Infiniti’s Eau Rouge Shakes Brand Out of Its Comfort Zone

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept

While European luxury automakers have never been afraid of getting a little ridiculous with their vehicles, their Japanese counterparts have historically played it rather safe when it comes to adding a dose of spice to their products. BMW’s M division turns out some of the best drivers’ cars on the roads today, and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG line is right up there alongside. However, Lexus  and Infiniti (NSANY.PK) have never shared the same taste for performance, with the exception of the former’s mental LFA supercar.

But Infiniti’s recent debut of the Q50 Eau Rouge concept hints that the brand’s high-performance resistance might be changing. The Eau Rouge, revealed at the North American International Auto Show, “provides a glimpse of Infiniti’s design prowess for high-performance vehicles,” the company’s statement says.

“If we built this car I would expect it to feature over 500 [horsepower] and 600 [pound-feet] of torque. Through our various alliance partners we have access to a range of engines featuring this performance capability which, with a fair amount of engineering effort, can be developed to exhibit Infiniti character and accommodated within the Q50 engine bay,” said Johan de Nysschen, the president of Infiniti. ”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.”

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept

The gratuitous horsepower and torque are only one part of the story, though. The Eau Rouge also has a healthy dose of aerodynamic carbon fiber bodywork, it rides lower than the stock Q50, and is also wider, giving it a more menacing road presence. On the exterior, only the front doors and the arch of the roof pillars remain of the Q50 — everything else has been retouched specifically for the high-performance model.

The Eau Rouge isn’t just a Q50 built out of the parts bin, though. In it, Infiniti has infused elements from its Formula 1 racing division, which appear in some of the car’s design features.

“The design has a number of distinctive Formula-One inspired touches. In particular, the sculpted front wing assembly and the rear aerodynamic packaging take their cues from the RB9 race car. The rear fog light packaging is unmistakably Formula One,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti’s executive design director. ”The Q50 Eau Rouge is a combination of the seductive lines of the Q50 but with a fiercer design urge in keeping with a high-performance vehicle. The Q50 Eau Rouge is Infiniti to the power of four; like a bull with its shoulder muscles flexed, a bull in Infiniti clothing.”

The wider wheel arches are filled with a set of 21-inch rims, while the hood is double air-vented — a good sign for what’s (hopefully) to come. If the Eau Rouge should make it to production, Infiniti would be playing in the hot sedan market in which it has never seriously been a contender.