Last year, at the Beijing Auto Show,Infiniti dropped cover on the QX Sport Inspiration, a mid-sizecrossoverconcept that presented a glimpse at the brand’s forthcoming SUV offerings. Now, the premium Japanese automaker has given us a successor, and it’s equal parts closer-to-dealerships and wilder-to-behold than what came before. It’s called the QX50 Concept, and it not only offers us a look at Infiniti’s new styling direction, but also its new cabin design, autonomous vehicle ambitions, and most interestingly, a production-ready variable compression internal-combustion engine.
That’s quite an ambitious lineup of features, especially for a model slated to reach customers sometime in the next few years. Nevertheless, Infiniti seems confident it’ll bring something close to the QX50 Concept to production very soon, dropping innumerable hints about its intentions in the attached press release. But really, that makes sense when you consider the segment. Infiniti quickly points out that the mid-size premium crossover segment is the fastest-growing automotive segment in the world right now, so a forward-looking exterior design, upscale cabin, autonomous features, and groundbreaking engine are all necessary elements to make any serious impact.
Let’s start with the exterior, where we find the latest evolution of Infiniti’s “Powerful Elegance” design language. This features characteristics like cabin-forward proportions, with a clamshell hood and lots of straight character lines. These traits give the car a sleek, elegant look, with the prominent shoulder line starting behind the swept-back, ultra-thin headlights, and reaching back into the rear hatch. Between the headlights is a “double-arch” grille, now an Infiniti staple, with a diamond-pattern insert and prominent chrome surround.
Moving inside, we find lots of space, both for passengers and for practicality’s sake. Infiniti is adamant that it wants to upend the status quo for luxury interiors, and as such, it will apply a variety of Japanese craftsmanship philosophies to its creation. Materials used will be wood and leather, which isn’t out of the ordinary, but it’s the way these materials are applied that will be unique. For example, Infiniti used three different kinds of leather in the three-tone color scheme, and the wood trim is an open-pore ash that maintains its original grain for “enhanced tactility” as compared to standard glossy wood trim.
Note: Infiniti QX50 Concept pictured on the left, Infiniti QX Sport Inspiration pictured on the right.
When placed side by side, it’s obvious where the QX50 Concept (pictured on the left) came from. The resemblance it holds to the QX Sport Inspiration (pictured on the right) is quite apparent, with the same general shape and lines used from front to back. However, the QX50 is a much more “production-friendly” iteration, replacing a few details here and there (such as the deeply cut side skirts) with simpler design elements. That said, the majority of the original design remains, such as the muscular, V-shaped hood, the crescent-cut D-pillar, and the coupe-like roofline.
Dimensionally, Infiniti says the QX50 is both taller and wider than the QX Sport Inspiration, making it roomier in the cabin. The rear hatch is also more vertical, providing more space in the cargo area.
The paint hue is called Forged Bronze, which is a new finish that utilizes three times the metal flake as a “standard” paint job. I think it looks great, and I hope it’s offered to customers when the revamped production QX50 goes on sale.
Clearly, Infiniti takes its upholstery seriously.
In this segment, striking a balance between comfort and utility can be a tricky thing to pull off, but the QX50 Concept looks like it has what it takes with lots of space and high-end materials. The design and layout include driver-focused controls on the dashboard, with copious horizontal lines throughout, while the upholstery is finished with hexagon shapes – a nice touch that really pops against the offset colors. That cab-forward design, with the A-pillar moved ahead thanks to the compact powertrain, really helps with space as well.
With regard to the wood and leather, Infiniti contends “each material is treated and applied in a way to establish new trends in the design of premium crossover interior.” Part of the equation here is the three different kinds of leather, including genuine cowhide, semi-aniline, and synthetic nubuck. These are all present in three different colors, with brown used for the upper pillar portions and headliner, white used for the dash, door inserts, and seats, and blue used for the center console and mid-lines.
Clearly, Infiniti takes its upholstery seriously. The brand even went so far as to patent its own “dot quilting” method.
Further future production vehicle cues include the new graphic user interface for the infotainment touch screen, which will include info readouts for navigation, the sound system, various driver assist tech, and the status of the VC-Turbo engine.
What’s The Big Deal Over Variable Compression Anyway?
Speaking of the engine – the QX50 Concept’s Variable Compression Turbo powerplant is probably the most exciting feature on the car. Because while we’ve seen plenty of concepts with interesting exterior designs and interior layouts over the years, novel engine technology that’s sure to appear in a production model is much less common.
In the simplest of terms, variable compression allows an engine to offer both high output when you need it, and greener sensibilities when you don’t. Properly applied, you can basically have your cake and eat it too. Infiniti claims that a 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine could combine the high horsepower of a standard V-6 with the efficiency levels of a modern hybrid. The automaker goes on to claim that when paired with a front-biased intelligent AWD system, such an engine would return roughly 27-percent better fuel economy compared to an equivalent V-6 powertrain.
Not only that, but without a bulky hybrid system or extra cylinders filling the engine bay, a VC-T would also be more efficient with its packaging, offering more space for people and things.
“Infiniti has yet to confirm which of its future vehicles could benefit from its variable compression ratio engine,” the brand states in a press release, “though a mid-sized crossover could be one of the ideal applications for the 2.0-liter VC-Turbo power unit revealed by the company in 2016.”
Hey Infiniti – you need to work on your poker face. Expect to see a VC-Turbo in production form sometime next year.
And Of Course, The Autonomous Tech
It seems like autonomous technology is a requisite for any concept vehicle that’s debuted in the last few years, and the QX50 is no exception. While details are a bit lacking, Infiniti does say this concept will offer tech that will “ensure the driver retains ultimate control over their vehicle.” However, the tech will make it easier on you at those times when you don’t wanna be engaged, such as in heavy stop-and-go traffic. Features include automatic emergency braking, adaptive steering, and lane assist, with laser, radar, and visual cameras providing all the vital data.
Making its global premiere at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the QX50 Concept showcases INFINITI’s vision for a next-generation mid-size premium crossover.
Demonstrating how the design of the 2016 QX Sport Inspiration, its conceptual forebear, could be adapted for a future production model, the QX50 Concept confidently articulates INFINITI’s ’Powerful Elegance’ design language. A ’cabin-forward’ silhouette combines with muscular lines and flowing surfaces to telegraph its purpose as a dynamic and practical crossover.
The organic forms of the ’driver-centric, passenger-minded’ cabin were designed in harmony with the exterior shape. Blending progressive design with modern craftsmanship, the QX50 Concept’s interior reflects INFINITI’s desire to challenge conventional approaches to premium interior design.
INFINITI’s latest concept is the next step toward the company’s future autonomous drive support technologies. Central to the strategy for the development of all future INFINITI autonomous drive support systems, they ensure the driver retains ultimate control over their vehicle – in keeping with INFINITI’s focus on driver engagement.
Furthermore, the QX50 Concept illustrates a potential application for INFINITI’s advanced Variable Compression Turbo (VC-Turbo) engine, offering drivers a powertrain that adapts to offer both power and efficiency.
An evolution of INFINITI’s 2016 QX Sport Inspiration mid-size crossover
The QX50 Concept shows how INFINITI could develop its future presence in the world’s fastest-growing vehicle segment
INFINITI seeks to explore a more emotional execution of crossover design than existing models in the class
"With the unveiling of the QX Sport Inspiration at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show, we showed the future of INFINITI QX models. The new QX50 Concept evolves this concept further and shows how INFINITI could develop its future presence in what is the fastest-growing vehicle segment globally." Roland Krueger, President of INFINITI
With the QX50 Concept, INFINITI seeks to explore a more emotional execution of crossover design, bringing a degree of elegance and artistry to a segment typified by an uninspiring, clinical aesthetic. Marrying human artistry with utility, the QX50 Concept fulfills the expectation of practicality with a spacious cabin and cargo area. Furthermore, with a design adapted for the greatest possible packaging efficiency, the QX50 Concept previews how INFINITI could adapt future vehicle designs to accommodate a compact powertrain, such as the company’s VC-Turbo engine.
The QX50 Concept marks the next stage in INFINITI’s continued renewal of its product range. INFINITI designs concepts with production intent, such as true-to-concept production versions of the Q30, QX30 and Q60 concepts. The creation of each of these has previewed the design and layout of the brand’s next-generation models. The QX50 Concept previews the evolving signature INFINITI design elements, demonstrating how they could be adapted for a mid-sized premium crossover.
With its ground breaking proportions, the 2003 INFINITI FX45 set the template for future crossovers to follow throughout the last decade. The world’s first mid-size multi-purpose sports vehicle, the INFINITI FX is still considered a crossover design icon today. Last year’s QX Sport Inspiration sought to rekindle that excitement – and in an increasingly crowded and popular market segment, the new QX50 Concept now illustrates how these design themes could be translated into a production reality.
Exterior: an artistic execution of functional crossover design
QX50 Concept represents the latest interpretation of INFINITI’s ’Powerful Elegance’ design language
Its design combines taut and muscular lines with heavily profiled surfaces
QX50 Concept demonstrates how the design of the 2016 QX Sport Inspiration could be adapted for future production models
Influenced by the design of the INFINITI QX Sport Inspiration, the QX50 Concept expresses its crossover purpose through proportional clarity, clearly telegraphing its power and dynamic capabilities. The QX50 Concept eschews many of the familiar, ’me too’ design forms and themes shared by established models in the mid-size premium crossover segment. The result is a highly original yet practical new crossover form, demonstrating how the design of INFINITI’s earlier concept could be adapted for future production models.
The QX50 Concept is the latest embodiment of INFINITI’s ’Powerful Elegance’ design language and is both aesthetic and functional. The exterior of the concept combines taut and muscular lines with flowing, heavily profiled surfaces. A sharp, straight character line runs from the clamshell hood and along the length of its shoulders, giving the QX50 Concept a commanding presence and extending the vehicle’s visual length. A wide, muscular stance accentuates its versatile capability.
INFINITI’s signature design elements are evident on the QX50 Concept, each subtly evolved for their new application. At the front, INFINITI’s double-arch grille conveys an immediate sense of power and purpose and provides a focal point for every line on the concept’s body. A taller, wider and more practical vehicle than the QX Sport Inspiration, the QX50 Concept’s grille adds a greater sense of presence to the front of the car. At the rear of the vehicle, the leading edge of the crescent-cut D-pillar is higher than on any current INFINITI production car, further extending the visual length of the roofline.
The interplay of the exterior lines and surfaces is accentuated by a newly-created Forged Bronze paint finish, with three times the amount of metal flake compared with standard production paint finishes.
In profile, the hood is shaped like the rise of a snake’s head, with a pair of sharp creases extending upwards from the base of the A-pillar, then plunging down the hood, leading into the edges of the expansive ’double-arch’ grille. These lines disguise the hood’s relatively short length, suggesting how the appearance of a production car could be adapted for a more compact engine, such as INFINITI’s VC-Turbo, applying power to the road through an intelligent all-wheel drive powertrain.
Functionality is a necessity in the mid-sized crossover segment and is central to the QX50 Concept’s design. More practical than its QX Sport Inspiration progenitor, the QX50 Concept has a ’cabin-forward’ silhouette and a slightly more vertical rear hatch, both reference points for a versatile and accommodating interior. The new shape of the crescent-cut D-pillar provides clearer over-the-shoulder visibility for the driver and a better view out for rear passengers.
Interior: Challenging conventional thinking on premium cabin design
Concept cabin demonstrates new direction of thinking with premium materials and craftsmanship
Authentic materials and artistic design execution is at the heart of the concept’s carefully curated cabin
Driver-centric, yet passenger-minded, the cabin places similar importance on both form and function
Blending progressive design with elevated levels of modern craftsmanship, the cabin of the QX50 Concept demonstrates INFINITI’s desire to challenge and reinterpret conventional thinking on premium crossover interior design and material usage.
In the place of high-gloss woods and soft-touch plastics, the interior of the QX50 Concept features a more modern application of wood, leather and stitching. Each material is treated and applied in a way to establish new trends in the design of premium crossover interiors.
Deliberately articulating a sense of advanced human artistry, the QX50 Concept’s cabin espouses a handmade feel and is the result of two Japanese approaches to craftsmanship – ’mitate’ (pronounced "mee-ta-teh") and ’shitate’ ("shee-ta-teh"). ’Mitate’ relates to the practice of curating and bringing together the best possible selection of materials. ’Shitate’ is the desire to tailor the chosen combination of materials, bringing out the best. With fine attention to detail and finish, such an approach creates an appearance and ambience throughout the cabin greater than the sum of its parts.
The combination of materials and the way in which they have been applied has allowed INFINITI designers to demonstrate some of the highest levels of craftsmanship ever seen in a crossover in this segment.
The QX50 Concept is wrapped in a variety of different leathers – genuine, semi-aniline, and synthetic nubuck – for a rich variety of textures and visual depth. The eyes naturally follow each different surface as it flows around the cabin. The QX50 Concept’s cabin hints at a widening range of interior finishes for INFINITI customers to choose from, including a carefully selected three-tone color scheme.
Adopting different leathers for the interior allows INFINITI to imagine how this three-tone cabin could look. Rich, brown leather lines the upper layer of the cabin, contrasted with white leather for the lower dashboard, door trim and seats. Between the two runs a line of navy blue synthetic nubuck, which also finishes the front center console. A line of close twin stitching runs along the top of the dashboard and doors, and around the seats.
INFINITI has applied for a patent for a new ’dot quilting’ method for the leather that lines the doors and seats. Inspired by classic buttoned leather sofas, dot quilting is sewn into place at individual points. The physical characteristics of the leather produce a more informal interpretation of the diamond lozenge shape that gives classic Chesterfield lounge chairs their distinctive appearance.
Where many expect premium vehicle interiors use high-gloss wood surfaces to create the perception of quality, the QX50 Concept is trimmed in real, open-pore ash. The wood is treated to retain its natural, and sometimes irregular, characteristics in texture and appearance. Running a hand over it, the grain of the ash is still present, providing an authentic, modern appearance and enhanced tactility.
The natural, flowing shapes of the cabin harmonize with those of the QX50 Concept’s exterior, contrasting with the technical, linear – even austere – designs of other vehicles in the segment. A blend of positive and negative surfaces adds a level of visual depth to the cabin, with a complex interplay of light and shade. The organic lines of the cabin follow a similar form to the interior of the QX Sport Inspiration, referencing how they could be progressed from the original concept to a production car.
Both ’driver-centric’ and ’passenger-minded,’ the layout of the QX50 Concept’s cabin is divided into distinct zones for the driver and passengers. Consistent with its conceptual predecessor, the dashboard is focused on the driver, using its form and appearance to engender a true sense of confidence at the wheel.
The horizontal forms of the dashboard wrap around the driver and passenger, with twisting, uninterrupted character lines flowing from the center console, along the dashboard and out to the rear of the cabin. The seats feature an ergonomic hexagon motif, for a wide and welcoming appearance, and maximum back and shoulder support for occupants.
The QX50 Concept places form on the same level as function, with utility at the heart of its remit.
In moving the base of the A-pillar further forward than on the QX Sport Inspiration, and shortening the hood to accommodate a more compact engine, the QX50 Concept’s cabin-forward design creates a longer, more spacious passenger compartment. The upright stance of the rear hatch – more vertical than its forebear – is designed to give the QX50 Concept exceptional cargo space. The Concept’s cargo bay is, for instance, long enough to store a stroller, suggesting how such a vehicle could suit a young family.
The QX50 Concept’s Graphic User Interface shows how new technologies could be incorporated into future INFINITI vehicle cabins.
The center of the dashboard features a wide touchscreen HMI (human-machine interface). As well as displaying navigation and infotainment features, the QX50 Concept’s touchscreen could display to occupants the current status of other technologies in the vehicle. The dashboard could display to all occupants the status of the vehicle’s various driver assist technologies, as well as how the VC-Turbo variable compression ratio engine adapts as it shifts seamlessly between offering greater fuel efficiency and performance.
INFINITI engineers continue to develop autonomous driving support technologies
INFINITI’s future autonomous drive support technologies will allow the driver to
retain ultimate control over their vehicle
Future package of technologies will take a proactive approach to driver assistance and delegate elements of driving to the car
The INFINITI QX50 Concept’s driver assist system is part of the company’s development of autonomous driving support technologies.
The development strategy for all future INFINITI autonomous drive support systems is that they should ensure the driver retains control over their vehicle – in keeping with INFINITI’s focus on driver engagement.
In the future, INFINITI autonomous drive support technologies will continue to make driving less stressful – such as navigating stop-start traffic on the highway or keeping track of the positions of surrounding vehicles.
Since its inception in 1989, INFINITI has brought pioneering driver-assistive technologies to the customer. The company has been responsible for a series of world-first technologies, including Predictive Forward Collision Warning, drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering® and Active Lane Control.
The QX50 Concept’s INFINITI driver assistance technologies preview the first production-ready incarnation of this package.
With a proactive approach to safety, the QX50 Concept assists the driver in identifying and responding to other road users and potential hazards. Future technologies will draw on inputs from a network of laser scanners, radar and cameras to read the road ahead and monitor the vehicle’s surroundings, allowing the car to react accordingly.
This framework of sensors will be developed in future production models with a series of new functionalities.
VC-Turbo – the world’s first production-ready variable compression ratio engine
QX50 Concept suggests a potential application for INFINITI’s VC-Turbo engine
Packaging benefits for a mid-size crossover, powered by a compact engine with high specific power and efficiency
INFINITI engineers target a 27-percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared to V6 gasoline engines
The INFINITI QX50 Concept demonstrates a potential production application for INFINITI’s advanced new VC-Turbo engine. INFINITI has yet to confirm which of its future vehicles could benefit from its variable compression ratio engine, though a mid-sized crossover could be one of the ideal applications for the 2.0-liter VC-Turbo power unit revealed by the company in 2016.
The QX50 Concept’s packaging efficiency and spacious cabin are due in part to a compact, space-efficient engine bay design. With its proportionately shorter hood, the QX50 Concept suggests how the 2.0-liter gasoline engine could power a front-biased intelligent all-wheel drive system.
INFINITI’s production-ready 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine represents a compelling alternative to diesel powertrains, particularly in the mid-sized premium crossover segment. The VC-Turbo engine is able to adapt its compression ratio according to driving conditions to deliver optimal levels of performance and efficiency. It challenges the notion that hybrid technology and diesel are the only powertrains capable of offering high efficiency and torque. For its application in the QX50 Concept, the human-machine interface (HMI) demonstrates to the driver and passengers how the VC-Turbo is adapting according to driving conditions. The HMI displays the engine’s current status as it intelligently chooses appropriate levels of performance and high efficiency.
With a downsized capacity and high power and torque, the 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine boasts an impressive specific power output – higher than many competing four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engines, and close to the performance of some V6 gasoline powertrains. In time for the engine’s production debut in 2018, INFINITI engineers are targeting a 27-percent improvement in fuel efficiency over V6 gasoline engines of similar power output.