The all-Australian Ford Falcon could soon be a thing of the past, the world president of the American carmakers has warned.
The Falcon marks 50 years on Australian roads this year, but speaking at the Detroit motor show, Ford boss Alan Mulally said only one large car platform would be built for all world markets under the company’s One Ford program.
“The best thing for Ford is to bring our scale and volume (to the market),” Mr Mulally told Fairfax newspapers.
“(Carmakers) who make one vehicle, a different vehicle for one country, I think those days are gone, because you can’t compete with the global companies, and Ford’s going to be a powerhouse globally.”
The likely successor for an Australian designed and engineered Falcon is a car based on the American Ford Taurus, which unlike the Falcon is a front-wheel drive car.
The Taurus was imported to Australia in the late 1990s with little success.
Mr Mulally would not say if Ford Australia would play a leading role in developing the large car platform, or whether a local version of the global car would be built in Australia.
Ford Australia president Marin Burela told Fairfax he hopes Australian engineering talent would be used for the project.
A decision on whether the new car would be front- or rear-wheel-drive was at least a year away, he said.
“The all-new Falcon doesn’t have to come into play until the end of 2014, early 2015, and we don’t have to make a decision until 2011 on what that vehicle will be, in terms of styling, technologies ” he said.
Mr Mulally said Ford Australia may help to develop the rear-wheel-drive Mustang platform.
The Ford Falcon was introduced to Australia in 1960.
The car has been the mainstay of Ford’s Australian manufacturing operations.
Ford Australia employs about 4,700 people at its Victorian plants, 2,300 of whom were factory floor workers and 2,400 in areas such as engineering, administration, marketing and product design.
Panels and engines for the Falcon and its Territory wagon variant produced at Geelong, with assembly housed at Campbellfield, in Melbourne’s north.
Falcon was the fifth-highest selling car in Australia in 2009, with 31,023 sales compared with 44,387 sales for the top-selling Holden Commodore.
Flagging sales because of higher fuel prices have hurt the Falcon and the Australian large car sector in recent years.
FORD Australia has confirmed the Falcon will be powered by a Coyote V8 when the existing 5.4 Boss is forced into retirement by this July’s Euro 4 emission deadline.
“We will be taking an engine from the Coyote family,” said Ford spokesperson Sinead McAlary, who declined to offer any more information on the topic.
GoAuto can reveal FPV is well advanced in developing a unique supercharged version of the 5.0-litre direct injection V8 for HSV-beating levels of power and torque. It could also be the most powerful version of the new Coyote engine in world.
While the new quad-cam Coyote V8 will be imported from Ford in Windsor, Canada, it will be substantially modified at FPV’s Campbellfield operation to run the supercharger.
The naturally aspirated 5.0-litre quad-cam engine will revealed at the Detroit motor show overnight, under the bonnet of a new Mustang to be introduced midway through this year, produces 307kW and 529Nm.
These performance numbers would not have been enough for the FPV GT to compete with the Holden Special Vehicles Chevrolet-sourced 6.2-litre V8s which peak at 325kW and 550Nm.
Left: The 5.0-litre Coyote engine in the Ford Mustang.
As reported by GoAuto in 2008, Ford considered using a locally developed supercharged version of the 5.4-litre Boss V8 for the FG Falcon program but the project was scrapped early due to cost issues.
The Australian program of supercharging the Coyote V8 puts it at odds with the direction of Ford Motor Company which is promoting turbocharging, under its new EcoBoost banner, as the way of the future after previously producing supercharged V8 Mustangs.
GoAuto understands Ford Australia and FPV decided to supercharge the Coyote V8 rather than wait at least two years for a possible turbocharged version because it could not afford to see the power figure of its GT, which is all important in the Australian muscle car market, drop back from 315kW and 551Nm.
During a pre-motor show talk enveloping EcoBoost technology, Ford’s director of research and advanced engineering, Dan Kapp, was quizzed on whether his company planned a higher output turbo version of the just revealed Coyote V8 US.
“Ford does have the capability to add that technology to that engine,” he said. “As a research team we are exploring what that means, but there are no production plans.”
EcoBoost technology consists of variable camshaft timing, direct injection and turbocharging, and the naturally aspirated Coyote engine, which will be introduced on the 2010 Mustang, already has two of these features.
Without referring to the FPV supercharged Coyote program, GoAuto asked Ford advanced engineering design and development manager, Brett Hinds, if supercharging was a better option than turbocharging when it came to V8s.
Mr Hinds indicated that both methods of boosting had their advantages.
“In a true performance aspect, turbochargers do require a certain amount of time to spool up. For all-out performance, a supercharger has an instantaneous response. It is more of a racer’s approach to solving that problem,” he said.
Mr Hinds then went on to discuss the fuel economy sacrifices common with supercharging.
“Superchargers are parasitically driven – they require work from the motor. In a situation such as a 400 horsepower supercharged engine, the engine itself would have to produce 450hp just to make 400hp from the supercharged engine,” he said.
“Turbochargers on the other hand are recovering exhaust energy, they are recovering energy out of the exhaust. So to make 400hp on an engine that is turbocharged only requires the engine to make 400hp.”
While GoAuto sources have confirmed the existence of the supercharged Coyote V8, which Ford Australia began working on just after the introduction of the FG Falcon in 2008, it is not yet clear if a naturally aspirated version of the engine would be available in an FPV, a Ford Falcon XR8 or whether they would both be available with different versions (ie varying outputs) of the engine.
The supercharged V8 Coyote engine will allow Ford engineers to tune the output dependent on the model’s needs. A mild tune would allow HSV’s current outputs to be eclipsed and different outputs could be relatively easily achieved which would enable the company to continue to offer an entry level GS and higher performance GT.
The massive potential performance gains from a supercharged version of the Coyote means that Ford Australia and FPV would also, finally, be in a position to consider if it could re-introduce the hallowed GT-HO nameplate.
The Tango’s ability to maneuver through traffic is second to none. Being 5″ narrower than many motorcycles, it can get through traffic like no other car in history. Where lane splitting is permitted (i.e., driving between lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic), the advantage can be staggering. In extremely heavy traffic, a Tango or motorcycle can travel in 20 seconds the distance that cars travel in 20 minutes.
The Tango can fit in a 6-foot half-lane with more clearance than a truck has in a full 12-foot freeway lane. This virtual doubling of lane capacity can make the traffic jam a fading memory. It can also park perpendicularly to the curb like a motorcycle, allowing up to four Tangos in one parallel parking space.
With over 1,000 ft-lbs of torque starting at zero rpm and a 600 kW (805 hp) motor controller, the Tango accelerates from 0-60 mph in under four seconds, finishes the standing 1/4 mile in about 12 seconds at over 100 mph, and can reach over 130 mph with no gear shifting.
Don’t let the size of the Tango fool you . . . while it may appear small its FIA-certified roll cage is actually the structure required for race cars traveling over 200mph. It has 4 times more side protection bars, for example, than the largest SUV. Its 4-point harnesses, low center of gravity, and weight (comparable to a midsize sedan) combine to make the Tango extremely safe. With 2,000 lbs under the floor (mostly batteries), it is ballasted to achieve the rollover threshold of a sports car.
Frustrated that Top Gear refused to run its GTR around the show’s track, Ultima took matters into its own hands, acquiring private access, then breaking the Michael Schumacher-piloted Ferrari FXX’s time by nearly a second.Via Jalopnik
By MARTON PETTENDY 28 April 2009
UP TO 40,000 Chevrolet-badged Commodore police vehicles could be exported to the US annually in a deal that would eclipse GM Holden’s current North American export program, which was axed along with the Pontiac brand by General Motors last night.
GoAuto has learned that a plan to supply hi-tech Australian-made patrol cars to US law enforcement agencies – led by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) – could be joined by lucrative police vehicle exports to Canada, the UK and the Middle East.
And while the prospects of reviving plans to sell the Holden Ute in the US as a GMC continue to exist, it is understood the now-defunct Commodore-based Pontiac G8 has a good chance of morphing into a full-time Chevrolet model for US public consumption.
In an ironic twist, if green-lighted, the police project could see Holden’s Commodore effectively replace Ford’s aged Crown Victoria as the vehicle of choice for many US police departments, which require large, V8-powered rear-drive sedans.
The Crown Victoria, which was discontinued from public sale in 2008 and will be phased out of production for US fleet customers next year, has long been touted as Ford Australia’s most obvious US export opportunity for the Falcon.
Some US police departments have already adopted Dodge’s new Charger, but the Crown Victoria still attracts 60,000 annual sales for Ford, representing a potentially massive export opportunity for Holden.
Officially, Holden remains cautious about spruiking the prospects of sending Commodores to the US as part of a police vehicle export program, but national media relations manager Scott Whiffin admitted to GoAuto this week that a Pontiac G8-based LAPD prototype produced by Port Melbourne-based National Safety Agency (NSA) has “enormous” potential.
“That’s certainly something that is being looked at very closely,” Mr Whiffin revealed. “We are looking at all opportunities.
“Holden has a really good reputation for seeking out opportunities in the marketplace and benefiting from them, and our work starts now in terms of finding new opportunities for this vehicle.
“The law enforcement opportunity is one and certainly we’re looking at that without going too far too fast.”
NSA operations director Des Bahr, who will next week present his company’s LAPD Prototype Vehicle concept to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was more forthcoming about the project, which has also received interest from law enforcement groups in the UK, Middle East and Asia.
The left-hand drive Pontiac police car, which was jointly developed by the NSA and the LAPD – which is believed to be highly enthusiastic about the project – was launched by the LAPD’s deputy chief Charles Beck at the 2009 APCO Australasia Conference & Exhibition, held at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney over March 2-4.
Mr Bahr said his company was in talks with nine separate US law enforcement jurisdictions, which together represent a fleet of up to 40,000 vehicles a year.
“The potential is enormous, given that we’ve got nine jurisdictions interested and even that alone is tens of thousands of cars,” Mr Bahr told GoAuto this week. “They are interested in the project to determine whether this, which could be deemed as a replacement for the Crown Victoria, is suitable for their environment.
“We’re talking in the vicinity of 30,000 to 40,000 cars annually or at least every couple of years based on the kilometres they do.
“We’re only in the early stages, but apart from the US there has been interest in the UK and Canada. We’re due to fly to the US next week to present to some interested groups in Canada, so it’s gaining a lot of momentum over there.”
Mr Bahr said interest in the vehicle had also come from the Middle East as late as last week.
“That’s in the early stages of understanding what we’re doing with the project to determine whether the Asia region could piggyback off that as well, so there’s literally huge potential,” he said.
Mr Bahr said two examples of the LAPD Pontiac G8 would be sent to the US for testing by mid-year.
Mr Bahr said that while he was awaiting official confirmation from Holden in relation to how the project could be affected by GM’s latest restructuring announcement, the LAPD project vehicle’s presentation to law enforcement groups globally would not be affected.
“This is an NSA project,” he said. “We’ve just chosen the GM platform to display what we’re producing at our end, so there are a couple of components: the car itself as a patrol vehicle and an extension of that is the integrated technology that we’re proposing to put into the vehicle.
“We’ve chosen the G8 platform on which to build the vehicle given that a lot of the earlier research was done on the Commodore platform.
“It was easy to adopt that research and technology onto the same car which is accepted in the US market, so it’s through a working relationship we have with LAPD and we brought GM into that to participate.”
He said the vehicle could be modified locally by Australian suppliers for export as a turn-key product.
“We have arrangements with other organisations that do (have the ability to series produce the LAPD prototype), but our involvement would be for the installation and fit-out of what we call the turn-key technology for that vehicle,” said Mr Bahr.
“At this stage it’s a concept to be sent to the US for acceptance or otherwise for suitability, but we have been working with LAPD for the last few years, sharing information on the research we have been doing. So it’s about adopting integrated solutions that they’re already familiar with on a new platform.
“We are looking forward to developing this vehicle with the LAPD and Australian industry. This project will break down the barriers between agencies worldwide, leading to a common platform to provide maximum benefit to those who are charged with protecting our communities.”
Chevrolet Commodore ready to go
GoAuto understands that if a deal is struck with the LAPD, which is regarded within Holden as a test-case for other US police jurisdictions, the LAPD vehicle would most likely be badged as a Chevrolet – not a Pontiac.
In turn, it is understood that could lead to retail exports to the US of the Commodore, which finally appears to have gained ‘traction’ in the US market despite a recent lack of promotion and could be sold as a performance model within the Chevrolet Performance Division, which is the US equivalent of HSV.
When asked whether GM would shift any of Pontiac’s models to other brands, GM CEO Fritz Henderson said: “Solstice… no. Vibe we’re talking with Toyota about and may run it into the 2010 model year as one of the last Pontiacs remaining.” But he made no reference to the G8.
Holden already exports a left-hand drive Chevrolet-badged Commodore to the Middle East – and South Africa – as the Lumina, which means the basic modifications needed to prepare the car for sale as a Chevy in the US have already been done.
Holden has also exported a police car based on the previous-generation platform architecture to the Middle East, New Zealand and elsewhere.
If approved for export, the Chev-badged Commodore could be positioned above the Barina-based Chev Aveo and the mid-sized Malibu, and sold either alongside or instead of the full-size front-drive Impala sedan, which is due to be replaced in 2012.
Some Aussie Awesomeness…
“The F6 E has been designed to satisfy calls from the market for more performance based executive vehicles,” Ford Performance Vehicles General Manager Rod Barrett said.” “With the success of the new F6 and GT E, it was a natural progression to couple the performance and dynamics of F6 with the more subtle executive styling, luxury and comforts of the GT E.
“With the release of this concept we will test the market’s reaction before deciding whether or not to put the F6 E into production,” Barrett added. “Feed back from our customers leaves us confident that the F6 E will be a hit with those looking for something more from their performance vehicle.”
Powered by the high performance 4.0 litre turbo-charged DOHC 24 valve in-line six, the F6 E produces maximum power of 310kW (415HP) at 5500 rpm and maximum torque of 565Nm (416 lb/ft) across the range from 1950 to 5200 rpm.
The new F6 E features the ZF six-speed high-torque automatic transmission with Sequential Sports Shift as standard and boasts a fuel economy figure of 12.1L/100km (19.44 MPG) .
The F6 E receives performance 355 x 32mm cross-drilled and ventilated front rotors with Brembo 6-piston calipers and 330 x 28mm cross-drilled and ventilated rear rotors with Brembo 4-piston caliper as standard.
“The F6 E suits those drivers who want the same power and performance of an F6 but finished in a more conservatively styled package that isn’t going to leave everyone staring at them.”
“The styling of the F6 E differentiates itself from its F6 sibling through the use of a softer colour palette and more luxurious finishes and trim,” Barrett said.
“As opposed to the overtly sporty F6, the F6 E is more subtle, with striking chrome accents and a refined lip spoiler replacing the bright colours, and large rear wings found on the other models – the colour coding of the ‘racoon-eyes’ also helps the F6 E to keep a ‘low profile’.”
The upper radiator and lower bumper grille mesh are finished in black chrome, while the front driving lamps are highlighted with a high chrome bezel and complemented by full body coloured bumpers.
The new FPV badge takes centre stage on both the front and rear of the vehicle and the new F6 E badge features on the rear and side panels.
The 19-inch wheel design was custom matched to the F6 E’s premium Brembo brake package and the Alpine Silver alloy finish completes an understated yet stylish exterior package.
The F6 E is available in a subtle exterior palette of eight colours – Winter White, Silhouette, Lightning Strike, Velvet, Sensation, Steel, Ego, and Seduce.
Inside the cabin, the F6 E features luxury FPV seats in shadow leather with the F6 E logo embossed on the headrests.
The interior environment of the F6 E is charcoal and receives a dark walnut woodgrain finish on the dashboard as well as the doors.
The interior is packed with features to ensure a premium driving experience, including a sports leather steering wheel with cruise control and audio mounted switches, dual zone temperature control air conditioning, front and rear power windows, and memory adjustable pedals with alloy pedal controls.
Sports performance maintains ride comfort
“The F6 E gives increased response to the accelerator pedal throughout the rev range, but also provides around town driveability due to better access to torque,” FPV Head of Powertrain Engineering Bernie Quinn said.
The automatic transmission has a cylinder cut feature during wide open throttle gear changes, which shortens the ‘torque off, torque-back-on’ time between gear changes, enhancing the wide open throttle performance feel.
�”The result is a vehicle with outstanding performance, better engine response and fuel efficiency, and improved operating performance under all conditions.
“The F6 E has an improved turn-in response and linearity, better steering precision and stability mid-corner and a reduced roll rate, which all work to deliver a smooth and controlled ride,” Quinn explained.
The FPV performance independent double wish bone front suspension and performance control independent rear suspension teamed up with the new Sachs mono-shock damper provides the perfect balance between a firm, dynamic sports performance feel and maintaining ride comfort while cruising.
Safety is standard in the F6 E
The F6 E is equipped with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and side curtain airbags, both of which are now standard across the entire FPV range.
In addition, the F6 E also features a reverse parking camera and reverse sensing system as standard.
Other safety features include Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), and 4-channel Anti lock Braking System (ABS), driver and passenger airbags and Beltminder technology for both the driver and passenger.
The F6 E is protected by a remote alarm and FPV’s ID Datadot identification. Target pricing for the F6 E would be $78,190.
General Motors and Chrysler have received a total of around $17 billion in loans from the government; Ford wants to be able to draw on a $10 billion government credit line if and when they need it.
As of right now, AIG has taken-in $170 billion from taxpayers.
Why does Detroit get 1% of what the banks and Wall Street have been loaned, and without doubt more cash headed their way?
Why were Detroit and UAW leaders grilled sternly and publicly in testimony before congress, while executives from Wall Street and the banks have been able to avoid that spectacle?
Why does Washington think a 100-year old manufacturing industry, which employs between three and four million American workers, and arguably was the single-greatest creator of our middle class, isn’t as important or critical as industries which produce, essentially, nothing but numbers on paper?
And why do many members of congress (and the other usual suspects, including the US Chamber of Commerce) say that the wages fought for and won by the UAW should be tied to the lower wages paid to non-union workers by the “captive imports, foreign-owned car- and car parts-makers located mostly in the nation’s southeast?
Here are other ways we’ve seen Washington cower under Wall Street, while Detroit has been told go to hell.
- GM and Chrysler were told by Washington that in order to get any money from government, they had to prepare, and turn-in this month, “viability reports,” detailing renegotiated union contracts and agreements with bond holders, the state of future products and specifying how and when they will pay back the loans.
- No such demand was made of any of the financial institutions, and in fact the first $350 billion in TARP funds is “missing in action.”
- Another part of Washington’s loan conditions for the Detroit Three and the UAW was renegotiating existing union work, health and retirement contracts covering current and future employees. No such demand has been made of the banks or Wall Street getting TARP money, and AIG, for example, says that bonuses “must” be paid because of existing contracts. So far, the Obama Administration hasn’t said they can force AIG to renegotiate the bonus contracts. But if they forced Detroit, why not AIG?
- Most all of the house and senate members who oppose help for America’s domestic car-making industry are republicans (with a blue dog democrat or two) with the car- and auto parts-making operations of foreign-owned captive imports in their states and districts.
- Hearing President Obama voice our collective anger and frustration towards AIG certainly allowed some venting by all of us, but the bottom line has to be: some kind of fairness when handing-out TARP money.
- Financial services companies and banks can, if necessary, be run by government, and there’s no lack of business graduates pouring out of Wharton, Harvard and Yale who could hit the ground running. Maybe a little inexperience is just the thing for those outfits. FDR made Joe Kennedy the first head of the SEC because Kennedy was the shrewdest, most crooked and most experienced trader on Wall Street; FDR figured not only did Founding Father Kennedy know all the tricks, he invented a bunch of them. The choice was akin to FDR appointing Charles Ponzi his Treasury Secretary.
(Charles Ponzi, once a hero to Wall Street in a booking photo circa 1910; remind yu of anyone else?)
Running a car company requires an entirely different set of skills, which may explain why the bean-counters who have run GM, Chrysler and Ford the past 30 years haven’t done a good job; in fact, they’ve beached their own industry and endangered the world economy and the jobs of millions of Americans and more worldwide.
The adversarial relationship between Detroit and Washington has been ingrained so strongly on both sides that too many of our people view our domestic industry not with pride, as you’re likely to find among people in Asia and Europe who respect their own car industry and support it at all costs, but as populated by a bunch of greedy big shots, the car versions of Tom Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe, our own modern-day robber barons, making lousy products with safety and the environment mere afterthoughts and with “shoving metal down the throats” of buyers their most important cause. Not that Detroit doesn’t deserve much of this reputation.
This is what we mean by the UAW fighting hard for decades to get their members fair pay: There was blood in the streets during the legendary Battle of the Overpass in May, 1937, outside a Ford plant. UAW leader Walter Reuther led unarmed auto workers against a phalanx of well-armed Ford security people and other mercenaries hired by Henry Ford and his evil, violent henchman, Harry Bennett, infamous for keeping a loaded pistol in the top drawer of his desk.
THE MAGNIFICATION OF “INSPIRED PERFORMANCE”
ROLLE, Switzerland (March 3, 2009) – The essence of the Infiniti brand distilled into one car and then taken to the extremes to satisfy the world’s most demanding car enthusiasts … this is the Infiniti Essence.
Presented as a concept at the 79th International Motor Show of Geneva, Essence is a celebration of Infiniti and its 20 years history as a creator of performance cars. But equally it is an inspiring exploration into the brand’s future.
The dramatic design, technology and performance statement is a 600PS, petrol/electric hybrid coupe with rear-wheel drive. What Essence is not is merely an indulgent birthday present from Infiniti to itself.
This concept embodies Infiniti’s core values as an inspiration for the future as much a celebration of the past. Essence showcases many of the technologies, including hybrid, and design cues that will distinguish Infiniti production cars of the coming years. And by steering Infiniti’s guiding principle of “Inspired Performance” into the super-performance, super-luxury coupe market for the first time, it reaffirms Infiniti’s place among the world’s most exclusive and vibrant car brands.
ESSENCE: AN OVERVIEW
• A front-engined, two-seat, 600PS luxury coupe concept, 4.7m long
• First motor show preview of Infiniti’s petrol/electric hybrid drivetrain
• Capable of vast speeds where conditions allow, zero emissions where they don’t
• Rear-wheel drive for maximum driver involvement
• Fresh design language to influence future production models
• Previews new safety technology including Back-up Collision Prevention
• Minimalist and intensely driver-focused interior
• “New luxury” meets traditional Japanese craftsmanship
• Bespoke Louis Vuitton fitted luggage to maximise trans-continental capability
ESSENCE: THE CONCEPT
“An Essence owner is characterized by his or her fearless self confidence; he or she is an intellectual hero rather than just a successful money maker.”
Francois Bancon, General Manager Advanced Product Planning
Essence began life not in the design studio but in Infiniti’s product planning department. Francois Bancon, General Manager Advanced Product Planning, and his team might not, at the start of the project, have known how Essence would look, but they did know what it had to be, why it had to exist – and who it would appeal to.
“Essence is a brand icon,” Francois Bancon said. “It is driven more by a conceptual approach than by any design execution. It is not just an object. It isn’t a teaser for a new model. It is solely dedicated to Infiniti brand promotion, to demonstrate and advocate the Infiniti unique values.”
The concept called for a very clear understanding of who the super-luxury coupe’s potential customers would be. Painstakingly, Bancon and his team of advanced product planners built up a picture of a typical Essence owner. It was a profile that showed an uncompromising, risk-taking 42-year-old passionate about the best things in life, but equally passionate about not flaunting them. “These consumers don’t need to demonstrate to others,” said Bancon. “They are already at the next step of achievement that leads to rewarding themselves first.”
Francois Bancon went on: “We wanted a new way of mixing various ingredients to get a car that was reserved but with a big presence, something trendy but also indicating the next trend. We wanted a car that aspired to become a cult. It had to be exclusive, smart and mysterious. For the driver, it had to sum up the six-word essence of Essence:
Everything I want, nothing I don’t
ESSENCE IN DETAIL
1. DESIGN: DYNAMIC ADEYAKA
“The design embeds a sense of mystery, a sense of being in the know. Essence is not about showing signs of wealth and success.”
Shiro Nakamura, Senior Vice President of Design
With breathtaking good looks and perfect proportions, Essence exerts a powerful pull on all those who love cars. It looks like a driver’s car, one that would be right at home spearing down the world’s grandest motoring routes.
But Essence is no aggressive sports car. Infiniti’s “Dynamic Adeyaka” attitude ensures Essence is single-minded, but also inviting, sophisticated and born of inspiration from both the human and natural worlds. To further boost its emotional appeal, it features details that bring a very modern take to some very old Japanese traditions.
The designers’ aim was to merge all existing Infiniti design cues with fresh design language in a shape that the 20-year-old marque has never before attempted. The result is highly sculptural yet also very delicate. Essence speaks of power but not intimidation.
The bonnet is, as you would expect of an Infiniti, long, and the rear deck short. Together with a flowing “wave” profile between muscular front and rear wheelarches, Essence at first appears to be in the classic sports car mould. But there is nothing retro about Essence.
The side window graphics bring a particularly innovative and distinctive edge to the styling. The window appears to be resting on a ledge, its razor sharp line in contrast to the concave sweep of the upper body just below it. Imagine juxtaposing flowing water with the stark outline of a canyon landscape.
The rear section also features complex surfacing with concave “scoops” that flow down the rear pillars from one of Essence’s most distinctive design cues: a C-shaped kink to the side windows’ trailing edge. Outlined by a wide flourish of stainless steel, it adds instant movement to the car even when it is standing still.
One of the most distinctive details is the trim around the side air vents. The simple yet delicate shape, finely finished in aluminium, is based on the “kanzashi”, a hairpin used by women when wearing the kimono. Other lines and details are inspired by the wide brush strokes of Japanese calligraphy. Essence represents a successful merging of iconic cultural cues with automotive aesthetics.
Essence’s front is characterised by Infiniti’s signature double-arch grille, set at an angle that suggests the car is about to leap forward. There is an illuminated Infiniti badge at its heart. Rounded corners effectively hide the front overhang and make this 4.7m-long car appear anything but big in the flesh.
The grille is framed by subtle strips of stainless steel but there’s little other trim and no other grilles or intakes, not even foglights. At the front as over the rest of the car, Essence eschews superfluous body embellishments that could interrupt the graceful strength of the whole. The door handles are slithers of push buttons flush with the body while even rear-view mirrors must make way for minuscule cameras teased out of the A-pillars.
More familiar Infiniti cues include the lights. At the front the signature L-shaped modules taper back on to the bulging guards, picked out at their top edge by a row of LEDs. Slender fillets of red light curve around the car at the back, overlapping with the boot opening and framing the vestigial spoiler. Edged by more stainless steel, the spoiler appears to have been pushed out from within the car.
The windscreen flows back into a full glass roof that then tapers down towards the boot opening – making just one more memorable view of a car that doesn’t have a wrong angle to it.
On design, Essence is simple and amazingly complex, classical and totally dynamic all at the same time. Most of all as the epitome of “dynamic adeyaka” it boasts massive presence. Once seen, never forgotten.
2. INTERIOR: DRIVER-FOCUSED
“Detailed artistic expression and the rich warmth of the human hand go far beyond mechanical precision.”
Shiro Nakamura, Senior Vice President of Design
For a driver’s car, the perfect driver’s cabin. Essence’s interior is minimalist, ergonomic and totally focused on the job in hand: to give the person behind the wheel a feeling of absolute control. And yet all this driver focus goes hand in hand with a passenger area dominated by comfort, calm and elegance to offer the kind of hospitality that is so important to the Japanese people, and also to Essence.
The asymmetrical cabin is divided into two areas separated by a large curving console between the seats that sweeps around to merge with the centre of the dashboard. The result is two very distinct cocoons. The driver’s side is themed black, the passenger’s “cocoon” an earthy red.
A flat-bottomed steering wheel and chronometer-style dials announce to the driver this is a serious performance machine. There are no gimmicks or sci-fi solutions here, just single-minded dedication to driving. Witness the technical nature of the displays, the short, alloy-topped gear selector and, just in front of it another finger-flick away, the bright red engine start button.
The car wraps itself around the driver who can quickly relax with the Infiniti trademarks of supportive seat and perfect driving position. There are more Infiniti cues such as the big gearchange paddle shifters behind the wheel and the analogue clock in the centre of the dash.
Infiniti designers believe the best functionality works behind the scenes, appearing only when needed. They call this “hidden tech”, and it’s the key to the functional minimalism that dominates the control layout. By not baffling drivers with buttons or overburdening them with information, Essence offers a sense of well-being to everyone, allowing them to focus entirely on enjoying the energizing driving experience.
With the materials used – leather, Alcantara, hand-painted wood inspired by traditional Japanese lacquerware – the cabin exudes a rich and inviting warmth. Attention to detail is such that even the leather seams on the seat backs differ from left side to right side. Why? So they can accurately reflect the way Japanese men and women tie their kimonos.
Essence’s interior promotes a sense of well-being which is key to the Infiniti driving experience.
3. DRIVETRAIN: POWER WITH RESPONSIBILITY
“Infiniti’s performance feel has been captured as natural dynamism, like energy rising from within.”
Francois Bancon, General Manager Advanced Product Planning
Essence’s drivetrain is designed to meet the highest expectations of owners by delivering the one thing everyone expects of an Infiniti – sheer driving pleasure. In Essence that pleasure is taken to new heights, at the same time as previewing an innovative green hybrid engine.
Essence is unusual even in the rarefied atmosphere of the world’s fastest road cars by being able to call on a mighty 600PS (592bhp). The power guarantees high performance responses on any road, in any situation. Essence is not, however, an intimidating sports racer. Like the design, the performance is designed to be sophisticated and unobtrusive – performance with a human touch.
The hybrid system is a logical extension of Infiniti parent group’s groundbreaking green commitments. It offers power with efficiency, and high performance with zero-emissions running, by combining a petrol engine with an electric motor. These can work independently or together as a “parallel” hybrid system.
In congested urban areas, the electric motor alone is all that is needed for Essence to glide silently between stoplights, with no tailpipe emissions.
When the traffic clears, Essence responds with a highway performance that few cars could match. In “power assist” mode the full 600PS is unleashed with both petrol and electric power working together.
A key difference over some other hybrid systems is that both the V6 and the electric motor feed their power only to the rear wheels. Performance is more linear, response is crisper – and driving pleasure further enhanced – as a result.
Infiniti’s familiar 3.7-litre V6 gasoline engine is fitted with twin turbochargers, boosting power to 440PS (434bhp). A new direct-injection fuel system ensures the engine works more efficiently than ever in Essence.
Essence previews a new type of electric motor, called 3D Motor, that was designed to meet tough requirements on size and power output. The result is a particularly slim, disk-shaped motor that has twice the torque of a conventional unit. Its design was achieved by 3D magnetic field analysis to optimize the layout of the electromagnetic coils and permanent magnets.
In Essence, the motor is positioned between the engine and transmission and provides 160PS (158bhp), drawing power from a compact lithium-ion battery pack in the boot area. Because the 3D Motor operates in both propulsion and power regeneration modes, the battery pack is kept charged up.
Optimized energy useage across the widest possible range of driving conditions is guaranteed by two separate clutches which “switch in” the motors as required. It is a system that needs no torque converter, further enhancing responsiveness and driving pleasure.
4. SAFETY: A COLLISION-FREE FUTURE
On a global level, Infiniti is committed to building safer vehicles equipped with advanced safety technologies.
Essence previews some of the next-generation safety features that will ensure Infiniti cars remain among the safest on the road. Chief among them is a “Safety Shield” that goes a long way towards the Infiniti engineers’ dream of a collision-free car.
The Safety Shield adds two new technologies to the Distance Control Assist (DCA) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) systems that are available in today’s production Infinitis. Side Collision Prevention (SCP) and Back-up Collision Prevention (BCP) extend the anti-collision shield all the way around the car.
With SCP, when the driver decides to change lanes, side-mounted sensors activate a warning if an approaching vehicle is detected in the driver’s intended lane. A yaw mechanism is then activated through brake control of individual wheels to help prevent a potential collision. Back-up Collision Prevention works in a similar way, sensing a vehicle behind, giving the driver a warning but then, if the warning is not heeded, activating the brakes automatically.
The warning system and pre-emptive safety features are designed to help support the driver in an intuitive manner with minimal intervention.
5. PRACTICALITY: A VERY BESPOKE SOLUTION
The team behind Essence harked back to an early motoring era to find the right solution for carrying luggage. The result is as classy as luggage ever gets, surprisingly practical and dreamily romantic. It also re-establishes the historic ties between a carmaker and one of the best-known names in luxury goods – Louis Vuitton.
Vuitton first worked with a coachbuilder – the famous Kellner company – in 1908, equipping one of their early luxury limousines with a set of bespoke luggage. Other coachbuilders quickly beat a path to Vuitton’s door in Paris. Made-to-measure Vuitton trunks were an integral feature of some of the greatest cars of the first part of the 20th century.
The collaboration between Infiniti and Vuitton revives the idea of a set of the highest quality luggage made to fit exactly a car’s boot area. In Essence there are three rigid pieces: a matched pair of slender briefcases atop a large trunk. All are made in the new Damier Graphite canvas and feature sleekly integrated handles and an overall design in harmony with the car itself.
There is hi-tech, too. A button on the key fob electrically opens the boot lid, allowing the boot floor to slide silently rearwards. This is one boot an owner will never have to struggle to access.
In a nod at tradition, the cases even bear the initials of their owner – SN, standing for Shiro Nakamura, Senior Vice President of Design.
6. INFINITI: 20 YEARS OF PERFORMANCE CARS
The Essence has been 20 years in the making. For that is how long the essence of the marque – its very being, a distillation of everything that Infiniti stands for – has taken to reach its current state of perfection.
The idea behind Infiniti was first discussed in 1985 but it wasn’t until November 1989 that the first Infiniti model was sold in North America. Today it is the fastest growing luxury brand in the US.
But it is also far more than just a US brand. Today Infiniti has more than 230 dealers in 15 countries with worldwide sales of 150,000 annually.
Infiniti’s success is down to many things, not least the “Dynamic Adeyaka” attitude behind every Infiniti model. When Adeyaka meets The Total Ownership Experience the result is the three pillars of Infiniti: driving pleasure, hospitality and peace of mind.
All these values are perfectly summed up by Essence which is revealed at the Geneva Motor Show of 2009 not only to coincide with the marque’s 20th anniversary, but also in the midst of the brand’s current challenge: to take on the European market.
|FPV to reveal a production-ready concept combining turbo F6 power with E luxury By MARTON PETTENDY 23 February 2009
FORD Performance Vehicles (FPV) has made the surprise move to reveal what appears to be a production-ready concept in the form of the new F6 E muscle-car concept ahead of its reveal at the 2009 Melbourne International Motor Show.
The go-faster Ford brand says the turbocharged F6 E has a target price of $78,190 – the same price as the 5.4-litre V8-powered GT E sedan flagship upon which it is modelled – and even lists eight “subtle” exterior paint colours with which it will be available.
Officially, however, the F6 E is a Melbourne show concept to test market reaction.
“The F6 E has been designed to satisfy calls from the market for more performance-based executive vehicles,” said FPV general manager Rod Barrett.
“With the success of the new F6 and GT E, it was a natural progression to couple the performance and dynamics of F6 with the more subtle executive styling, luxury and comforts of the GT E.
“With the release of this concept we will test the market’s reaction before deciding whether or not to put the F6 E into production. Feedback from our customers leaves us confident that the F6 E will be a hit with those looking for something more from their performance vehicle,” said Mr Barrett.
Unlike the GT E’s 315kW/551Nm 5.4-litre V8, the F6 E employs the same 310kW/565Nm turbocharged 4.0-litre inline six-cylinder as the standard F6, which carries the same $66,590 sticker price as the V8 GT.
Fitted as standard with ZF’s six-speed automatic transmission, Ford says the F6 E returns average fuel consumption of 12.1L/00km.
As with the GT E, the F6 E features 355 x 32mm cross-drilled and ventilated front brake discs with six-piston Brembo callipers and 330 x 28mm cross-drilled and ventilated rear rotors with four-piston Brembo callipers.
The F6 E is also fitted with the same luxury interior features that are standard on the GT E, including luxury FPV seats with ‘shadow’ leather and ‘F6 E’-embossed head restraints and a charcoal colour theme with dark walnut woodgrain dashboard and door trims.
Like the GT E, the F6 E also gets black chromed upper and lower grilles and Alpine Silver-finished 19-inch alloy wheels, but FPV’s newest model swaps the F6’s large rear wing for a discreet bootlid lip spoiler and its two-tone “racoon eyes” for a colour-coded paint scheme.
“The F6 E suits those drivers who want the same power and performance of an F6 but finished in a more conservatively styled package that isn’t going to leave everyone staring at them,” said Mr Barrett.