Infiniti first announced the Etherea concept back in 2011 at the Geneva Motor Show. All we knew at the time was that Inifini had been doing well in Europe, and that they wanted a car to continue ramping up that market. The Etherea was to be that car – a compact hatchback (sort of) with lively style and, apparently, an entry-level price tag.
It’s been two years and the Etherea concept is finally within sight of production. Infiniti says it will arrive in 2014. So, let’s go over what we know.
More About the Infiniti Etherea Concept
The Etherea Concept is aimed at giving Infiniti access to a whole new segment of drivers. With a contemporary design somewhat reminiscent of a front-heavy Prius, the Ethereaea is well-positioned for the young European market. This is a market that Nissan is both familiar with and popular among, the Nissan Juke being a prime example.
More than just targeting a new market, Infiniti wants the Etherea concept to be a statement of future intentions. Looking at the current version, it seems this is especially true from a design standpoint; the Etherea has very little in common with Infiniti’s other vehicles. To be fair, that’s partly due to the entry-level luxury car’s rather ambiguous classification. And some of the swoopiness could be lost on the way to production, although I don’t think it will.
It’s also worth noting that the Etherea will be built with the same platform and engine as the Nissan Qashqai. So, while this is a compact hatchback, it’s not small and it’s not weak. It’ll be powerful and aggressive, with a killer interior.
Now that we’ve covered some basic info about the Infinit Etherea Concept, there are two significant pieces of recent news regarding the car’s production.
Sebastian Vettel Takes Over Testing
First, Formula One Champion and second-place driver at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel, is officially in charge of driving and tweaking the Etherea to perfection. This makes sense, since in addition to driving for the Infiniti-sponsored Red Bull team, he’s also serving as Director of Performance for Infiniti.
As a competitive driver, Vettel has several unique insight into the performance perfecting process. According to Autocar, Vettel reports that, “Similar to Formula One cars, it’s interesting to feel how different cars are configured for steering response and braking, as well as driver-assistance features like ESP and Traction Control. Getting these things right is what makes a good car great.” If he can improve luxury cars as well as he can race them, then the future of the Etherea is very bright indeed.
Likely Production in Nissan’s Sunderland Plant
The second piece of news regarding the Infiniti Etherea is the change from back-wheel to front-wheel drive, apparently due to space constraints. This will make it impossible to produce the car at Infiniti’s Japanese plant. So, the Etherea will likely end up being produced in Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which is actually convenient since the car targets the European market.
I’m pretty excited to see what the Infiniti Etherea ends up like. We still have at least 6 months until we see a production model, possibly as long as 12. Still, the car is coming soon, and we’ll keep you posted if we hear anything more. Otherwise, thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Japanese car news tomorrow!