2019 Detroit Auto Show: Infiniti Reveals QX Electric SUV Concept

January 14, 2019 by Carly Schaffner, @carlyschaffner

Infiniti Motor Co. lifted the veil Monday on a midsize luxury SUV concept it says will pave the way for a new range of its own high-performance electric vehicles.

Dubbed the QX Inspiration, the concept represents an “electric future” for the automaker, which does not currently offer a fully electrified vehicle in its lineup. The automaker revealed the QX at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Infiniti, the luxury division of Nissan, said the QX confirms its intention to release a fully electric midsize SUV.

“The Infiniti QX Inspiration marks the beginning of a new generation of Infiniti cars and establishes a direct blueprint for the brand’s first electric vehicle,” said Christian Meunier, Infiniti’s president and chairman.

Electric plans

Infiniti also hinted that future zero-emission products will sit atop a dedicated electric platform and that a focus is delivering substantial range and a high-performance driving experience. The company also stated it plans to develop performance hybrid vehicles.

Cadillac, the luxury division of General Motors, announced a similar strategy at the Detroit auto show.

The GM brand said its luxury nameplate will also lead the way for electric vehicle development for the company and showed a teaser photograph of a future electric SUV.

Cadillac officials said that the drive units and battery cells for the yet-to-be named SUV are being designed for use throughout GM vehicle lineups in different countries. They will fit into front-, rear- or all-wheel drive vehicles, and the output of their battery systems will be adjustable based on vehicle and customer needs.

Automaker alliance

Infiniti also will leverage technology and expertise to develop its new category of vehicles. The automaker is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, which operates across multiple continents and builds products for both the consumer and commercial industries.

For example, the Alliance sold more that 680,000 electric vehicles globally in 2017. Each of the three brands builds at least one electric cargo van.

“Global demand for SUVs continues to grow, as does the number of drivers eager to make the shift to an electrified powertrain,” Meunier said. “QX Inspiration meets at the intersection of these trends and sets a direct precedent for the launch of a powerful all-electric SUV.”

Designers located the battery below the vehicle floor, delivering power to a pair of electric motors on each axle. The proposed electric all-wheel-drive system will offer immediate torque, and the positioning of the battery will give the QX a low center of gravity. The combination will make the vehicle both fun to drive and comfortable over long distances, as well as capable in inclement weather, according to Infiniti.

Physical changes

Since the vehicle will be developed with the electric powertrain in mind, the physical design of the concept differs from past-production SUVs that sported long hoods and cab-rearward silhouettes. Without a large V6 or V8 engine, the proportions are more balanced, and the design is cab-forward with shorter front and rear overhangs.

As there is no need to cool an engine, any form of an oversized grille is absent on the concept. It’s replaced by a smooth surface emblazoned with an Infiniti badge. The logo sits between two open channels that divert air over and around the body. Thin headlamp strips contain etchings that can be seen throughout the rest of the vehicle, including the light strip that sweeps across the rear.

The concept has 22-inch wheels, a further declaration that it’s capable of more than everyday use. Its white exterior color – Liquid White – is named for the winter snow on Mount Fuji.

The interior of the concept demonstrates what can be done with a purpose-built electric powertrain. There are no driveshafts or transmission tunnels, so it’s spacious and loungelike, with a flat floor for more passenger and cargo space.

Inside the concept

Its dashboard is draped side-to-side in a widescreen monitor that’s finished with polarized gold-tinted glass, likely representing a convergence of technology and luxury. The leather steering wheel is rectangular and houses another monitor. The center console is marble and extends like a countertop to the rear seats. The front seats swivel 30 degrees outward, and the floors are highlighted in white suede with gold accents, further emphasizing that QX is nowhere near production-ready.

Even more futuristic is the idea that the wheel and floor pedals retract, making more room for the driver to hand over control to the self-driving SUV.

The rear of the vehicle is tech-free, a wild juxtaposition compared with the screen-heavy design of the cockpit.

Should Infiniti deliver on its promise to build a pure electric midsized SUV, it would be playing in an increasingly competitive market. Tesla, which pioneered the all-electric luxury SUV segment with its Model X, has triggered all-electric introductions from legacy automakers. Audi’s e-Tron will go on sale this spring with a starting price of $74,800. Sales of Jaguar’s I-Pace, with a price tag of $69,500, started trickling out late last year. BMW plans an electric version of its X-3 crossover.

While the base price of the Model X is a steep $79,500, sales increased 17 percent to 19,850 in 2018 compared with 2017, signaling that there’s a growing market for luxury electric vehicles.

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