Infiniti has a history of making some polarizing concept vehicles. Remember the original "bionic cheetah" FX45 concept? Well, Bionic Cheetah indeed. Infiniti has a new show-circuit stunner which debuted today at Geneva, and it's quite the looker.
The Essence is a rather large (4.7m) 2-door coupe with organic, flowing bodylines. For Infiniti, it's a mixture of old virtues and new technology, all wrapped up in one impressive-looking coupe. The styling is captivating, to say the least.
Up front, the Essence has more than a hint of G37 Coupe to it, especially in the headlights - no bad thing, as the G37 is a stunner of a car in my eyes. The characteristic Infiniti trapezoid grille is the dominant characteristic in the front, looking impossible long, low and wide. The top of the fenders peak far above the long, sloping hood, giving the Essence a hint of Jaguar E-Type in it's proportions and curvaceous styling.
The side is most interesting, though. Infiniti has created "negative space" atop the beltline with a drastic turndown, giving the Essence that pinched, coke-bottle look that makes sports cars tug at your heart strings. Flawlessly formed, perfectly proportioned - the only things that raise my eyebrows are those goofy fender vents, and the unique backswept treatment of the termating C-pillar. It's got a hint of French styling to it, so maybe there's someone at Renault to thank for that?
The overall styling of the Essence seems quite successful. It's at once both quite elegant and very aggressive, while being a sizeable vehicle without appearing ungainly - a hard task to acheive, to be sure. Even more important than the eye-grabbing styling, though, is the powertrain.
The Essence is a hybrid. Wipe the tears from your eyes, and listen: there's hope. The gasoline engine is a variante of the G37's 330bhp VQ37HR, fitted with direct injection and twin-turbochargers. This creates 434 horsepower by itself. The Essence is also fitted with a compact electric generator between the engine and transmission, which is powered by a set of Lithium-Ion batteries in the trunk. The electric motor generates a total of 158bhp, giving an overall power output of 592bhp - all sent to the rear wheels!
The neat thing is, these two powerplants can work separately or in parallel. This means that around town the Essence can run purely on electric power (and it seems like 158bhp with all that instant electric-motor torque would be more than enough), but when you put your foot down, both the twin-turbo six and the electric motor send all their combined power to the rear wheels for explosive acceleration. Sounds like the best of both worlds, to me.
The interior has been one area where Infiniti has been an absolute standout lately, and the Essence just pushes that envelope even further. Just look at it! My goodness, almost pretty enough to eat.
The cockpit even has a "theme." Nissans (and by extension, Infinitis) have all been rather driver-centric in recent years, and the Essence pushes this to it's logical extreme. The cabin is bisected by a large, flowing center console that flows gracefully into the dashboard. The interior is split into two "tones" - the driver's side is dark and somber, with black Alcantara seats with leather trim on the outside, a flat-bottomed alcantara-lined steering wheel, and chronometer style-gauges.
The color split occurs halfway down the center tunnel, and the passenger's side of the cabin is a rich, earthy red color - clay red suede seats, red leather and stained burled walnut dashboard accents... just gorgeous. It's new and unique, but incredibly rich looking at the same time - without being overencumbered with buttons and toggles. If it was possible to give a higher grade to an interior than an A+, I would. Simply amazing - Bentley could take a lesson from this kind of clean, elegant design. And also, check out those gauges.
half-digital, half-analogue, all beautiful. Really, I'm just bowled over by this. Three thumbs up.
And of course, to top it all off, the Essence concept has custom-fitted luggage from Louis Voitton. How fitting.
There's no word on the production intent of the Essence, but it's true that Infiniti needs a range-topper to compete with Lexus. Considering that Nissan gets the giant-beating GT-R in the US market, a car like the Essence - using a derivative of the GT-R's engine - makes a lot of sense. The Hybrid part would make this a unique car in this market, but with 600bhp and reasonable fuel economy, what's not to like?