Vettel signed off the chassis but it's a hybrid: the highs and lows of the new Infiniti Q50
There's little doubt that Red Bull and co-sponsor Infiniti have given Sebastian Vettel the vehicle for F1 dominance. It's just a shame for Seb about the product endorsements that follow. Oh sure, Alonso and Massa have to endure the odd awkward 'thumbs up beside a Fiat 500 limited edition' photocall from time to time. But, ultimately, endorsing Ferrari road cars and doing the odd junket around Fiorano with an F12 isn't the most tiresome chore in the world. Likewise Button and - as was - Hamilton getting to shake down 12C prototypes for the cameras. How's that new A-Class looking by the way Lewis? Configured those side sweeps with thin strips of fur to mimic your facial fuzz?
'Slightly mysterious' - and that's Infiniti talking
Meanwhile what does Vettel get for his towering performances on the track? A re-wheeled 'signature' edition of an ageing SUV. Awkward cameos in pop videos. And now the proud boast that he helped sign off the chassis for the new Infiniti Q50.
Q-what? Q-3 Series, Q-C-Class, Q-A4, etc... this is the first all-new fruit of Infiniti's bravely new prefixed future and a replacement for the outgoing G37. In simple terms it's a mid-sized exec saloon with a mildly spicy engine line up comprising a regular 3.7-litre V6 with 328hp or a 3.5-litre version with a bit of hybrid assistance and total of 360hp, both driving the rear wheels via a seven-speed auto with paddleshift override. 'Intelligent All-Wheel Drive' is an option. The 3.7's 269lb ft of torque won't see which way a diesel-powered German rival went, the hybrid's combined 456lb ft offering a fighting chance at least. The Detroit debut is the clue here though - the powertrain options are very States-friendly and Infiniti is promising further engines for other markets. So you can safely assume that means at least one diesel version for Europe.
Token chassis input from Vettel and Buemi
For a brand starting - on these shores at least - effectively from scratch, Infiniti has had to work hard to establish a visual signature of its own and the Q50 successfully continues the swoopy work of the distinctive FX and EX crossovers, translated into saloon form. "The Q50's enhanced sense of three-dimensionality gives it a look of strength and agility," says Infiniti's 'chief creative officer' Shiro Nakamura, "a look that is highly personal, seductive and slightly mysterious." Is 'slightly mysterious' a desirable quality when you're up against the branding might of BMW, Audi and Mercedes? We shall see, but it's certainly trying hard to stand out.
With the Germans going all-out on tech, Infiniti has had to keep pace, so the Q50 is packed with all the gizmos you'd expect, including two touchscreens and 96-way personalised settings via your own key fob for seat position, climate control, infotainment preferences. There are another 93 options we won't bother listing right now. The electronic safety nets are vast and complex too; perhaps necessary if you're going to get carried away with all that dual-screening configuration for your 96 personalisation options.
Touchscreens and gizmos galore
The European spec Q50, with that promised expanded engine range, will debut at Geneva in March. Expect further pricing information and the rest then.
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