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 SUV.
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 SUV.
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 also previews the roll-out of its 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. Allowing drivers to retain control over their vehicle, INFINITI autonomous drive support systems will act as a ‘co-pilot’ for the driver, empowering rather than replacing human control.
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 SUV
“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 SUV 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 fulfils 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 SUV.
With its ground breaking proportions, the 2003 INFINITI FX45 set the template for future SUVs to follow throughout the last decade. The world’s first mid-size multi-purpose sports vehicle, the INFINITI FX is still considered an SUV 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 SUV design
Influenced by the design of the INFINITI QX Sport Inspiration, the QX50 Concept expresses its SUV 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 SUV segment. The result is a highly original yet practical new SUV 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 roof line.
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 SUV 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
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 SUV 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 SUV 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 an SUV 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 colour 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 centre 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 harmonise 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 centre 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 buggy, 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 centre 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 INFINITI autonomous drive support technologies, as well as how a VC-Turbo variable compression ratio engine adapts.
The driver’s instrument panel provides detailed information on INFINITI autonomous drive support technologies, as well as the transformation of the engine’s compression ratio as it shifts seamlessly between offering greater fuel efficiency and performance.
INFINITI previews ‘co-pilot’ autonomous driving support technologies
The INFINITI QX50 Concept is the first INFINITI vehicle to showcase the development of the company’s suite of ‘co-pilot’ autonomous driving support technologies.
Central to the strategy for the development of 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.
INFINITI autonomous drive support technologies will act as a ‘co-pilot’ and ‘delegate’ more onerous driving tasks to the car – 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 semi-autonomous technologies, including Predictive Forward Collision Warning, drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering and Active Lane Control.
The QX50 Concept’s INFINITI autonomous drive support system previews the first production-ready incarnation of this technology package.
With a proactive approach to safety, the QX50’s autonomous drive support system assists the driver in identifying and responding to other road users and potential hazards. The future technologies draw on inputs from a network of laser scanners, radar and cameras to read the road ahead and monitor the vehicle’s surroundings, and allow 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
The INFINITI QX50 Concept demonstrates a potential production application for INFINITI’s advanced new VC-Turbo engine. INFINITI is yet to confirm which of its future vehicles could benefit from its variable compression ratio engine, though a mid-sized SUV could be one of the ideal applications for the 2.0-litre 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-litre gasoline engine could power a front-biased intelligent all-wheel drive system.
INFINITI’s production-ready 2.0-litre VC-Turbo engine represents a compelling alternative to diesel powertrains, particularly in the mid-sized premium SUV 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 HMI (human-machine interface) 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-litre 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% improvement in fuel efficiency over V6 gasoline engines of similar power output.