Infiniti is close to picking a final design for the Etherea hatchback model

Article by Christian Andrei, on December 14, 2011

According to the latest reports, it appears that Infiniti is working hard on the Etherea also known as the Audi A3 rival. AutoWeek says that the company has currently three designs sitting on the table and one of them will make it into production. Same sources confirm that one of these designs will be chosen in January, and that the upcoming car (Etherea is not the official name of the car) will use the same platform from the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which will take on the Bmw 1-Series but also on the A3.

The upcoming car will also get a hybrid powertrain, same used by the Infiniti M, which is powered by a 2.5-liter supercharged engine. Apparently, the hybrid model will take on cars such as the Audi S3.

With this new car, Infiniti wants to become a serious player on the European market and steal some sales from Audi and Bmw. Currently, Infiniti offers the FX SUV, the EX crossover as well as the M sedan. Europe will not receive the new JX SUV, which will be introduced in the United States next year.

In terms of inspiration, it is clear that the Infiniti Etherea Concept is more of a coupe instead of a hatchback. Even then, it remains to have an elegant profile without sacrificing practicality and this could be because of many of the flourishes that the brand is known for, and first observed on the Essence concept supercar.

The Etherea Concept was designed back in Japan through a team led by Shiro Nakamura and managed to meet the challenge presented by this concept car by evolving the brand’s design language. Take its headlights, for example. They show off the face the brand is known for clearer than ever. Through a curving shape, its lamps are integrated with daytime running lights shaped from a crescent of LEDs.

In the future, it is expected that these new lights will become a familiar quality of the brand. In addition, even with all of these, the Etherea Concept exhibits a rather large lift-up tailgate. For this concept car, the brand implemented an in-house platform that they developed which includes having short overhangs and a long wheelbase.

This more than guarantees that it has that athletic look and visual poise. Compared to the rear-drive versions of the brand, this concept car’s bonnet may be shorter but its proportions are excellent given that the overall appearance is balanced especially with the distinct crescent shape of the C-pillars and the dynamism, which stands for the unique signature of the brand.

This four-seater, with the generous space it offers, has the luxury that customers of the brand want. By putting in an H-point that, when compared to most compact luxury models, is undoubtedly higher, it results in unmatched egress and access. Having no B-pillar and the fact that the four doors open wide, with it being rear-hinged at its back, it gives it that unexpected feel of being open.

Even with all these, Nakamura revealed that other elements on its exterior and the level of craftsmanship done on the interior are expected to be part of production models in the future. Indeed, the goal of the design team was to ensure that the cabin would not only be welcoming but open as well. This is why the doors had to open wide, the doors on the rear needed to be hinged at the back, and there was a lack of B pillar.

Another factor that ensures ease in access is the height of the car. It is clear that the Etherea Concept is not a crossover but given that the driver’s hip point, or H-point, is higher when compared to a compact car, it is similar to the FX especially in terms of having a commanding driving position and the ease of access. In fact, the design team even called its slightly higher body style as the Lift-up.

While it was Nakamura who led the design team, the project leader was Giichi Endo, who was also the exterior designer. For him, the Etherea Concept can be described as a hatchback that looks nowhere near what a hatchback should be as it is a four-door coupe that offers the practicality of a five-door. In order to achieve this, it was important to utilize the new front-wheel drive architecture.

It’s a far cry from the rear-drive FM platform that many of the designers of the brand are familiar with. With this new architecture, there is still that signature seductive luster of the brand but with interior space important for a model belonging to the 4.4-meter class.

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