Sneak Peek: Infiniti QX Sport Inspiration

A few months ago, Japanese luxury automaker Infiniti sneaked us into its La Jolla design studio for a preview of what was to come in the next 18 months. At that point, Infiniti was trucking its Q30 and QX30 concepts from one auto show to the next, to the detriment of an aging portfolio of cars and trucks that weren't hitting the sweet spots of their respective categories. Then, in the room shrouded in secrecy, the lead designers pulled the covers off one showstopper after another. It was the first time we laid eyes on the production version of the Q60 coupe, which began life as a design study with no confirmed future a year earlier, as well as a handful of other concepts brought to life. The brand's boldness was ready for prime time. Years of showing off concepts like the Q80 Inspiration were about to pay off.

All of this leads up to the crossover SUV you see here, the QX Sport Inspiration, which debuted at the Beijing Auto Show Sunday as a glimpse of what Infiniti might do with its eclectic portfolio of sport-utility vehicles. In a recent interview with Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti's director of design, we learned that "the good thing about Infiniti is that [its SUVs] don’t all have to look alike, but they have to feel that they’re all tied down." This concept, which the brand admits "hints at [a] future Infiniti mid-sized premium SUV," has the potential to finally unite the brand's design themes.

Exactly how big is the QX Sport Inspiration? It's as long as a Toyota RAV4 (181.1 inches), as wide as a Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan (74.8 inches), and as high off the ground as a Volvo XC60 (9.1 inches). Curiously, or not, the QX Sport Inspiration's wheelbase is approximately 110 inches — about an inch off the Nissan Murano's. Using the plush-for-a-Nissan Murano as a jumping-off point for an Infiniti crossover would make a lot of sense. Presenting the QX Sport Inspiration as a concept car in the classic sense, Infiniti chose not to offer any specifics about what kind of engine might lie under the shapely hood, but the Murano's 3.5-liter V-6 would add nicely to the value proposition.

Just as the QX Sport Inspiration's exterior design reflects an evolution of a theme, the interior evokes a cleaner, more finished version of the one first seen in the Q80 Inspiration. Inside, a fashionable central control knob sits below a wide display screen, among diamond-patterned everything. The most exquisite design element has to be the thick-and-thin steering wheel. Throughout, the interior and exterior exhibit elegant, if not entirely unfinished, shapes.

If Infiniti can come through and rejuvenate its SUV lineup as successfully as it did with sedans and coupes, there's hope yet for the brand that staked a reputation on natural interpretations of luxury. The QX Sport Inspiration isn't an Infiniti for China: It's the one the whole world needs.