A dream machine that's based in reality, the Q80 Inspiration Concept made its eagerly anticipated debut in Paris. This striking fastback 4-door hybrid previews a new chapter in the Infiniti saga as the luxury automaker raises its ambitions in the premium sedan arena. "Q80 Inspiration is how we see the future in terms of moving people in the higher end of our portfolio," said Francois Bancon, Infiniti Vice President, Product Strategy at the car's unveiling. Citing the Q80 Inspiration's name as a clear indicator of its potential production offshoot's positioning in the lineup, he further noted this halo vehicle "will inspire all of our future products."

Designed to defy tradition

Embracing a styling language that melds organic forms with well-focused aerodynamic qualities, the long/wide/low Q80 Inspiration deftly steps beyond traditional design boundaries. Aluminum and carbon fiber materials used in its core structure are reprised in the car's bodywork. The aggressive proportions complemented by features like full LED lighting, portal-style doors, 22-inch alloy wheels and crescent-cut C-pillars that also serve as functional air intakes to help control the temperature of the hybrid battery pack. On the active aero front, gill-like vanes in the Q80 Inspiration's ornate grille automatically open and close to optimize airflow under different driving conditions while full-length hood vents extract hot air from the engine's twin turbochargers. 

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The Q80 Inspiration's ultra-modern cabin offers spacious accommodations for four in individual bucket seat wrapped in quilted leather and Alcantara. Beyond its flat-bottom multifunction steering wheel is a fully-configurable instrument cluster that works with a high-def head-up display to put critical info directly in the driver's sightline. It also serves as the interface for Infiniti's unique semi-autonomous assist system now under development. Engaged via a button on the steering wheel, it provides advisory sonic cues to suggest possible courses of action in any given traffic situation. A milled-billet controller positioned behind the supplemental display on the center console operates the Q80 Inspiration's 9-speed automatic transmission while each passenger seat also has its own small touchscreen that provides access to the main infotainment and climate control systems. 

550 horsepower and 43 mpg 

Last but far from least, the Q80 Inspiration introduces a new Direct Response Hybrid system that Infiniti promises in its future performance models. The system matches a new 3.0-liter/directed injected twin-turbo V6 -- part of a family that will soon appear in other Infiniti models - with an electric motor energized by a lithium-ion battery pack. With 450 gasoline-fed horses and an additional 100 zero-emissions ponies, the 550-horsepower Q80 Inspiration can run 0-60 mph in less than 4.0 seconds, hit an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph and still return nearly 43 mpg. In addition to using conventional or gas/electric propulsion, the Infiniti's Direct Response Hybrid system can seamlessly shuttle torque between axles, shifting from the normal rear drive to a 50/50-percent split as traction conditions merit. It also can be toggled into AWD mode if the driver desires. 

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"The Q80 Inspiration Concept was born to disrupt the premium sedan category," said Bancon. "We aim to do this with elegance, style, and emotion." Based on what turned up in Paris, the production Infiniti Q80 should give the troops at Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche something to think about. 

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