DETROIT -- Infiniti's Q50 Eau Rouge concept may look like a design study on how to make an entry-segment luxury car look sportier. But for Infiniti management, the concept car symbolizes the brand's future.
The car, which is named for a famous leg of Formula One's Belgian Grand Prix race, is intended to link Infiniti's showroom vehicles with the brand's burgeoning involvement with F1 racing.
The Eau Rouge has a wider track than the Q50 sedan on which it is based, a lower roof, sculpted racing-inspired body-side rocker wings, carbon-fiber body components, ceramic exhausts, Recaro seats and an aerodynamic back end.
Although the vehicle is clearly designated as a concept, Infiniti says it already has ideas about how such a model variant would perform.
"Does this mean we are going to put this concept into production?" Infiniti Motor Co. President Johan de Nysschen asked an audience at the Detroit auto show. "I absolutely insist. But first we have a lot of work to do.
"If we decide to move forward with the Eau Rouge, we already have a clear idea of what the car should deliver. Infiniti enthusiasts in North America and around the world will have very high expectations. They'll likely demand an engine with more than 500 hp."
By contrast, the current Q50, which reached showrooms last August, offers 328 hp with a 3.7-liter V-6.
De Nysschen's comments -- and the Eau Rouge concept itself -- foreshadow a new family of powertrains that Infiniti plans to put into vehicles between 2015 and 2020 in a bid to jack up the brand's performance image.
De Nysschen says the company is developing families of new engines that can produce as little as 160 hp or more than 600 hp, with the versatility to go into vehicles of different sizes.
A cluster of new high-performance vehicles will begin appearing in 2016.