Infiniti aims to kick things up a notch with the Q50 Eau Rouge concept.

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
LINDSAY CHAPPELL

Eau Rouge points to sportier Infiniti portfolio

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Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News.
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DETROIT -- With key new products some two years away, Infiniti is showing audiences a concept car that heralds the brand's new racing direction.

The Q50 Eau Rouge, unveiled at the Detroit auto show, remakes the recently introduced Q50 sedan into a Formula One racing-inspired sports sedan, with sculpted body-side rocker wings, carbon-fiber body components, ceramic exhausts and a restyled aerodynamic back end.

That is the direction of a new wave of Infiniti products that should begin appearing in 2016, says Johan de Nysschen, Infiniti Motor Co. president.

In a meeting with reporters during the auto show, de Nysschen said future Infiniti models will take inspiration from Formula One racing, where Infiniti has been racking up wins and international headlines.

Infiniti is the sponsor of Formula One's Red Bull Racing team, the platform of racing superstar Sebastian Vettel, the sport's reigning world champion.

What's behind the name?

Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium is considered one of the finest racetracks in the world -- and home of the Belgian Grand Prix -- and Eau Rouge is its most famous turn.

Infiniti is counting on the concept to give the brand some high-performance mojo while turning a big corner in its battle with rivals Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

In a statement released with the concept car's unveiling here, de Nysschen envisioned the Eau Rouge as a unbridled performance car.

"If we built this car I would expect it to feature over 500 hp and 600 lb/ft of torque," de Nysschen said in the statement.

By contrast, the Q50, which reached U.S. showrooms last August, offers 328 hp with a 3.7-liter V-6.

"Through our various alliance partners we have access to a range of engines featuring this performance capability which, with a fair amount of engineering effort, can be developed to exhibit Infiniti character and accommodated within the Q50 engine bay," de Nysschen's statement said. "The engine we are evaluating for the Q50 Eau Rouge is a big personality, V-cylinder engine with forced induction."

The Eau Rouge goes beyond the usual special-edition tweaks and cosmetics, says Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti global executive design director.

The concept variant is wider, lower to the ground and has a wider track than the Q50.

"We wanted to show where we can take the brand," Albaisa said. "Our mission was, how do we take the performance up a notch?"

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.

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