Infiniti Debuts Project Black S Hybrid, Inspired by Formula One Racers

(Bloomberg) -- At a private party in Paris, Infiniti unveiled the Project Black S prototype, a 563-horsepower sports car with a hybrid electric powertrain developed by the Renault Sport Formula One Team.  

The coupe represents Infiniti’s biggest step toward its goal of having all its new models feature hybrid and electric powertrains by 2021. It’s an update to the concept the Hong Kong-based brand showed at the Geneva Motor Show in 2017, with a lighter body weight and a system that allows the battery to recharge during braking and acceleration. But only two of the cars will be made. The prototype is still a design study and test bed for further technologies the company may eventually develop with its Formula One partner, said Roland Krueger, chairman and global president of Infiniti.

The idea is that starting in 2019, Infiniti will first test the Project Black S prototypes on the track. If tests go well, a production version of the car that would be legal to drive on the road might come out in following years, Krueger said.

If that happens, the Project Black S would compete against other two-door hybrid sports cars, such as BMW’s i8 and the Lexus LC.

For now, the prototype looks more like the $52,000, Q60 Red Sport 400 coupe than a Formula One race car. It comes with a few upgrades: dual air vents in the front of the hood; a wide front splitter; sporty, 21-inch, forged-aluminum and multispoked racing wheels; titanium exhaust tips; and a matte gunmetal-grey finish with yellow accents on the splitter and wheels. 

The most notable feature of the two-seat prototype is the rear wing finished in carbon fiber—that at least has a similar aerodynamic profile to one of the Renault F1 race cars. The wing provides extreme low downforce for the sports car, which can exceed 200 mph during a race. On a street-legal car, the wing would make a big stabilizing difference as the car moves in a straight line and enhance traction around corners. 

Infiniti Debuts Project Black S Hybrid, Inspired by Formula One Racers

Under the hood, the Project Black S has two hybrid electric motors and a 3.0-liter, V-6 twin-turbo engine. The dual-hybrid powertrain prototype generates 420 kW, equivalent to 563 hp, while the conventional engine produces 400 hp under its own power, according to the brand. These were developed through an alliance of Infiniti’s parent company, Nissan Motor Co., Renault SA, and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Infiniti has shared technology and expertise with the Renault Sport F1 team since 2016.

The car has a seven-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Buttons on the steering wheel allow the driver to make the car adapt the ABS, traction control, and powertrain to current driving conditions. And it has three drive modes—road, quali, and race—the fastest of which will be able to hit 62 mph in fewer than four seconds. That’s about as fast as its would-be competitors from BMW and Lexus and faster than any Infiniti road car so far. (This is a significant improvement for Infiniti, since the prototype is 52 pounds heavier than the Q60 Red Sport, so typically it would be slower.) The top speed has yet to be released. 

Additional details about the Project Black S model are scarce, though they’re rarely the point for a veritable test mule of a car.  This one, at least, looks like it’s heading in the right direction. Time will tell. 

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.