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Created: 3/9/2011
Last Posted: 4/1/2011
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2011 Geneva Motor Show

Monday, March 14, 2011
Article ChiefBy: Article Chief
Chief Editor
For Blog: 2011 Geneva Motor Show

With its all-new Etherea concept, Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti is opening its arms to the world’s young moneyed. But instead of bathing them with a luxurious cruiser, designers created something that was a reinvigorated mix of a lot of things

“Etherea is about a new type of luxury,” said Toru Saito, Infiniti’s global business unit leader, in a prepared statement. “It is for younger buyers who do not want a smaller version of a typically conservative and traditional luxury car. It is for people who want a car that defines who they are, not who their parents were.”

The Etherea is not one type of vehicle; rather, it is a melding of a sedan’s space, a coupe’s styling, a hatchback’s utility, and a crossover’s tallness.

Without a B-pillar, the four-seat platform feels more spacious, designers say. Rear-hinged “suicide doors” aid in the feeling as well. The kinked C-pillar is heavily influenced by the Essence concept.

Up front, designers included distinct slanted headlights that incorporate LED daytime running lights. Designers are quick to point out that the headlight’s design will be a mainstay on future Infiniti models. There is also the traditional high hood line and deep grille that now illuminates. The A-pillar has a window that eases forward visibility and adds a touch of uniqueness.

Unlike some sports cars that focus front passenger controls towards the driver, the Etherea shares luxury and sport with all inside. Twin touch screens display car information, climate control, and stereo functions. A flat floor improves occupant comfort. Designers included a number of new interior finishes like kimono-inspired seat piping (called Kumihimo in Japanese), vertical strips on doors (Inuyarai), and a parchment paper-like material (Washi).

A gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain based on the system used in the M35h sedan powers the concept. Instead of a VQ-series V-6, however, a 242-horsepower supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder gives the Etherea most of its grunt, while a quick response electric motor provides extra power during acceleration and city driving. Everything is directed to the front wheels – a first time for the brand – via a continuously variable transmission.

Underpinning the new chassis is an independent suspension with electric/hydraulic steering and regenerative braking (much like in the M35h). Officials haven’t indicated if they will share most of the model’s components with parent conglomerate Renault-Nissan and new partner Mercedes-Benz, but we wouldn’t be surprised if other offspring arrive soon.