Infiniti Project Black S: Bringing F1 to the Street

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Infiniti explores a top-end grade with concept Q60.

With the Project Black S, Infiniti is testing the waters for an all-new high-performance grade to complement its regular lineup, using Formula One-inspired technology to reinterpret the Infiniti Q60 Coupe.

The concept is the result of the partnership between Infiniti and the Renault Sport Formula One Team, its Renault-Nissan Alliance partner; Infiniti became a technical partner in 2016 after five years as a Formula One sponsor. The 18-year-old Renault- Nissan Alliance partnership sold nearly 10 million vehicles last year.

“Project Black S is a signpost— firstly to the special relationship across the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and secondly to our desire to bring a higher grade to the whole Infiniti range,” says Tommaso Volpe, Director Motorsport, Global Product Strategy & Motorsport, Infiniti Motor Company. “Our highest grade right now is Red Sport (Red S) and this project explores the possibility of the Black Sport (Black S) grade across the entire range. For some cars, we could see performance and dynamics upgrades, but for others unique trim or finishes.”

A muscular hybrid

The tricked-out Project Black S features a unique design as well as hints of how a Formula One-inspired high-performance hybrid powertrain would enhance the dynamics of a production car. Using an energy recovery system (ERS) to harvest energy, and deploying recovered electric power to boost horsepower and torque, the Project Black S offers lag-free acceleration. The technology was inspired by the dual-hybrid system already proven in Formula One, which does not currently appear on any production car.

The ERS could contribute to as much as a 25 percent power increase for Infiniti’s new 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo engine. If produced, Project Black S would be the Alliance’s first consumer-facing Formula One-inspired car.

“When you’re looking to create an exciting hybrid car with Formula One technology, and bring that unique technology to the road for the first time, a dynamic-looking coupe with 400 hp is a good starting point,” Volpe says of the Q60 that underpins it.

The concept, which made its debut in March at the Geneva Motor Show, illustrates the potential of a new Black S grade to represent the maximum level of performance offered by the brand, possibly by making use of other innovative powertrains, although mum’s the word for now on what those might be.

“We’ve already revealed the world’s first variable compression ratio engine called the VC-Turbo and we’ll bring that technology to the market within 12 months,” Volpe says. “The development of that engine included cross-Alliance collaboration, again with the Renault Sport Formula One team. We are always working on future technologies and we’ll share more when the time is right.”

The public and the press

As always with such things, the public and press reaction it garners from its auto show unveilings will help decide whether the new top-of-the-line grade is viable from a production standpoint, although it’s still early days.

“Right now, there’s no timeline. We’re working on creating a car with a unique hybrid powertrain derived directly from Formula One technology; this is new technology and it’s going to take a little time to see if it can work and if it is then something we can bring to production,” Volpe says. “We’ve been open; this will be a challenge, but working with the specialist hybrid engineers at Infiniti and Renault Sport Formula One team makes this an opportunity for us to bring something unique to the market.”

Although he declines specifics, Volpe says all elements of the concept vehicle, from the composite bodywork to the titanium twin exhaust, enlarged air intakes and the new hood vents necessitated by the powertrain, remain “in the frame” when it comes to production. “We’re still working through the development, and what is in and out is not finalized yet,” he says.

A Black S grade would help expand the product lineup by bringing an additional, high-specification performance grade across the entire Infiniti range, Volpe says. “Certainly the higher level of specification would need to match the core capability for each model,” he says, so it could be a matter of bringing different elements to different Infiniti models for a truly original take across a high-performance line.

Target market

Targeted buyers would include both existing Infiniti customers looking for “a little more” as well as customers from other brands who haven’t considered Infiniti before, he says, and motorsports enthusiasts who want to experience genuine Formula One technology and inspiration in a road car.

“There is a core element of the Canadian market looking for the latest performance and technology,” Volpe adds. “Black S is aimed at these consumers, many of whom would not have considered Infiniti in the past. The popularity of motorsports is strong in Canada, and Infiniti’s involvement in F1, and developing vehicles such as Black S, help contribute to building the performance heritage of the Infiniti brand. The addition of this halo vehicle is an amazing opportunity for the brand in general to increase recognition in all markets, including Canada.”

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