Infiniti Eau Rouge would get 560 hp engine

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GENEVA – Barely two months after unveiling the Formula One racing-inspired Q50 Eau Rouge concept in Detroit, Infiniti has moved the car a step closer to commercial production – even referring to it as the brand's future performance flagship.

Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen told a Geneva motor show audience Tuesday morning that Infiniti would put a twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6 engine into the model to deliver 560 hp and zero-to-60 acceleration in under four seconds.

"Building on the extremely positive feedback on the Q50 Eau Rouge at its recent Detroit Auto Show launch, we decided to further whet the appetite of performance sports sedan fans by engineering this powerful heart into our blood-red beast," de Nysschen said in a release distributed at the show.

The company emphasized Tuesday that the Eau Rouge has not been approved for production.

Francois Goupil de Bouille, vice president for Infiniti global operations, told reporters that the Eau Rouge will be the brand's flagship – a term traditionally used to denote an automaker's largest and most prestigious model. In fact, the base structure of the Eau Rouge is the new Q50 sedan, Infiniti's entry-class model which competes against the BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class.

In recent years, some Infiniti customers and retailers have pressed the company to build a larger model than the current Q70 sedan – formerly called the M56 – to serve as its flagship.

The Q70 competes against the BMW 5-series, rather than the larger BMW 7-series.

The proposal of putting a high-output engine into a smaller model suggests that Infiniti is tilting toward a performance identity to compete against its larger luxury competitors.

But the rapid momentum behind the two-month-old concept car illustrates the automaker's new urgency toward future products. De Nysschen is pushing the brand toward more aggressive styling and performance across the line, with design hints of F-1 racing.

Over the weekend, at Infiniti's European design studio in London, Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti's global executive design director, showed reporters a sketch of another unidentified new model in the works for Infiniti. The drawing indicated a larger-class coupe, with a long sloping roofline.

De Nysschen has indicated that Infiniti will add products at both the higher end of the luxury product spectrum and the lower. Nissan is currently investing $400 million to add production of a new compact Infiniti car called the Q30 into its factory in Sunderland, England.

That model will reach the market in 2015.

Infiniti's existing lineup enables it to compete in only about 40 percent of the world's luxury product segments, de Bouille says. "We're targeting being in 80 percent of the segments by the end of the decade."

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


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