Monday, December 14, 2009

My Two Dents on the Essence GT Concept and why Infiniti Should Build it

People seem pretty excited about the recently revealed Infiniti M executive saloon. Frankly, I don't see what all the fuss is about. While it looks decent enough and its interior really shines (literally, thanks to the silver powder-coated wood), it's no game changer. But there's one Infiniti that really caught my attention this year, a concept that inspired some of the M's styling and might, just might, still be in the cards: the Infiniti Essence.

In my opinion, the Essence is the best-looking Infiniti ever crafted. Feel free to disagree, but I'd go so far as to say it may even be if not the, one of the most beautiful Japanese cars in the last quarter century.

Shown for the first time at the 2009 Geneva Show, the concept is built on a modified version of Nissan's FM platform featuring a twin-turbo 3.7 liter V6 hybrid power train which creates an impressive 592 horsepower. The big output in a green package isn't the best part about the concept, though. Neither is the fact that it's jaw-droppingly beautiful.

There's more to the Essence than show and go, and to truly appreciate the most significant aspect of Infiniti's Essence, you must delve into what the car represents: a leap forward.

For Infiniti, a brand that has never quite hit the big-league when it comes to luxury marques, the Essence could be just what it needs to get on the main stage: a halo car for the 21st century.

The concept is gorgeous inside and out, technologically and aesthetically stunning. With its heritage-inspired designs (the 'kanzashi' hair pin vent trim and the kimono-inspired seat-back stitching in the offset interior), the Essence is automotive culture redefined.

It blends old and new themes - automotive and non-automotive - flawlessly into a "legacy of the future" style that stands head and shoulders above anything coming from the land of the rising sun. The concept is powerful without being racy, luxurious without being pretentious. Most importantly, on more than a few levels, it's realistic. Which, if I may be so bold, is why it has to be built.

While the high-output hybrid might have to go out possibly in favor of a practical non-turbo hybrid system like the one found on the new M35 Hybrid and a maybe even a range-topping direct-injection V8, it's not hard to picture this beauty driving down the road as is.

The Essence is loaded with production or soon-to-be-production safety tech, it rides on realistic wheels (well, maybe they're an inch or two too big, but who cares), and the minimalist interior is handsome without being pure concept; the only items missing are the mirrors and a more practical / ergonomically premium sat-nav stereo system housed on the center console.

As a limited production grand tourer, the Essence could be just the surge needed to put Infiniti on the map in a big way. Add to that the fact that it could launch the idea of a true performance Infiniti, and maybe a few years down the road we'd see the G take a step into the fast lane.

To make it a truly distinct model, forget the traditional letter-based naming system and call it the Essence. Price it in the same range as, let's say, the BMW M6 and Maserati Gran Turismo (somewhere around $100,000-125,000), throw in the Louis Vuitton luggage, and allow for customer individualization 'a la' BMW Individual.

That way, using the already-proven platform and award-winning power trains, Infiniti could offer customers a variety of Essences, from track-day attack-dog to romantic-getaway luxury-tourer.

The resulting car would be the Japanese halo car Lexus's not-the-fastest-at-anything-for-$375,000 LF-A should have been: not an exercise in absurdly expensive technological excess, but a properly-placed, luxurious grand tourer for the gentleman racer.

By Phil Alex

2010 Porsche Panamera - Carscoop
Phil Alex was born in Rhode Island in 1985. He graduated with degrees in Finance and German from Wofford College in 2007 and has had an obsession with cars and travel. Currently he resides near Japan's international airport in Narita. He makes no apologies for his articles and welcomes all feedback, as long as it is adamantly worded. If for any reason you are inclined to vent some more, check out more of his posts on the Examiner here.