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560-hp Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Could Cost $100,000; Spawn 3 New Models

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/4/2014 Edward Loh

In an exclusive interview last week, Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen spoke candidly about the Q50 Eau Rouge concept, what it could cost, and what it means for the future of the brand.

While de Nysschen stopped short of confirming that the 560-horsepower, GT-R-powered, all-wheel drive super sedan would see serial production, the full functionality of the prototype and high volume of shared Infiniti/Nissan componentry clearly indicate Eau Rouge is not merely a one-off show special built to test the high performance waters occupied by rivals BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG.

When asked whether it would be fair to consider the BMW M3 a rival to the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge, de Nysschen replied:

“That’s a fair assessment. I will say to you though, if we do commercialize the car, it’s going to be done in far lower volume. And in that sense be far more exclusive. And definitely a lower-volume, hand-built car, so the unit costs are going to be significantly higher. So the car will be priced well above the M3 – just out of necessity.”

The 2015 BMW M3 starts at $62,925, but can easily reach the $70-80,000 range with the addition of a few options. De Nysschen says the Eau Rouge will be substantially higher still – and sold in much lower volume:

“I would have to say in order to set expectations, we’re probably looking at a $100,000 car," said de Nysschen, "We are probably also looking at 250-500 units a year. So that’s low volume. And we probably have, in terms of my current expectation, only a two-year life cycle. So you have to amortize the development across that volume, and with a hand-built car, you have very high unit costs. Candidly, I assume, the current state of the business plan indicates that we will probably subsidize each car in order to keep it within reach.”

One of the major hurdles in executing the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept was getting the 560 hp VR38DETT engine from the Nissan GT-R mated to a transmission capable of handling its power and torque. The Eau Rouge team resolved this situation with a beefed up seven-speed automatic transmission (and all-wheel drive system) from the Q70 sedan. When asked if future Infiniti products could utilize the Q50 Eau Rouge’s potent powertrain, de Nysschen responded:

“You know we have to get the economics to work, which is why I’m pushing the Eau Rouge concept for commercialization. Because once you’ve proven technical feasibility, you can go apply that in other things. I think that we should expect to see at least three different car lines across the Infiniti line up that feature that powertrain,” said de Nysschen. “You can imagine a high-end coupe. You can imagine a real high-performance luxury 4-seater…and it seems to me a logical evolution to do the new Q60.”

Speaking of evolution, the Q50 and likely Eau Rouge halo model chart a clear path forward for Infiniti, says de Nysschen:

“You know the real thing for me is that we are pushing the evolution of Infiniti design hard. Q50 represents a significant leap from where we have been – but it’s a waypoint. We can either kind of go through the change in design language by osmosis or we can do it hard, fast. You manage, in a way, by remembering that at any given stage, you have cars in various stages of their lifecycle, they can’t depart too radically from each other. So that tempers your enthusiasm.

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge in Hong Kong© Provided by MotorTrend Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge in Hong Kong

“On the other hand, were talking here about the transformation of a brand and nowhere is that more tangibly expressed than in the product. So we’re taking a little bit more of a risky, adventurous approach, and we delayed some of our designs to push the envelope a bit harder. When Q60 hits, there is another sedan that’ll fit in between Q50 and Q70 -- that is going to be a show stopper. When QX70 hits, when QX50 hits… by 2017, the entire current range will have been replaced and we’ll have a bunch of additional models. When you stand on an Infiniti dealer’s showroom floor 3 years from now, you will see the transformation.”

“And this is the danger; Q50 by then, will be halfway through its lifecycle. And as fresh as it looks today, we had better work on something through a mid lifecycle refresh plan because it will be made to look elderly by the new product,” said de Nysschen.

So, how does the Q50 Eau Rouge concept drive with 560 horsepower and a 7-speed automatic transmission?

“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. When you have any bit of enthusiastic cornering under power, the inside-rear wheel starts spinning. So we need to tame that," said de Nysschen, "But overall, I think the transition has gone remarkably smooth. 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. Lot of work still to be done - engine management and performance gearbox to talk to each other, but very promising.”


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