Nissan’s premium brand isn’t messing around with its future model plans

The latest in Infiniti’s growing line of Inspiration concepts made its debut at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show. Called the Qs Inspiration, the concept is the latest in a series of concept cars that Infiniti has showcased to spread the word of its plans for greener powertrains and other new technologies that will shape the future of the brand. Like most automakers these days, Infiniti has moved well beyond “talk is cheap” model by showing an increased commitment in demonstrating what it intends to do now that the industry is in the middle of shifting eras. The Qs Inspiration still looks like a concept, but it’s not really just a concept in the traditional sense of one. It’s a look into a future that isn’t that far away anymore. In fact, look for the next-generation Q50 or Q70 sedans to draw inspiration from the Qs. That’s how close this concept is to becoming, well, more than a concept.

Exterior

  • Three-box design styling
  • Light-up inscription and logo
  • Suicide doors
  • Heavily inspired by Japanese design methodologies

There’s something about the Infiniti Qs Concept that captures your attention. It’s not the most provocative concept I’ve seen, but it’s visually striking in its own way. Proportionally, it doesn’t look like a typical sedan. There’s a bit more ground clearance than you’d expect and the shoulder lines are absurdly high for a sedan. It also looks chunky from certain angles, which is a far cry from the sleek and stylish Q Inspiration Concept that came before it. I’m tempted to say that there’s a bit of an SUV look to the Qs Inspiration, but the concept is styled like a sports sedan, which, I suppose, contributes to the non-traditional profile body.

That said, you can tell that Infiniti also adopted the “three-box” design strategy that’s become very popular among concept cars these days.

The hood, cabin, and trunk of the concept are defined by their own space. Each space was designed to flow into the next smoothly or, at least, depending on the design needs of a model, or a concept, in this case. The boxes are reconfigured, resized, and reshuffled without changing the aesthetic balance of the entire vehicle. Automakers like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes use this approach, and Infiniti should, too, if it wants to compete against these brands. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the automaker tapped designer Karim Habib to lead the design team of the Qs Inspiration Concept. Habib, for those who don’t know, is an alumnus of BMW.

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835628

Perhaps it’s that German influence at work, but the Qs Inspiration’s body is a perfect example of minimalist design done right. There’s very little wasted space and even the high shoulder line, while uncommon for a sedan, contributes significantly in the flowing nature of the body.

The concept’s front section takes a page from its concept brethren, specifically the Q Inspiration and QX Inspiration.

The thin headlamps are typical of what you’d expect from a concept these days. There’s no traditional grille to speak of, in part because there’s no engine to cool, but Infiniti keeps an outline of a grille, in part to maintain aesthetic balance in part, and in part to have a canvas to place the light-up Infiniti logo and script, similar to the QX Inspiration. The rest of the front section is defined as being clean, smooth, and very, very white. There are hints of the Tesla Model S in the design, though that’s likely due to Tesla introducing the flat grille design more than anything else. The more you look at the Qs Inspiration, the more you notice how unique and beautiful it looks, at least in the front section.

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835642

The rear looks more adventurous, maybe even a little too much. Infiniti adopted a similar approach of not bombarding this section with unnecessary design details and components, but the taillights look a little too imposing, especially when you consider how small and unassuming the headlamps look. That’s my only gripe in this area of the concept. The front end design has plenty of room to breathe. I can’t say the same thing in the back with the taillights occupying so much real estate space.

The side section is also a bit tricky, though part of it is trying to get used to the new design language that Infiniti’s promoting.

That’s typically what happens when something “new” is introduced into the fold. It takes a while to get used to. The suicide doors are expected from a concept. No surprises there. The muscular surfaces also complement the clean lines of the body. This design ethos is indicative of Japanese origami. That’s good to know, isn’t it?

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835631

It’s true. Looking at the Infiniti Qs Inspiration takes some getting used to. That’s not necessarily a problem, especially if you have an open mind on what Nissan’s luxury division is trying to establish. See, the Qs is more than just your typical concept; it’s a concept that points to a future that Infiniti’s headed to. And if you’re Infiniti, wouldn’t you want to challenge tradition while you’re in the process of reinventing your sedan lineup? Wouldn’t you want to innovate from what’s been accepted and create a new way to design the sedans of the future? Maybe we’ll see a production version of the Qs Inspiration in the future. Maybe we’ll see it through either the Q50 or the Q70. Or maybe we won’t. But even if that happens, at least Infiniti has planted to seed on what we can expect down the line.

Interior

  • Lounge-style seating and layout
  • Carbon fiber dashboard
  • High-tech instrument cluster/digital display
  • Timber louvres in the ceiling
  • High driving position
  • Flat floor

Like most concept interiors, the Infiniti Qs Inspiration’s cabin is ambitious in its design and promised function. You’ll immediately notice it once the suicide doors open to a spacious interior that, once again, points to what Infiniti’s cooking up for its future models.

The cabin’s layout is traditional in the sense that it seats four people. Each person occupies a seat dressed in panels of white leather with some red chrome trim on the sides for added visual effect.

The seats themselves look mighty comfortable, too. Visually, they look like Captain Kirk’s chair in Star Trek. Not that I’m complaining because, at the very least, they do justice to Infiniti’s promise of creating a futuristic lounge-like environment inside the concept.

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835648

Up front, carbon fiber is the choice material for the dashboard. Really, it’s one long stretch of clean carbon fiber. The instrument cluster is completely digital and located in front of the driver. The display itself is flanked by a unique red lighting pattern — Infiniti calls it “Vermillion Red” — that symbolizes performance. This lighting signature is also present on the floor of the cabin, as well as the doors. When the concept is running autonomously, the ambient lighting switches to a softer Turquoise color, creating a more relaxed mood inside the cabin. The use of ambient lighting inside a car isn’t exactly a novel feature. A lot of today’s automakers, some of Infiniti’s rivals — Mercedes, BMW, and Audi — already offer versions of mood cabin lighting. Still, there’s no harm in the Qs inspiration Concept having it, too.

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835650

The lights are cool, sure, but I’m more impressed with the carbon fiber dashboard. The driver-side section houses the digital display and instrument cluster, but the passenger-side section of the dash runs flat, looking more like an expensive counter than an actual dashboard. It’s a great look that once again touches on that “lounge-like” feel that Infiniti’s trying to establish. Fancy leather and accompanying trim stitches occupy the lower section of the dash. The overall look — you can even count the futuristic, flat-bottom steering wheel in this design equation — is impressive.

There’s no center console to speak of so the dash flows horizontally without any interruption. This is what you want to see from a concept interior.

Even the central tunnel, which is massive even for a concept car’s standards, does not seem out-of-place relative to the design elements surrounding it. It’s big enough that it creates a clear separation between the two front seats, doing so without overdoing or messing up the aesthetic balance that Infiniti wanted to convey. Design sketches of the interior don’t make it clear, but it appears that the central tunnel also has a digital display that can be propped up diagonally when in use and stowed flatly when not in use. Maybe it’s my eyes playing tricks on me, but it does look that way if you check out the rendered images.

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835636

Then there’s the ceiling of the interior. Instead of a traditional headliner, Infiniti installed what it calls timber louvers to create “moving shadows” throughout the interior. It’s definitely a design worthy of a concept car catalog, but these shadows presuppose that the concept has, at the very least, a translucent roof that permits light to pass through, creating these shadows that the automaker says creates “pleasant diffused lighting for everyone inside.”

In many ways, the Qs Inspiration’s interior carries a lot of similarities with its crossover counterpart, the QX Inspiration.

The same timber louvres are found on the roof of the QX Inspiration, so I’m guessing that Infiniti wanted to create a similar vibe in that interior. The QX’s dashboard is miles fancier, though, in part because the front passenger has his own digital display to mess around with. In fact, the QX Inspiration features an overload of displays. There’s even one in the middle of the steering wheel, looking like a hand-held video console in the mold of a futuristic Nintendo Switch.

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835635

Despite the similarities — and differences — the interior design of the Qs Inspiration and the QX Inspiration concepts point to the same thing: Infiniti wants to create a future where its car interiors are defined for their comfort levels more than anything else. As a brand that’s trying to be taken seriously in the luxury car sphere, there’s no better way to make a statement than to create an interior exudes the level of class, comfort, and futuristic technology that all other luxury brands are striving for. I don’t know if we’ll see the Qs Inspiration Concept’s interior in a future version of the Q50 or Q70, but I won’t bet against it.

Drivetrain

  • High-performance electric powertrain
  • all-wheel drive capability
2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835621

Infiniti makes no mention of a specific powertrain for the Qs Inspiration other than saying that it features a high-performance electrified all-wheel drive (e-AWD) power. The likely scenario here is that Infiniti is developing its own electric powertrain, though part of that development can be traced back to Nissan, even if it’s unlikely that Infiniti will use Nissan’s available electric powertrains.

Think about it. Would a 62 kWh battery with around 217 horsepower work on an electric version of the Infiniti Q70, let alone a Q50?

In its current setup, the Q50 sedan is powered 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine that produces 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. A more potent, high-performance version is also available, one that produces 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. A 62-kWh battery pack on the future electric Q50 won’t cut it, even if it can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 7.1 seconds and boast a range of around 240 miles. The numbers are impressive, but they’re not in line with what we’re expecting from an all-electric Q50.

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835645

The possible scenario here is that Infiniti will offer different batteries with different levels of capacity. It’s what Tesla is doing, and it’s what a number of automakers with potential rivals to an electric Q50 are doing. BMW, for example, unveiled the i Vision Dynamics back in 2017 with the promise of offering a slew of battery options that can produce performance numbers like hit 0 to 62 mph in four seconds, post a top speed of around 125 to 130 mph, and offer a single-charge range of up to 370 miles.

That’s the roadmap that Infiniti can use when it’s time to develop an electric powertrain for the EV Q50 and EV Q70.

It’s the same thing when we’re talking about plug-in hybrids, of which Infiniti is also lagging behind some of its rivals. Part of the development of a plug-in hybrid model involves combining a gas engine with an electric motor. In this instance, Infiniti could tap the Leaf’s electric motor and use a smaller engine — possibly the automaker’s new VC-Turbo 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine? — to complement it. The latter produces 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque and when combined with the Leaf’s battery pack — easier said than done, I know — it could have a blueprint in place for a possible plug-in hybrid powertrain. Even if the VC-Turbo ends up being too powerful for the Q50, Infiniti could tap into Nissan’s less powerful four-cylinder engines to make it work.

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835643

As a comparison, BMW already has a hybrid in place — the 330e iPerformance — that Infiniti could use a measuring stick to gauge its development of a PHEV Q50. The BMW 330e uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that combine to produce 250 horsepower. The automaker’s ‘XtraBoost’ function adds another 40 horsepower into the mix, to bring the output up to 290 horsepower with the sedan’s electric range approaches to 37 miles.

At this point, Infiniti still needs to lay out the groundwork for a plan of attack.

There’s a reason the automaker was vague in identifying a powertrain for the Qs Inspiration Concept. Maybe there’s one already; maybe there isn’t. But for now, Infiniti’s best served if it works on that end of the development spectrum first before laying out power and performance figures that it may or may not be able to reach.

Final Thoughts

2019 Infiniti Qs Inspiration Concept
- image 835630

Infiniti’s plans of electrifying its lineup by a specific point in the near future - 2021, in this case — is no different from what other automakers are doing. Electrification represents a significant part of the auto industry’s future. There’s no hiding from it. What Infiniti is doing, though, is it’s creating a template on what we can expect from the automaker’s electrification plans. Granted, a lot of things related to these plans are still in the process of development, but you can tell that the rush to release EV-facing concepts like Qs Inspiration, the QX Inspiration, and the Q Inspiration is Infiniti’s way of letting everyone know what it’s focusing on these days.

The Qs Inspiration is particularly intriguing because it’s not just about showcasing a future electric version of the Q50 and Q70 sedans. It’s also about showcasing these potentials models in a different light, whether it’s through design or through future technologies. I like how Infiniti’s thinking outside the box in this regard. It shows that the automaker doesn’t just want to be another brand that rolls out electric models. It shows a desire to be different, something that an auto brand has to be to get noticed once the electrification revolution is in full swing.

I get the reason Infiniti unveiled the Qs Inspiration at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show. China is one of the brand’s biggest markets, and a big chunk of its future EV models will be sold there. But there’s more to it than that, too. Just as every other auto brand worth it’s salt is developing their own EVs, Infiniti wants to stand out on its own with concepts that can carry their own weight. After all, the Qs Inspiration isn’t just a concept in the strictest of terms; it is, more importantly, a symbol of Infiniti’s future. And for what that’s worth, I’m looking forward to seeing what that future ends looking like.

  • Leave it
    • No word on powertrain options
    • How will the production version look like?
    • Different styling doesn’t always translate well to the masses

Further reading

2019 Infiniti QX Inspiration Concept
- image 812464

Read our full review on the 2019 Infiniti QX Inspiration Concept.

2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept
- image 762349

Read our full review on the 2018 Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept.

The INFINITI Qs Inspiration is a sports sedan concept developed for the electrified era. Revealed for the first time today at Auto Shanghai 2019, it offers a new perspective on sports sedans with an elevated driving position and high-performance electrified all-wheel drive power.

Representing INFINITI’s desire to challenge tradition, the Qs Inspiration previews a forthcoming production model and hints at the company’s electrified future, in which the brand will offer electric and e-POWER powertrains across its lineup. The concept’s flexible architecture has been developed to accommodate high-performance electrified powertrains. It has also enabled INFINITI’s designers to reinterpret traditional "three-box" sedan design, with new exterior proportions and a spacious, lounge-like interior.

With its creation led by a team of designers working under Karim Habib, executive design director for INFINITI, the Qs Inspiration Concept confirms INFINITI’s new form language for its forthcoming electrified vehicles. The concept draws on INFINITI’s Japanese DNA for inspiration, and is revealed in a newly-designed exhibition space, created in partnership with renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. The exhibition space has been designed in harmony with the new Qs Inspiration concept and INFINITI’s design direction for its electrified models, and will be featured at other major auto shows in future.

"As designers, we are constantly inspired by the technology of our engineers and the Japanese design influences which are part of our DNA," said Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice president for Global Design, Nissan Motor Company. "Here in Shanghai, we have not been alone on this journey. I am very honored to have had Kengo Kuma as a ‘sensei,’ helping us evolve and express a new language in our company architecture. In Shanghai, we reveal our Kuma-san-designed INFINITI booth, expressing a new visual poetry, harmony and innovation."

INFINITI to produce its first new-generation electrified vehicle in China, for China

The Qs Inspiration is revealed as INFINITI announces that the first of its new-generation electrified vehicles will be built in China, for the Chinese market.

"China has the most growth potential for electric vehicles globally, especially in the premium segment," said Christian Meunier, chairman of INFINITI Motor Company. "The age of electrification presents us with an opportunity to renew our credentials as an innovative challenger brand, ready to move quickly and decisively in this growing and exciting area of the market."

The Qs Inspiration Concept precedes a new-generation electrified production model from INFINITI, one of a series of advanced-powertrain road cars to be launched by the brand in the years ahead. Electrification presents an opportunity to reinvent the INFINITI brand globally through high-performance, low-emissions models which offer a thrilling driving experience and total range confidence.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: