2012 Detroit Auto Show: Infiniti Etherea Concept previews firm’s new compact sedan

Article by Christian Andrei, on January 12, 2012

Younger buyers are the target of this Infiniti Etherea Concept, which is a re-imagining of the compact luxury car. They offer a preview of the future range of Infiniti vehicles where its unconventional features are seen on its compact class for the first time. Etherea offers a dramatic new approach to the premium compact segment, utilizing uncompromising hybrid power and the highest driving pleasure.

Etherea was designed in Japan under the supervision of Shiro Nakamura. It is actually more of a coupe than a hatchback. It made use of multiple Infiniti design signatures that first appeared on the Infiniti Essence concept supercar. Its silhouette is unique and isn’t like anything that other models in its class has to offer. That’s because of Etherea’s dynamic character and highly sculptural form. Its B-pillar-less design and opposing doors open up the interior.

It also comes with stylish sleek consoles between the four seats to accommodate ancillary controls. Japanese culture is the inspiration of Etherea’s craftsmanship. But it has been re-interpreted with the use of pioneering technologies.

Like all Infiniti models, the Etherea has been given sports car features. This concept car is powered by a robust but very efficient hybrid drivetrain that was based on the electric motor/twin clutch system used on the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid. Response is quick and its acceleration is strong due to its supercharged 245hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. Meanwhile, the electric motor offers quiet emission-free driving at low speeds.

Exterior Design

Giichi Endo, project leader and exterior designer, described the Infiniti Etherea Concept as a four-door coupé with five-door practicality as well as a hatchback that doesn't appear like one. He remarked that central to this design was the new front-wheel drive architecture that allowed Infiniti designers to endow the concept with the typical Infiniti "seductive luster" and a spacious interior.

To make the cabin of the Etherea as open and welcoming as possible, Infiniti provided wide opening doors, got rid of the B pillar, and employed rear doors hinged at the back. Thanks to a driver H (hip) point that is higher in a regular compact car, the Etherea Concept allows for easy cabin access and a commanding driving position. This slightly elevated body style has been dubbed by Infiniti’s designers as the "Lift-up".

Meanwhile, the front end of the Etherea Concept allows it to be easily identified as an Infiniti thanks to exterior elements like a high bonnet line and a deep grille. It comes with an updated version of the brand’s double arch design as well as a grille with illuminated translucent mesh finish.

According to Shiro Nakamura, the side view of the Etherea suggests a mono-volume design, which deviates from the current luxury compact vehicles. Nakamura considers the area around the base of the A-pillar as a design highlight of the concept, since this is one of the most complicated areas to be done right.

Designers created this area in a manner different from that of other cars, save for the Essence that inspired this styling. Crucial to making things right is the front fender which has a length that extends to the A-pillar. Ensuring a good view of the outside environment is a small quarter window located in the A-pillar.

While the new front-wheel drive architecture allows for new exterior design opportunities, it also enables designers to take a new interior approach. The interior of new Etherea Concept boasts of a flat floor and a welcoming cabin, raising to a whole new level its standards of comfort and space as well as luxury and craftsmanship. This, according to Francois Bancon, should be how a driver’s first premium luxury car experience should feel.

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