Infiniti Prototype 10 concept is inspired by classic race cars

Infiniti has an affinity for putting new things in old packages. In 2017, the Nissan luxury brand wrapped a modern electric powertrain in retro race car styling to create the Prototype 9 concept. Now, Infiniti is back with another variation on the same theme: The Prototype 10.

Unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, site of the 2017 Prototype 9 unveiling, the Infiniti Prototype 10 concept looks like the futuristic descendant of a Jaguar D-Type. But underneath the be-finned bodywork and cut-down windshield sits a modern electrified powertrain.

“Electrified” can mean all-electric or hybrid, but Infiniti won’t say exactly what sits under the Prototype 10’s hood.  Instead of a passenger seat, the right side of the cockpit houses air vents used for cooling a battery pack and electric motor. The long hood leaves plenty of room for a V8, but if there is an internal-combustion engine under there, it’s probably something much smaller.

As with the Prototype 9, this new concept references cars built decades before Infiniti’s 1989 launch. In a statement, Infiniti design boss Karim Habib said his team looked so far back for inspiration because they wanted to channel “an optimistic bygone era in which cars were characterized by the simple love of driving,” in order to point the way toward a future of electrified performance cars.

All Infiniti models will offer hybrid or all-electric powertrains beginning in 2021, and Habib said these cars will be exciting to drive.

“For use, electrification means performance. Our cars will be powerful, efficient, and highly rewarding to drive, and Prototype 10 is a physical representation of our electrified future,” Habib said.

Cars like the Tesla Model S and Acura NSX have shown us that electrification doesn’t have to be boring. But the Prototype 10 also features Infiniti’s controversial Direct Adaptive Steering system, as seen on the Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe. Infiniti claims it frees up space in the cockpit, but it still feels like an inappropriate choice. The system eliminates the physical connection between the steering wheel and the road in order to enable driver-assist features in production cars. That seems at odds with the Prototype 10’s driver-focused mission.

The Prototype 10 is just a concept car, and won’t go into production. But we should start seeing the first of Infiniti’s new wave of electrified models soon. If they look half as good as this old-meets-new concept, Infiniti will be on the right track.

Updated on August 24: Added in-person photos from the Infiniti display at ‘The Quail’ show during Monterey Car Week.

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