While we may have been unduly harsh towards the Infiniti Etherea leading up to its big unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show, it wasn’t for a lack of opinion, as we most certainly are entitled to ours. But now that all the teaser images have come to pass and we finally get a good, long look at Infiniti’s new concept car, we’re going to stick to our guns and say that the Infiniti Etherea concept (and not Etheria as it was rumored) should get some more fine-tweaking.
As a compact luxury model that previews Infiniti’s future entry-level model geared towards the younger population, we understand the direction the company is looking into by offering an aggressive-looking car to cater to an aggressive and young market.
"ETHEREA is about a new type of luxury for younger buyers," said Toru Saito, Corporate Vice President and Leader of the Global Infiniti Business Unit. "It is not just a smaller version of a typically conservative and traditional luxury car."
Sure thing, boss. Let’s just hope that the production version of this wild child concept looks a lot tamer and more evenly proportioned.
: This review has been updated with the Etherea’s full specs, as well as new images.
In their press release, Infiniti pretty much described the Etherea in the following words: "ETHEREA can be summed up as a four-door coupe with five-door practicality – a hatchback that doesn’t look like a hatchback."
Paradoxes notwithstanding, we’re glad that we’re not the only ones confused by the Etherea’s overall design. Measuring 4.4 meters long, the Etherea somehow combines the elements of a coupe, a sedan, a hatchback, and even a crossover in one highly confused vehicle. Not that we don’t enjoy the car’s multiple personality problem, but if the Japanese luxury arm of Nissan has any hope of selling the car to the younger demographic, they might try and be a little less schizophrenic with the design.
To be fair, the Etherea does have some redeeming qualities to it, including high-tech interpretations of traditional Japanese materials and finishes, including the crescent-shaped C-pillar, which we first saw on the Infiniti Essence concept.
There are also a number of distinctive Infiniti styling cues on the concept, including those headlights that incorporate LED daytime running lights formed like a crescent to accentuate the brand’s so-called ’face’. These particular headlights are set to become a staple for future Infiniti models, for better or for worse.
Fortunately, the confusion of the Etherea’s exterior detail is mitigated by the concept’s lavish and upscale interior. Inside the Etherea is a spacious four-seat cabin that has been stamped with Infiniti’s expertise on luxury while at the same time featuring a futuristic control lay-out. Keeping up with its free-flowing, ease-of-access machinations, the Etherea comes with an H-point, which is expected to be higher than what other compact luxury cars offer, and four wide-opening doors that have been rear-hinged at the back and, together with the noticeable absence of a B-pillar, to offer spacious freedom that customers always enjoy.
While the concept’s control layout can best be described as "driver centric", the passengers aren’t left hanging and fighting for scraps. The center of the concept’s dashboard has two screens that can be used by both front seat occupants. The dashboard dials just in front of the driver appears to go by the name of "Hamon", which apparently refers to "the ripples on a pond that radiate outward when a pebble is thrown into the water". Looking closer at how the dials were designed, it appears that they come away with the same aesthetic feeling as the dials radiate outward from the central tachometer.
As for the brand’s attempt in keeping some of its Japanese heritage on the concept, Infiniti did a nice job using ’Kumihimo’, a kimono-inspired piping on the seats, and ’Inuyarai’, the illuminating vertical strips found on the inside of the doors. The concept vehicle also has a new trim, which Infiniti is calling the ’Kasane-Washi’, which is based on the parchment paper-style finish known as ’Washi’.
A redeeming factor for the Etherea Concept is the supercharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine it has under its hood. The said powertrain translates to an output of 245 horsepower and is mated to a hybrid drive system and piped through a continuously variable (CVT) transmission.
Infiniti didn’t release any prices for the Etherea Concept because it’s, well, a concept. There might even be a possibility that the Etherea Concept is nothing more than just an "exploration" concept and will only be used as a basis for future entry-level Infiniti production models. But in the event that, somehow, it does end up in production, you can expect it to hit a range of somewhere in the $35,000 range.
For the sake of competition, we’re going to pair the Etherea up with its ’oddly-configured’ crossover brethren, the Nissan Juke . Sure, they might be a disparity in target segments between the two, not to mention a powertrain advantage for the Etherea, but then again, both these models come from the same world, so by default, a comparison is warranted.
For all of the Juke’s aesthetic quirkiness, the crossover does come with an impressive line-up of engines, with the most potent being Nissan’s new turbocharged MR16DDT engine - complete with technologies like direct injection - that delivers a total output of 190 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. It’s not as powerful as the 245 ponies under the Etherea’s bonnet, but to the Juke’s advantage, it’s already being sold in markets all over the world whereas the Etherea, despite having a pretty spectacular interior detail to compensate for the highly-confusing exterior look, may not even see the lights of the production line.
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Might not be translated into a production car