Pure as the driven snow? Infiniti teases the sedan design concept coming to Detroit next month.

Is this Infiniti’s answer to the Jaguar I-Pace?

Rumors have been circulating for some time that the Japanese automaker was preparing something special for the North American International Auto Show, possibly a long-awaited replacement for its long-gone Q45 flagship sedan. And that is clearly one of the possibilities that could be in store when it gives us a look at the rest of the snow-white concept vehicle teased in this front-end close-up. But wherever it might fit in the line-up, the show car isn’t going to be just another four-door.

“The new Infiniti concept car will take the traditional sedan architecture to its next stage of evolution,” suggests Karim Habib, the luxury brand’s executive design director. And key to that is adapting to, “A shift toward smarter, more compact and less intrusive powertrains.”

If that triggers a sense of déjà vu, Jaguar designed the I-Pace specifically to work around a battery-electric drivetrain. Since most of the key hardware, including motors and batteries, were in or under the load floor, that meant the British marque’s designers and engineers could recapture much of the space normally devoted to the engine compartment for passengers and cargo. The results? A nearly full-size interior in an SUV with a compact footprint.

(Acura hints at new design direction with RDX Concept coming to Detroit. Click Here to check it out.)

The original 1990 Infiniti Q45.

Infiniti has been hinting that it is working on an all-electric model – which just might share its platform with the battery-drive SUV the sibling Nissan brand is working up. The new, and carefully worded, statement from Infiniti seems to preclude the idea that the Detroit Auto Show concept will be exclusively electric, unlike the I-Pace. But it appears likely it will be steering clear of the large six- and eight-cylinder gas engines that traditionally defined luxury. Instead, we’d be willing to bet it was conceived to use one or more downsized alternatives that could include:

  • ·         An all-electric, hybrid or plug-in drivetrain;
  • ·         A turbo-four like the 2.0-liter package in the Q50 and Q60 models; and
  • ·         Even more likely, the new VC-T, or Variable Compression-Turbo set to go into production next year.

The VC-T can also its compression ratio from as little as 8:1 to 14:1, “optimizing efficiency and emissions of the internal combustion engine, literally transforming between power and efficiency on demand,” the automaker explained when the new engine was introduced a few months back.

That is, of course, all speculation. So, what can we tell from this carefully edited teaser shot? It’s white as the snow likely to be falling on Detroit during Infiniti’s January 15 news conference. It features black-framed headlamps and air ducts, offset by a white grille and gray Infiniti badge, and there are deeply cut grooves running along the hood line.

The Jaguar I-Pace design takes advantage of its electric drivetrain to deliver maximum interior space.

“We were able to create an alternative form with flowing gestures, more engaging in character and more enriching in experience,” said Habib. “With its long cabin, balanced proportions and muscular stance, the concept heralds in a new era for Infiniti models.”

(Less “polarizing” Jeep Cherokee set to debut in Detroit. Click Here for a first look.)

The show car’s design, according to a statement accompanying this shot, reveals the new Infiniti design direction that we’ll see on upcoming models.

“As a new wave of technologies begins to take shape, our Detroit concept car heralds a new generation of Infiniti, added Alfonso Albaisa, the long-time Infiniti design chief who recently took on overall design direction for Nissan Motor Co. “A seamless and stunning new design philosophy demonstrating Infiniti artistry in the new age of autonomy and breakthrough drivetrains….one that strikes harmony and simplicity in a complex world.”

Odds are we won’t see a specific production version of the Infiniti Sedan Concept. How those words translate more generally into future sheet metal will become more apparent in barely a month.

(Honda offers an Insight into new Civic-based hybrid set to debut in Detroit. Click Here for the story.)

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