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Geneva show: Infiniti sportscar passions Emerg-e

Emerged: The Infiniti Emerg-e range extender has been revealed publicly at the Geneva motor show.

Porsche, Ferrari in Infiniti’s sights as it wheels out slippery Emerg-e concept

7 Mar 2012


NISSAN luxury brand Infiniti chose the supercar heartland of Europe to signal its intention to go after the pedigree sportscar market, albeit with an environmentally responsible green machine described by one of its designers as “400 horses in a silk dress”.

Squeezed into a far corner of the Geneva motor show and surrounded by pure-bred autobahn-burners of well-established German and Italian manufacturers, the plug-in range-extender Infiniti Emerg-e – pronounced ‘emerge’ – did exactly that from under a satin sheet to register the Japanese brand’s next step to becoming a full-line global prestige car manufacturer.

The car was mostly designed at Nissan’s UK design centre in London, but developed in collaboration with Lotus Engineering, which supplied the range-extending three-cylinder petrol engine, among other technologies.

Packing 300kW of power and a thumping 1000Nm of torque from twin electric motors driving the rear wheels, the carbon-fibre-bodied two-door sports coupe is capable of whirring from zero to 100km/h in a tick over four seconds – quicker than a Porsche 911 or BMW M5.

16 center imageAlthough the two-seater is described as a concept, the company admits it has plans for a top-end sportscar in its current five-year plan that covers the period to 2016.

To date, Infiniti has offered only conventional passenger cars and SUVs in its range, which is due to return to Australia from August this year.

Infiniti does offer a hybrid – the M35h sedan – and a convertible sports car – the G37 cabrio – but nothing on the scale of the Emerg-e, which can top 200km/h in less than 30 seconds from a standing start.

Yet the Emerg-e can commute almost 50km on electricity from the lithium-ion phosphate battery pack before the mid-mounted Lotus 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine kicks in to extend the driving range to 480km.

With the petrol engine and electric motors working together, the car is said to emit just 55 grams of CO2 per kilometre – about half the carbon emissions of a super-efficient light hatchback.

Up the hall at the Ferrari stand, the Italian company was pleased with its efforts to restrain the carbon emissions of its new 12-cylinder F12 Berlinetta to 350g/km.

The Infiniti show car is said to be a driveable, working prototype, but Infiniti has already started work in Britain on two more examples that will go on world tour – possibly including Australia – to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology.

Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Kevin Snell said Infiniti’s five-year plan called for the development of a high-end sportscar.

“Infiniti has been studying various sportscar directions,” he said. “It is one of the things we want to do.”

Infiniti has 14 models under development as it chases huge sales expansion around the world over the next few years.

As GoAuto has reported, one of the other new models in the pipeline is an all-electric large sedan built on stretched Nissan Leaf underpinnings.

Assuming its goes into production, Emerg-e will be the hero car for the range, in the same fashion as Honda’s born-again NSX that was also at the Geneva show.

Design chief Shiro Nakamura said Emerg-e was the third part in an Infiniti concept-car trilogy that started with the Essence at Geneva in 2009 and continued last year with the Etherea small hatchback.

“This third member of the Infiniti trilogy is more sporty, more dynamic and even more expressive than the previous two, with a mid-ship motor layout,” he said.

“And it shows how Infiniti design language works in a different package. Moreover, it consolidates the future direction of Infiniti design.”

Mr Nakamura said the flowing design of part of the body was inspired by the cloth of a Japanese kimono.

“But what you cannot see is that this silk dress of a body is super-light, made out of carbon-fibre,” he said.

Mr Nakamura said Emerg-e was “a symbol of performance that can be enjoyed without feeling guilty”, due to its electric range-extender technology.

The grille is unmistakably Infiniti, right down to the charcoal-coloured bent-metal-look bars across the air opening, which ironically have just been removed from the Infiniti FX SUV in the latest facelift.

However, the remainder of the body shows a new lightness of touch from the designers, moving away from the heaviness of Infiniti models to date.

Few technical details were released, but the three-cylinder petrol engine is mounted transversely behind the seats and is said to generate 35kW of power and 107Nm of torque.

It acts as a generator, unlike the Infiniti M35h’s V6 engine than can drive the wheels in parallel with the electric motor.

The two electric motors – producing 150kW each – power the rear wheels through a single-speed reduction box, drawing on a lithium-ion phosphate battery pack via four inverters.

The 14.8 kilowatt-hour battery is said to take 10 hours to recharge at 13amps, or six hours at 16amps.

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