March 3, 2011
The Infiniti Etherea concept, unveiled at the 2011 Geneva auto show, is the company’s vision of how an entry-level premium compact should look if it wants to appeal to that business holy grail of the younger demographic. “It is not just a smaller version of a typically conservative and traditional luxury car,” said Toru Saito, Infiniti’s corporate vice president.
The company describes the Etherea concept as “part elegant coupe, part spacious sedan, part practical hatchback and even part tall crossover.” But it might be easier to call it a front-wheel-drive, four-seater hybrid. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is supercharged to create 245 horsepower, while an electric motor cuts in to provide more boost or switch over to silent, emissions-free, low-speed running.
Utilizing a comparatively long wheelbase and short overhangs at each end, the Etherea was designed in Japan, and features several styling cues inspired by the country’s culture, materials and crafts, such as kimono-inspired piping on the seats. There is no central pillar; the rear doors are hinged at the back to make entry and exit more gracious. They open up to a spacious cabin with a flat floor.
The occupants’ H-point (where their hips are situated once seated) is said to be higher than in most compact cars. Take special note also of the headlights and crescent-shaped C-pillar, since these are elements intended to carry over into future production models. And “other elements of exterior design and interior craftsmanship are set to have an important influence,” said design chief Shiro Nakamura.
This might be one of those rare occasions where a calmed-down production version may actually be preferable to the original wild concept.
COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.