By Marc Lachapelle
Infiniti will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary in North American this year and was celebrating its first in Europe in Geneva, where CEO Carlos Ghosn introduced Nissan’s luxury brand last year. What better way to underline this landmark than to unveil a spectacular concept car. The Infiniti Essence is an achingly beautiful rear-wheel-drive grand touring coupé that seats two in lavish luxury, propelled by a 592-horsepower gas-electric parallel hybrid powertrain. It is said to prefigure upcoming Infiniti models in style, performance and refinement, technical and otherwise.
Infiniti says that the Essence was designed in a spirit it has defined as “Dynamic Adeyaka”, offering a modern interpretation of some ‘very old Japanese traditions’. The Japanese word “Adeyaka” means “bewitching or fascinatingly elegant” and it fits the Essence perfectly. With the classic long hood/short tail proportions of the greatest GT cars, its remarkably smooth, flowing shape would befit Europe’s greatest marques, with a touch of the latest Aston Martins and the Ferrari F599 in profile view. It does away with cumbersome visual distractions such as side rear-view mirrors and door handles, replaced by tiny cameras and a couple of push buttons, respectively.
The car’s interior is just as original and refined, with an asymmetrical design that has all controls turned towards the driver, sitting in a black ‘cocoon’, while the passenger’s is an earthy shade of red, all finished in the richest-looking leather, suede-like Alcantara, alloy trim and wood surfaces hand-painted in the traditional Japanese lacquer tradition. A flat-bottomed steering wheel with large paddle shifters, chronometer-type dials, a short shift lever and a red started button are the main driving tools.
On the safety front, Infiniti adds two new technologies: side-collision prevention (SCP) and back-up collision prevention (BCP) to the full array of familiar systems. And in a practical, albeit highly-chic vein, the Essence gets a set of high-quality luggage custom made for its trunk, a joint effort between Infiniti and the famous Louis Vuitton craftspeople. At the push of a button on the key fob, the trunk opens and its floor slide out gracefully by electric power.
The Essence’s hybrid powertrain is built around a twin-turbocharged version of Infiniti’s 3.7-litre, double overhead cam V6 gasoline engine, pushing its separate output to 434 horsepower. It is combined with a new type of electric motor dubbed 3D. This slim, disk-shaped motor reportedly generates twice the torque of a conventional unit and is installed between the engine and transmission, cranking out 158 horsepower and instantaneous torque, fed by a lithium-ion battery pack placed under the trunk. This 3D motor can operate in propulsion and regeneration modes simultaneously, to keep the pack fully charged. The calculated combined output of 592 horsepower should make the Essence quite swift and its electric motor will let it glide forward silently as you pull up to the entrance of your chosen hotel. Classy motoring indeed.