Infiniti QX Inspiration Concept Gives EV SUV Plan A Seductive Shape

Infiniti isn't going to build the QX Inspiration Concept, but you can bet the automaker's first all-electric SUV will bear some striking similarities to this Detroit Auto Show 2019 EV. A design study which "sets a direct precedent for the first fully electric" model from Infiniti, it paves the way for a new e-AWD drivetrain.

As you'd expect from a concept car, Infiniti's design team hasn't held back. On the outside, the midsize luxury SUV looks to a new era for the automaker's design language, though with nods to the Q Inspiration sedan concept.

Straight lines and sudden creases abound, with more organic shapes than current Infiniti cars on the road. The company says it's going for something "less overtly aggressive" but without sacrificing any of the boldness you need to stand out on dealership forecourts. However it also embraces some of the architectural possibilities that electrification opens up.

With the e-AWD system putting an electric motor on each axle, and the battery pack slung underneath the QX Inspiration Concept in its wheelbase, that means there's no big V6 or V8 to accommodate under the hood. As a result, the cabin has been shifted forward, trimming the hood length as well as the front and rear overhangs. In total, it's just over 15 feet long.

The arch of the roofline has been designed to deliver maximum headspace inside above the front row of seats. At the front of the SUV, what would ordinarily be a grille has been replaced by an illuminated Infiniti logo, with slender headlamp strips and air channels that help with aerodynamics. More aero work has been done on the 22-inch wheels.

"With the QX Inspiration concept, we were inspired by the Japanese concept of Ma, a focus on the lines and the empty space in between," Karim Habib, Executive Design Director at Infiniti, said of the concept's aesthetic. "What is happening in that space between the lines – the free, natural flow of surfaces – is truly expressive. It's the empty space between the edges that often carries the loudest message."

There's an intriguing mixture of bold and subtle to the concept. The Liquid White pearlescent paint, for instance, is hardly retiring, but it has been paired with discreet gold and vermilion detailing. Louver-inspired lines hint at Japanese timer roofs, both metaphorically in the exterior lighting clusters and wheel trims, and explicitly in the Japanese red cedar slats that line the roof.

Indeed it's the interior which is most striking on that front, though probably also the furthest away from production possibility. The flat floor, uninterrupted by the traditional components of an internal combustion powertrain, allows for a more airy, spacious cabin. Brown leather arches flow through the center, blending into a Bianco Carrara marble console that reaches to the rear seats.

A wide-screen display spans the dashboard from A-pillar to pillar, covered in gold-tinted polarized glass. Another display is found in the brown and white leather-wrapped steering wheel. Grey cloth – with a modern twist on Chesterfield buttoning – covers the instrument panel and the rear seating, while the floor gets a rhomboid-themed white suede finish with gold inlays. Hardly practical, but definitely beautiful.

"We have taken advantage of the EV architecture to develop a lounge-like interior, enabled by the flat floor and the empty space below the dashboard and center console," Habib explains. "So really, we're not just designing the objects inside the car, we're designing the empty space between objects."

How much of this could make it to a production model is unclear. Certainly, elements like the illuminated lower door edges – which create a "carpet" of welcoming light – are possible, though the front seats which rotate 30-degrees outward for easier ingress might be a little less practical. Infiniti says the huge display is "a signature theme" which we can expect to see "eventually be reflected" in future production cars in some capacity, reducing button overload in the process.

As with any good modern concept car, there's autonomous driving baked in too. Like we've seen in other such vehicles, the steering wheel and pedals can retract when the QX Inspiration Concept's AI is at the helm. In reality, any production Infiniti EV in the short- to medium-term is going to have driver-assistance but not driver-replacement tech. The automaker has been upfront in the past that it believes its customers still want to be able to drive themselves.

Trying to predict the production future from a concept car is always fairly fraught: flights of design fancy that look great under tradeshow lighting often doesn't translate to what's realistically going to end up in dealerships. Still, Infiniti says it's committed to electrification, though not every such car it makes will be full-electric. Mild hybrid and performance hybrid cars will also play a part, meaning internal combustion engines aren't going away any time soon.

Nonetheless, the Infiniti QX Inspiration Concept does bode well in the new design era the automaker is shifting too. Less fussy, cleaner, and more striking, it's a welcome shift toward embracing Infiniti's Japanese heritage as a key distinguisher between it and its German rivals. Whatever the production midsize SUV EV turns out to be, here's hoping the QX Inspiration Concept's magic doesn't get lost in translation.