Infiniti is far from the first luxury automotive brand to show off an electric car concept in the wake of fending off Tesla and other startups, but Nissan’s upscale division has taken the 2018 Leaf’s heart and run in a very different direction.
This is the Infiniti Prototype 9, a design concept due to be shown this week at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance near Monterey, California. But under the vintage-looking clothes of the Prototype 9, lies the powertrain from the 2018 Nissan Leaf.
A 148-horsepower electric motor, with 236 pound-feet of torque, and a 30kWh battery, powers the rear wheels through a single-speed transmission, according to Infiniti. Interestingly enough, that sounds a lot like the electric motor that’s set to power the front wheels of the new Leaf, based on vehicle specifications that were leaked last week. Therefore in this Infiniti design project, it’s billed as a “next-generation EV powertrain.”
Still, its performance may bode well for the upcoming Nissan Leaf. Infiniti says the Prototype 9 has a top speed of 106 mph, with a 0–62 time of 5.5 seconds. Spend all your charge on a racetrack and Infiniti says the Prototype 9 should last up to 20 minutes (without actually giving a number of miles it might last).
The Infiniti Prototype 9 is packing Nissan’s newest EV technology under a striking body, mixing old and new. But why does it look like a 1940s racecar? After all, Infiniti doesn’t have a mid-20th century racing history because it was a brand created in 1989.
Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti’s senior vice president of global design, says the Prototype 9’s look was inspired by the fantasy of “‘chancing' upon an unrecognized race car, hidden away for decades in a barn, deep in the Japanese countryside.” Therefore, it bears a heavy resemblance to the German and Italian racecars from the 1930s and ‘40s, even if Infiniti’s designers in Japan tried to infuse cues from the brand’s production cars in the front and sides.
While the Infiniti Prototype 9 is a beautiful re-creation of what the 1940s racing scene may have looked like if they’d been around to build a car, don’t expect to be able to ever buy one. Yet, the technology underneath is destined for a Nissan dealership very soon.