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Buick, Infiniti, Lexus create luxury coupe interest

Signs point to resurgence in personal car segment for luxury buyers

Infiniti Q60

The luxury coupe may be making a comeback, if early indications from some premium manufacturers at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit are any indication.

Buick, Infiniti and Lexus all showed classically styled 2-door bodystyles that are either going into production, ready for production or speculating about production.

Infiniti Q60

In the “going into production” category, Infiniti unveiled the Q60 coupe — the long awaited replacement for the G37 coupe, after Infiniti changed its product nomenclature — a car the company says balances luxury and performance.

Power comes from the latest iteration of the VR engine, a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V-6 that makes either 300 or 400 hp, though the car can also be ordered with turbo 2.0-litre 4-cylinder that makes 208 hp. The drivetrain is all-wheel, though it is biased toward the rear for a sportier driving feel.

Dynamic adaptive steering provides feel and feedback to the driver’s preferences, with changes in levels of assist available at the push of button. The driving mode also allows the choice of progressive degrees of firmness in ride and handling.

“The Q60 will affirm Infiniti’s leadership in the premium sports coupe class,” said Roland Krueger, President of Infiniti. “The Infiniti Q60 conveys a powerful elegance through its daring design, and has the performance credentials to match – thanks to next-generation ride and handling technologies and up to 400 horsepower.”

Whereas the first Q60 was just a rebadged G37, the new car has the new signature Infiniti cues, such as the double arch grille (fitted with an Active Grille Shutter to improve engine efficiency at various speeds), eyelid headlights and the kinked rear side windows. It’s also wider than its predecessor to give it a more stable appearance, while lowering the centre of gravity improves driving dynamics.

The driver-centric interior features high-end accents and bold materials, such as aluminum trim on the base trim (with higher trims getting carbon-fiber accents or silver glass fibre on versions upholstered in white or red leather).

“Interior artistry for Infiniti is about a fitted, personal approach,” explained Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti Executive Design Director. “We modeled the Q60’s interior around the concept of a ‘driver’s glove’ – the driver is always comfortable and the cabin is tailored for them.”

The new Infiniti Q60 sports coupe goes on sale in late summer 2016.

Lexus LC 500

A little farther away, the Lexus LC 500 is poised to assume flagship status within the Lexus lineup.

Introduced almost exactly four years after the LF-LC Concept piqued luxury buyers’ interests about what a premium Lexus coupe could be, the company announces plans to put the LC into production heading toward a 2017 introduction.

“The LC 500 has been an important product for Lexus and me personally,” said Akio Toyoda, Chief Branding Officer and Master Driver for Lexus. “This flagship luxury coupe’s proportions, stunning design and performance make a strong statement about our brand’s emotional direction and will grow the Lexus luxury appeal globally.”

The interior is luxurious and tailored for performance, with intuitively placed controls and seats designed for long-drive comfort (which can be switched up for sports seats if the onus is to be shifted toward handling) with supple leather surfaces and Alcantara inserts. Even the design of the steering wheel was the result of a focus on driving, with size and angle carefully considered, as well as the placement of the magnesium alloy shift paddles.

“At an early stage, the designers collaborated with the engineers to understand their image for the LC 500’s driving dynamics, and they incorporated this into the design,” said Tadao Mori, the chief designer of the LC 500. “For example, we gave serious consideration to where the driver’s eyes would focus, and designed the surface shape in that area to help support a driver’s mindset. This project was one of the first times that designers were closely involved in the dynamic engineering development so we could understand the driving goals and support with the car’s design.”

The LC 500 is the first product of Lexus’s all-new premium rear-drive luxury architecture, which locates most of the vehicle’s mass (including engine and cabin occupants) between the wheels to centralize the weight around the centre of gravity. It’s also one of the stiffest structures Lexus has ever made (to promote consistent reaction to road and speed forces), and interesting multi-link suspension features (such as double ball joints on the upper and lower control arms to allow minute movement controls).

Power comes from the 5.0-litre V-8 that’s also found on the RC F performance coupe and GS F sports sedan. Producing 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque, it will be interesting to see what its replacement would be if Lexus creates an LC F. Power is sent to the rear wheels by a new electronic 10-speed sequential automatic (which is supposedly smaller and lighter than some current dual clutch units).

Buick Avista

Buick’s vision of the luxury coupe, evidenced in the Avista concept, is a bit farther away. In fact, the company hasn’t announced if the car will come to production, pending public reaction during the auto show season.

Like the Lexus, Avista is its company’s vision of a flagship 2-plus-2 grand tourer, powered by a 400-hp 3.0-litre twin-turbo V-6 driving the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic. Engine Stop/Start and cylinder deactivation are included to make the engine as efficient as it is powerful.

“The Avista embodies the dynamic soul of Buick,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick Sales, Service and Marketing. “It is a modern expression of the brand’s heritage of sophisticated performance, communicated with beautiful elegance.”

The look is reminiscent of the Avenir concept, which paved the way for 2017 LaCrosse sedan as the first in the company to use the new design language. Front and centre is the brand’s new winged tri-shield colour logo seemingly floating on a 3D mesh backdrop (and not the traditional Buick waterfall grille).

Like the exterior, the Avista interior is defined by exposed carbon fibre and aluminum trim panels, and lines flowing uninterrupted from instrument panel to door trim on the outboard surfaces and longitudinally down the centre of the car to separate individual seating areas. Quiet Tuning (noise cancellation) and air-quality control improve comfort levels for cabin occupants.

Use of 3D printing makes for elegantly flowing panels and detailed surfaces, while high-resolution displays turn virtual images into crisp instruments.

“Waves, whether from the sea or in the sand, are all about motion and flow,” concluded Bryan Nesbitt, executive director Global Buick Design. “That’s exactly what this concept is all about – flowing design and the purity of the driving experience.”

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