Geneva 2011: Infiniti Etherea Hybrid Concept tries not to look like a hatchback

Infiniti Etherea Concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

Infiniti is clearly interested in expanding its model line into the compact segment, a fact evidenced by the Etherea Concept that it is currently showing off at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. The most far-out styling feature of the Etherea is no doubt the crescent-shaped C-pillar, though opinions seem to vary on its effectiveness on such a compact car.

In any case, all the hallmarks of a modern-day concept car are present and accounted for, including a hybrid powertrain that features a 245-horsepower supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a twin-clutch system that links the electric motor to the engine. All those ponies are routed through a continuously variable automatic transmission to the front wheels.

As far as the styling goes, Infiniti has this to say about the Etherea Concept: "As an exploration of a future entry-level Infiniti production model, Etherea can be summed up as a four-door coupe with five-door practicality – a hatchback that doesn't look like a hatchback." We'll let you decide how true that may be...

Feel free to read the complete press release after the break, and be sure to check out our high-res gallery of live photos below.

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Photos copyright ©2011 Drew Phillips / AOL
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Infiniti ETHEREA: The Compact Luxury Car Re-imagined

The Infiniti ETHEREA, a special concept vehicle designed to preview how a future Infiniti entry-level compact performance luxury sedan could look, made its world debut today at the 81st International Geneva Motor Show. ETHEREA is designed to project both an "evolving Infiniti identity" and a profile that is distinctly different from any current vehicle available in the premium compact class.

"ETHEREA is about a new type of luxury for younger buyers," said Toru Saito, Corporate Vice President and leader of the Global Infiniti Business Unit. "It is not just a smaller version of a typically conservative and traditional luxury car."

Designed under the direction of Senior Vice President of Design Shiro Nakamura, ETHEREA blends elements of coupe, sedan, hatchback and even crossover designs in one highly sculptural, near-mono volume form.

At just over 14 feet in length, ETHEREA is highly compact but at the same time it is space efficient and practical – thanks to a new mechanical layout and innovative access arrangements. Among its surprises are new high-tech interpretations of traditional Japanese materials and finishes, and several design cues set to make their mark on future production models, including the highly distinctive crescent-shaped C-pillar first seen on the Infiniti Essence concept.

ETHEREA's segment-busting appeal is based on the coming together of several vehicles styles. It is part elegant coupe, part spacious sedan, part practical hatchback and even part tall crossover. And being an Infiniti, there is also a large helping of sports car in the way it drives. The front-wheel drive ETHEREA concept has been designed for a potent yet highly efficient hybrid drivetrain based around the innovative one electric motor/twin clutch system used in the new Infiniti M Hybrid.

A supercharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, developing 245 horsepower, provides quick response and strong acceleration throughout the performance range. Boosting power when more is needed, and providing silent, emission-free driving at low speeds, is an electric motor. The transmission is a continuously variable (CVT) type. An independent suspension, regenerative braking and advanced drive-by-wire electric/hydraulic steering further enhance performance.

The spacious four-seat ETHEREA cabin offers all the luxury that Infiniti owners expect, plus unrivalled ease of access and egress boosted by an H-point, which is higher than that of the average compact luxury car. Four wide-opening doors, rear-hinged at the back, and an absence of B-pillar offer an unprecedented feeling of openness.

As an exploration of a future entry-level Infiniti production model, ETHEREA can be summed up as a four-door coupe with five-door practicality – a hatchback that doesn't look like a hatchback.

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