As prominent as it is in Formula 1, the Infiniti name is conspicuously absent on the consumer market side of high-end performance. That all started to change after the 2014 Detroit auto show, when Infiniti introduced the then-mysterious Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept. Now, after revealing that a working prototype of the super-sedan is running the GT-R’s twin-turbo V-6 engine tuned up to 560 hp, Infiniti president Johan de Nysschen and deputy program director Peter Smith sat down with our colleagues at Motor Trend to discuss what exactly we can expect from the Q50 Eau Rouge if it ever reaches production.
Clearly there is a strong desire to bring the all-wheel-drive Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge to showrooms, but there are more than a handful of obstacles to tackle before it’s ready for the road. Although Infiniti addressed the need for a suitable transmission to handle the GT-R-sourced, 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine’s staggering power and torque with a strengthened seven-speed automatic unit from the Q70 sedan, it’s not as simple as metamorphosing the GT-R into a sedan.
“We don’t want to make a [four]-door GT-R,” Smith told Motor Trend. “It needs to be an Infiniti—something that represents premium and luxury, but also super performance.”
Given those ambitions, it’s clear that Infiniti intends to position the Q50 Eau Rouge as a veritable threat to the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. “That’s a fair assessment,” conceded de Nysschen, “[but] if we do commercialize the car, it’s going to be done in far lower volume. And in that sense be far more exclusive.” An unavoidable symptom of this mission is higher costs, and in turn, a much higher price tag; de Nyscchen anticipates a limited run of 250-500 vehicles retailing for about $100,000.
“We knew who [BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG] are. We knew where we needed to be,” said Smith. “We can’t just come with something that is ‘me too.’” Smith’s team took to calling the car Project Raijin, which refers to the God of Thunder. “How do we come in with a thunderclap? We come in with 560 horsepower and 600 Nm [443 lb-ft] of torque—and suddenly we are in a different segment, a different vehicle.”
All-out performance is one thing, but Infiniti also made it clear that the Q50 Eau Rouge has the potential to be much more than a track monster. If it is presented properly, the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge halo car could serve as a design vanguard for what’s to come, pointing the way forward for vehicles becoming stale midway through their lifecycles. It could also birth up to three new models that feature the GT-R powertrain, according to de Nysschen. With a desirable performance car on display, Infiniti has an opportunity to excite enthusiasts who might have jumped ship once the G37 coupe is discontinued after 2015.
de Nyscchen recognizes the challenge Project Raijin presents, but the possibility of a 560-hp, all-wheel-drive super-sedan is obviously juice that’s worth the squeeze. “We need to work on shifting speed. One thing engineers are having to resolve for me right now is that the car definitely needs a limited-slip rear differential,” he told Motor Trend. “When you have any bit of enthusiastic cornering under power, the inside-rear wheel starts spinning…I drove the car literally the first time it got running which was obviously still at a very early stage and already then, it was highly enjoyable, but refined.”
As long as the company president continues to personally dig into Project Raijin, we’re hopeful that the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge will hit streets as promised—bringing the thunder and making it rain speed.