Auto blogSun, 24 Aug 2014 13:03:00 EST
With Formula One taking to Belgium and the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit this weekend - boasting a reputation as one of the most beautiful courses on the calendar - all eyes will likely be on the tricky Eau Rouge corner, which challenges drivers' high-speed car control over a rolling, tree-lined hill. Infiniti played on the turn's iconic legacy for its ruby red Q50 Eau Rouge concept, and now the brand hopes to trademark the famous racing name so it can keep using it for a potential production version.
In January, the company filed for a trademark on Eau Rouge for "Automobiles and their structural parts; Fuel cell automobiles and their structural parts; Concept cars" with the US Patent and Trademark Office. According to Bloomberg, the application is still under consideration and not yet a guarantee. It's possible that the track could attempt to block the automaker from earning rights to the name. Alternatively, a trademark lawyer tells Bloomberg that the two of them could also strike a deal where Infiniti would pay a small amount for each car sold bearing the title, which could give Spa a bit of extra money in the bank.
Regardless of the name, a vehicle like the Eau Rouge is something enthusiasts have been wanting for years. It combines a modified, 560-horsepower version of the engine from the Nissan GT-R into a four-door sedan covered in aggressive, carbon fiber aerodynamic parts.
Want to sell your luxury sedan in China? You're going to need a long-wheelbase model. Not because the still-dominant Chinese government mandates it, or because the customers are taller, but because Chinese buyers tend to like being chauffeured around in the back of their luxury sedans instead of driving themselves, so the priority is on rear-seat space over driving dynamics.
We've seen the likes of Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo all roll out long-wheelbase versions of their compact and midsize sedans specifically to cater to Chinese tastes. Even Infiniti - which now bases itself in Hong Kong - offers a long-wheelbase Q70 L not only in China but around the world, and has now bolstered its extended offerings with the reveal of the Q50 L, set to debut at the Chengdu Motor Show later this month.
Set to be produced locally for the local market, the Q50 L adds nearly two inches to the wheelbase of the Q50 to the benefit of rear-seat legroom. Power comes from Infiniti's 2.0-liter turbo four offering 208 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, driving to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission with drive-by-wire steering.
Sometimes we get a teaser image and accompanying statement where we can at least surmise what the automaker is up to. This is not one of those times.
The automaker, in this case, is Infiniti, and the teaser image shows only a grille with a similar shape to what you'd find on most of the company's products, albeit with a curvier mesh. Which isn't much to go on, really, and the accompanying statement (which you can read below in its forty-word entirety) doesn't give us much more. All it says is that the vehicle in question - which we'll wager is a concept car instead of a production debut - has "style and substance" embodied in a "vision... on a scale not seen before" from Infiniti.
Given the French peppered into the release and the encroaching chronological proximity of the Paris Motor Show, we'd guess that's where Infiniti will reveal this latest but of inspiration, but just what form it will take is still a mystery.
Johan de Nysschen had only been at the helm of Infiniti for two years when he left for a position atop Cadillac. But in that time, he indeed left his mark on the brand. Most visibly, there was the drastic Q-ification of the company's vehicle naming strategy, but beyond that were big plans to beef up the Infiniti brand with the goal of making it a fully competitive luxury automaker.
Autoblog spoke with Michael Bartsch, vice president of Infiniti Americas, during Monterey Car Week, and he confirms Infiniti's brand direction is "still exactly as Johan presented it." Over the next five years, the company's portfolio will expand by 60 percent, and that will be aided with additional engine and transmission plants, most notably the recent collaboration with Daimler to build 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines.
Infiniti's lineup will grow to include eight sedans/coupes and five crossovers/SUVs.
While Pebble Beach is traditionally thought of as the refuge of the pristine and pricey vintage vehicles of the world, there's no shortage of newer vehicles on display. And when we say "new," we mean really new. As in, not even in production new. This is the concept car lawn, and it's home to an eclectic group of vehicles from past and present.
Of course, calling it the "concept car lawn" is a bit of a misnomer this year (as it has been in previous years, too). Production models like the Alfa Romeo 4C were on display, alongside known quantities like the Hennessy Venom GT and modified versions of already-on-sale models, like the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Waterspeed Collection.
There were a few concepts on display, though. Toyota debuted the critically acclaimed FT-1 Concept in a new shade, while BMW's Beijing Motor Show stunner, the Vision Future Luxury, was also parked on the expensive grass. Also appearing were the Nissan GT-R in sheep's clothing, the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge, and the recently debuted McLaren P1 GTR.
A pair of cyber security experts have awarded the ignominious title of most hackable vehicles on American roads to the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, 2014 Infiniti Q50 and 2015 Cadillac Escalade.
Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek are set to release a report at the Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, Automotive News reports. The two men found the Jeep, Caddy and Q50 were easiest to hack based not on actual tests with the vehicles, but a detailed analysis of systems like Bluetooth and wireless internet access - basically, anything that'd allow a hacker to remotely gain access to the vehicle's systems.
Considering this lack of hands-on testing, the pair acknowledge that "most hackable" could be a relative term - they point out that the vehicles may actually be quite secure.
Occasionally, we post videos that require us to tell you not to try something at home. They usually involve some unsafe activity that requires a high-degree of skill and planning to achieve. This video, though, gets a more interesting disclaimer: Don't ever try this. Ever. Never ever. Period. Seriously, don't try it.
Some clowns in Germany decided to put the Infiniti Q50's Active Lane Control system to the test. For those not in the know, ALC can make small adjustments to keep the vehicle in the correct lane, a feature that's just starting to pick up steam. Instead of using it the way you're supposed to - with both hands on the wheel - these guys not only take both hands off the steering, but at one point climb out of the seat while traveling at freeway speeds, just to see how automated the combination of ALC and adaptive cruise control really are.
Yes, we've seen this sort of stunt before, but it was done in extremely controlled circumstances that didn't put the cars, the driver or any other motorists at risk and probably had appropriate emergency personnel on hand should the worst happen.
Infiniti suffered a huge blow a few weeks ago when CEO Johan de Nysschen jumped ship after two years on the job to take the helm at Cadillac. As boss, he spearheaded change within the Japanese luxury brand and was among the biggest champions of the Q50 Eau Rouge. However, the company is far from sunk. Plans put in place prior to de Nysschen leaving are still on the table, according to Nissan product planner Andy Palmer to Automotive News, and that could mean a rosy future for the once AWOL LE sedan (pictured above) and other models.
Back in 2012, Infiniti promised that it would have the LE on the market as a premium electric sedan by 2014. It was supposed to share the battery pack with the Nissan Leaf but with a more powerful, 134-horsepower motor. But have you seen one on the road recently? The luxury EV was eventually shelved, but de Nysschen pledged the idea wasn't dead. Maybe now is a better time for it. According to Automotive News, the LE is rescheduled to launch in 2017 or 2018. The latest version would use the Leaf platform but with a more potent, next-gen battery to give it a range over 90 miles.
Of course, the LE isn't the only thing on the way from Infiniti; it also appears to be planning a two-pronged approach for small cars. Palmer recently tweeted that the company would build the forthcoming Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover in the UK in 2015. Additionally, the automaker is firing up a new joint venture factory in Mexico with Mercedes-Benz; building compact models there starting in 2017. According Automotive News, the Mexican-built models will be more US-focused while the UK-built ones will appeal more to Europeans.
Nissan and Infiniti are the latest automakers to issue recalls involving faulty airbag inflators from Takata. The Japanese automakers have announced campaigns covering about 226,326 units from seven models built in the early 2000s because they contain the bad part in the passenger-side, front airbag. The affected vehicles include the 2002-2004 Nissan Sentra, 2002-2003 Pathfinder and 2002-2003 Maxima, and it also covers the 2002-2003 Infiniti QX4, 2002-2003 I35, 2003 FX45 and 2003 FX35.
Like the other vehicles with the faulty inflators, it's possible for the part to rupture during airbag deployment and spray metal shrapnel at occupants. Nissan and Infiniti have even included vehicles with replacement airbags in this campaign because those parts also could have been defective. Both companies were also part of the earlier regional campaign to fix cars in high-humidity climates where the problem has been found to be the worst.
As is the usual response, Nissan and Infiniti will notify owners of the affected vehicles and will make the repair at no charge. According to the filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these fixes will commence around August 11. Scroll down to read the report from NHTSA, or read the full defect notice as a PDF, here.
It only takes about half a lap of the Millbrook Proving Grounds for me to become convinced that Infiniti must build this car.
The sedan I am piloting around the English circuit is a working prototype of the Q50 Eau Rouge Concept that made its world debut at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show earlier this year. As a refresher, the exquisitely painted, burgundy metallic, four-door show car is based on the production Q50, enhanced with Infiniti Red Bull Racing-inspired carbon-fiber bodywork, aerodynamic upgrades and - as we would come to learn at the Geneva Motor Show a few months later - fitted with a beastly twin-turbocharged engine shared with the parent company's spectacular Nissan GT-R.
Despite lacking the concept's gorgeously expensive paint, the vinyl-wrapped red prototype seen here is much more appealing than the static concept, as it is mechanically complete - it can be driven - thus explaining why I have traveled one-third of the way around the world to test this enthusiast-tuned, one-of-a-kind machine at one of Europe's premier testing facilities.