One of the more eye-catching debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week was the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept, a flashy sedan named for an historical motorsports corner and promising big performance. Infiniti execs now seem to be hinting that it might reach production, and while enthusiasts the world over would welcome a new sports car, would enough of them actually want to buy it?
Amid all the talk of the bespoke carbon fiber bodywork and F1 aerodynamics on the Q50 Eau Rouge, this quote from Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen took a lot of people by surprise: "If we built this car I would expect it to feature over 500hp and 600 lb.-ft of torque... The engine we are evaluating for the Q50 Eau Rouge is a big personality, V-cylinder engine with forced induction. I think our engineers have been waiting for a project like this." Very interesting, no?
It led to rampant speculation that not only is the Q50 Eau Rouge likely pegged for production, but that the engine of choice is a Mercedes-Benz twin-turbo V8. The two brands have an agreement to share technology for the next few years, and the Q50 Eau Rouge could certainly benefit from the raw guts that Benz powerplants are known for – particularly if AMG gets involved.
While it could make a fine halo car for the brand, the question now becomes whether the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge makes sense from a business perspective. Would customers buy it as a legitimate sports sedan?
Infiniti may have a long way to go to convince them. The current 2014 Q50 is a luxury sedan first and foremost, built for comfort and convenience. Infiniti did get the curb weight down to about 3,600 lbs. and the Q50 is balanced impressively, but the new Direct Adaptive Steering hasn't won many fans with its lack of direct connection to the front wheels. In a true sports sedan pegged against the BMW M5 and Cadillac CTS Vsport, that matters.
However, the Q50 Eau Rouge could take on a mind of its own. Infiniti says that only the front doors and roof pillars are the same in the Q50 and the Q50 Eau Rouge, with every other component purpose built for performance in the ER. Perhaps they'll pay as much attention to the steering, because their already lightning-quick seven-speed automatic transmission should be a dream connected to an AMG V8. Time will tell, but what do you think?