Infiniti brought one of the most intriguing concept cars to the Detroit Auto Show this year, in part because it was one of the only actual concepts revealed, but also because it’s a beautifully sculpted package that finds a tricky balance of design and new engineering. Here’s what its designer had to say about the future of their designs.

I interviewed Karim Habib, Executive Design Director for Infiniti, to talk about all of the complicated and nuanced elements that have to be considered in approaching a modern design like the Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept.

One of the more interesting elements of the car, beyond it being a sedan in an age of flagship luxury crossovers, is its Variable Compression Turbo (VC-Turbo) engine, the first production-ready motor of its type, and how it’s changed the dynamics and proportions of the car.

Since the engine provides similar power to a larger engine in a smaller package, designers were able to expand the cabin of the car and rethink Infiniti’s design language.


The VC-Turbo in the Inspiration Concept only became more complicated after our interview, when Infiniti announced that all of its new vehicles would be electrified by 2021, making it curious why this concept didn’t preview the company’s apparent alternate plans.

It was noted in the reveal presentation that millions of combustion vehicles will be sold in the coming years, and Infiniti still plans to meet that demand.


Photos: Justin Westbrook

The VC-Turbo’s packaging opportunity for the cabin and interior is timely, as automakers now have to determine how to approach semi-autonomous and self-driving technologies, and how to develop entirely new experiences for the passengers in the car. The struggle is finding the balance between a driver-oriented machine and a family-friendly living room.

Habib started at BMW right out of college, where he said he met Chris Bangle, who he said was a big inspiration and had a great impact on his design approach.


The Inspiration Concept shows he and his team are aware enough of the uncertainties of the industry’s future, but confident and skilled enough to embrace the changes and still deliver a beautiful future-forward design that isn’t just another wrinkled crossover.