Infiniti Project Black S concept is an F1-inspired rocket
Infiniti's latest prototype hits the road with Renault's Formula 1 tech.
Emme HallFormer editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
When we last saw Infiniti's Project Black S concept car, it was just a design study. Now, the company brings a full-fledged working prototype to the 2018 Paris Motor Show this week, and it looks to be a techno marvel.
Based off the Q60 Red Sport 400 sports coupe, the Project Black S combines traditional road-car bones with Renault's Formula One technology. The result is a dual-hybrid powertrain and full drive- and brake-by-wire driving controls, not to mention a whole lot of carbon fiber.
The Project Black S has a unique hybrid system that can not only capture energy during braking like other modern hybrids, it can also create electricity upon acceleration, just like an F1 race car. This is done by adding two generators on the gas engine's twin turbochargers. These generators harvest the heat created during acceleration.
That energy is stored in a 4.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, housed where the rear seat seat would usually be located. As in F1 cars, the power is deployed in one of two ways. It helps to spool up those turbos quickly to reduce lag and can send power to the drivetrain -- up to 160-ish hp of it -- for that sweet, sweet instant electric torque.
The base, gas-powered engine is a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6, putting out 400 horsepower. Add the dual-hybrid and that goes up to 563 horsepower, which should be enough to push the Project Black S from 0 to 62 miles per hour in less than four seconds. Power goes to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission.
Taking another cue from F1, the Project Black S features full by-wire driver controls. While drive-by-wire acceleration, gear shifts and steering are already present in the current Infiniti Q60 coupe, the concept adds a brake-by-wire system. This helps in the regenerative capabilities of the brakes, but Infiniti's statement also says it will deliver "a consistent, satisfying brake feel and high heat capacity, despite repeated heavy use."
The Project Black S has three distinct drive modes: Road, Quali and Race. Road offers the most efficient use of power, recharging the battery as you toddle along while still allowing for a quick passing maneuver. This is for daily driving at or slightly above the speed limit. When it comes time to, um, qualify for that first race on the track, Quali mode gives the driver as much power as possible, while kicking up the regenerative braking up a notch to resupply the battery.
Finally, Race mode is similar to how the Renault F1 car behaves in an actual race. It offers sustained power where needed while still being able to conserve enough energy to last as long as possible. While Quali can give you mucho power for one lap, Race ensures you have a sustained amount of power for a whole race.
In digital testing the Project Black S completed the 4.655-kilometer Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and used only 15-percent of its battery power, even in Quali mode. However, real-world testing has yet to be completed.
With all the extra hardware, Infiniti turned to carbon fiber to keep the car's weight down. However, even with carbon-fiber hood, fenders, roof panels, trunk lid and seats, the thing still tips the scales at 3,915 pounds. For comparison, the Q60 Red Sport 400 with rear-wheel drive weighs in at 3,862 pounds.
We have no word as to if or when we'll see the Project Black S in showrooms, but Infiniti says 2019 will be spent testing the prototype on the track in the real world.