Sebastian Vettel’s involvement and input on performance specifications suggest this will be no slouch in takeoff and handling…

Infiniti director and F1 Champion Sebastian Vettel takes the wheel...

Infiniti director and F1 Champion Sebastian Vettel takes the wheel… (Photo: Keith Morgan)

From Los Angeles…

Four-time Formula One champion driver Sebastian Vettel has his fingerprints all over the Infiniti Q30 Concept on display at this city’s international auto show.

If that were literally the case, the detailing crew constantly cruising the show floor would soon remove his dabs. However, the hands-on impressions of the Infiniti-Red Bull racer are more than skin deep, extending deep into the performance of the sporty compact.

No powerplant details have been revealed for the car that will start rolling off the production line in early 2015 at Infiniti’s first European-based plant in the northeast UK city of Sunderland. However, Vettel’s involvement and input on performance specifications suggests this will be no slouch in takeoff and road handling. The Q30 Concept is the first model that the 26-year-old German driver has influenced from start-to-finish in his role as Infiniti’s Director of Performance. And a few words on that before we take a look at the sleek auto’s design.

My cynical colleagues have suggested publicly that Vettel’s title is no more than a marketing ploy, with Vettel filling no more than a celebrity spokesman role. But that’s most certainly not the case, based on my private conversations with some Infiniti engineers.

Just prior to my arrival for a drive with the young phenom on a French track this past spring, he had secretly put a number of Infiniti products and competitors through their paces and given immediate trackside input on suggested adjustments. In fact, one engineer told me Vettel is remarkable in the way he can do one lap and return with a complete commentary on how a car performed on every part of the track.

(If the F1 gig doesn’t work out there’s maybe a new career opp for him in the near future!)

The Q30 Concept is a fusion of coupe, hatchback, and crossover body styles and, like Vettel’s racecar, there’s liberal use of carbon fibre throughout. That makes it a very light, aerodynamic and thus potentially high-performing and economical car.

Interestingly, I’m told the designers combined Italian coachwork with the Japanese art of calligraphy to create the lightweight design. Inside, cream and bronze leather features with violet bespoke tailoring, along with contrasting matte and gloss finished metalwork.

Sculpted ceramics are integrated into the upper front seatbacks housing speakers for a “symphonic audio experience.” It offers a level of technologies and features not typically found in compact cars, such as the Infiniti InTouch infotainment system, which uses two touch screens.

Infiniti claims it expects significant growth in the compact premium segment among young-minded affluent customers. Note the reference to young minded.

“The Infiniti Q30 Concept is highly predictive of a new head-turning premium compact that we will launch in early 2015,” said Michael Bartsch, vice-president of Infiniti Americas.

“Research among the new generation of buyers – with Gen X and Gen Y soon to represent 80 per cent of the market – shows an increasing rejection of traditional notions toward premium cars. These buyers are less willing to connect size, presence and high-output power as key ingredients of the premium product. Rather, they’re looking more for balance, great design and outstanding execution.”

The Q30 will likely count the Mercedes-Benz B-Class and the Lexus CT200h hybrid hatchback among its competitors. This car could be a game changer in its class.

Email: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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