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Infiniti aims to burnish its high-tech cred at the Geneva motor show with its latest autonomous driving and steer-by-wire systems and a sporty hybrid system derived from Formula One.

Infiniti will showcase the technologies in two cars.

One will be a mid-cycle update of the Q50 sedan, the brand’s best seller. The other, the sporty hybrid, is dubbed Project Black S and is based on the Q60 coupe, Infiniti President Roland Krueger said.

The Q50 will get the brand’s second-generation steer-by-wire system and be the first Infiniti to package all of the company’s self-driving features under a new ProPilot Assist banner. ProPilot is the name Infiniti parent company Nissan Motor Co. gives to the group’s line of autonomous driving features.

“Most importantly, we worked on the technology of the car,” Krueger said Thursday in a telephone interview from Infiniti headquarters in Hong Kong.

“This is very important for us because the Q50 is our best seller worldwide.”

Autonomous ambitions

The Q50 update goes on sale this year for the 2018 model year. Its ProPilot system will bundle the car’s existing autonomous functions, including active lane keeping, backup collision prevention, intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking, lane departure prevention and blind spot intervention.

ProPilot made its global debut last year in the Japan-market Nissan Serena family van and is part of a ramp up to fully autonomous driving by 2020.

The Serena ProPilot system differs by enabling automatic stop-and-go driving in heavy traffic and automated steering in low-speed driving.

Infiniti’s ProPilot system will adopt those more advanced functions in 2018, in a nameplate other than the Q50, Krueger said. Infiniti’s vision for self-driving cars is improved safety with still-engaged drivers.

“It’s more copilot,” he said. “We don’t take the driver out of the equation.”

2018 Infiniti Q50

The 2018 Infiniti Q50 will be the first to get Nissan’s new ProPilot system.

Steering and styling

Infiniti was one of the first automakers to market steer-by-wire technology when it deployed the concept in the Q50 in 2013. The technology breaks the mechanical connection between the driver’s hands and the front wheels, enabling more precise control and more comfortable feedback.

The updated version offers smoother and more direct feeling, Infiniti says. It also carries updates that are better geared toward future autonomous driving systems by enabling more instantaneous steering reaction.

“This car needs to have a very direct response,” Krueger said. “We have worked on this and significantly updated exactly that kind of driving experience, where you have a much more direct connection to the road.”

The 2018 Q50 is also undergoing a styling makeover, front and rear.

Deeper detailing and a new character line accentuate the grille, while the headlamps get Infiniti’s latest “human-eye” treatment.

The rear combination lamps have been slimmed down for a sleeker look.

Sport packages get more angular bumpers and wider, lower intakes.

Formula One

Also on show in Geneva will be Project Black S.

It aims to test reaction to a new high-powered hybrid system that draws upon a similar technology used by the Renault Formula One racing team.

The system recaptures kinetic energy during braking to generate electricity and store it in a high-rate discharge lithium ion battery. The battery then delivers sudden bursts of energy when extra performance is needed.

That electricity powers an electric motor that adds torque and horsepower to the wheels. It also speeds up the turbocharger turbine, helping the engine generate more power. Infiniti estimates the high-performance hybrid system can boost overall drivetrain power output by 25 percent.

Krueger said he is serious about bringing the technology to market as soon as possible, but he declined to offer a concrete timeline.

“This is very important for us,” he said.

The energy recovery system was developed by Nissan group engineers on loan to alliance partner Renault SA to help with the latter’s Formula One team. Infiniti has been a technical partner of Renault since the 2016 race season.

Infiniti project black 1

Performance hybrid

“We want to share this project to exemplify how far we believe we can go and to also demonstrate that we are part of the alliance,” Krueger said. “We have a great engineering base, and we have a huge company behind us.”

Infiniti’s current hybrid system positions the electric motor between the engine and transmission to add horsepower when needed. It is partly a fuel economy play and allows the cars to drive briefly in electric-only mode.

Project Black S positions the electric motor after the transmission on the rear axle to deliver a sudden boost of power. It can’t drive the car in EV mode and offers little, if anything, in the way of extra miles per gallon.

Krueger envisions Project Black S as a top tier performance grade for Infiniti that sits above the current Red S sports package.

It is part of Krueger’s push to inject more sportiness into the brand.

Going forward, Infiniti will better delineate models between premium and sporty packages, Krueger added. Grades will be more clearly separated by powertrain choices and design flourishes.

The article “Infiniti preps freshened Q50, sporty hybrid” originally appeared on

By Hans Greimel, Automotive News