The Infiniti Q50 is all-new, but brand chief Johan de Nysschen is already looking ahead two years, when the G-sedan replacement finally gets a much-needed four-cylinder.
“I imagine that with a powerful and efficient turbocharged four-cylinder we could probably see the total sales mix exceeding 40 percent, and all that’s incremental to what we have today.”
The four-cylinder is being developed in cooperation with Mercedes-Benz and will be paired with an eight-speed automatic, de Nysschen says. The Q50 goes on sale late this summer offering a 3.7-liter V-6 and a smaller six-cylinder hybrid powertrain.
There’s no doubt four-cylinders are becoming more important than ever in premium sedans. BMW has enjoyed so much success with its four-cylinder 3-series that it’s introducing another variant, the 320i. In fact, it’s fair to wonder why Infiniti didn’t have such an engine ready for the Q50’s launch. De Nysschen, who came to the brand last summer from Audi, admits this is “an inhibitor” particularly in global markets like China and Europe.
“This is part of our history, being very U.S.-centric, where it was not considered important to have four-cylinder gasoline and clean diesel powertrains, for that matter,” he says.
The four-cylinder won’t replace either of the six-cylinders; however, speaking earlier, de Nysschen hinted that the venerable 3.7-liter V-6 will not hang around forever.
“I think it’s an absolutely outstanding engine, but if we look at global regulations that begin to penalize you on engine capacity, that is the kind of development that would begin to steer us into 3.0-liter turbocharged engine,” he said.
The Q50’s styling will also distinguish it from competitors, which tend to be quite conservative to appease European and Chinese tastes. The Q50, in contrast, has an expressive design derived from the 2009 Infiniti Essence concept. “It’s quite an aggressive look,” says Infiniti design director Shiro Nakamura. He’s nevertheless confident this styling will play well even in notoriously conservative China, where Infiniti hopes to grow sales to 200,000 by the end of the decade. “The overall proportions are very authentic -- there’s nothing too much like a wedge,” he says, adding that the most popular Infiniti model in China is the wild FX.
As for an even wilder Q50, we can expect more powerful variants, but the brand is still deciding whether it will be along the lines of the outgoing IPL model or a head-on challenger the likes of the M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
“Anything is possible. The dynamic capabilities of this platform are very significant, and it can handle far higher power than the engines we are using,” de Nysschen says.
Although the Q50 will no doubt play a critical role for Infiniti -- the G was by far the brand’s bestseller -- de Nysschen cautions that it’s only the first step in the brand’s growth.
“We are now creating a powerful platform for the future. I have my sights on 2025, not on the end of this year.”