired with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.

For consumers looking for a true full-size SUV with a level of luxury that goes a step beyond most rivals, the new QX80 is a worthy contender. But there are more fuel-efficient and modern alternatives on the market.

Pricing for the 2018 QX80 starts at $64,750 and reaches the $80,000 range for a fully optioned all-wheel-drive model.

Infiniti hopes the QX80 will continue to attract buyers in the relatively small but profitable full-size SUV segment. But the real growth will come with the forthcoming, mid-sized QX50.

John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at

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