Driving a car with doors open isn’t a great idea at the best of times, especially when it’s a million pound-plus concept car being edged through a curiously enthusiastic crowd. But driver Thomas Henkel and I are keen to edge forward with this Infiniti’s doors open, because this concept has no ventilation, no air-conditioning, no opening windows and a glass roof that instantly illustrates how a solar panel generates energy beneath a beating sun.
This Infiniti goes rather well with its 3.7 litre V6, but its role is really to sit on exhibition stands and look pretty, a task that its decidedly sensuous lines perform rather well inside the Goodwood Festival of Speed FoS-TECH Pavilion, where a collection of green concepts and prototypes provides quite contrast to the history roaring up Lord March’s driveway.
So what’s green about this elegantly indulgent-looking coupe? The fact that, were Infiniti to build it – and more on that shortly – it would actually be propelled by a parallel hybrid developing a over 600bhp, 434bhp of it erupting from a twin turbo version of the V6, the remaining 158bhp provided by a lithium-ion powered electric motor.
The Essence is all about where Infiniti, the upmarket offshoot of Nissan, is headed next in terms of technology in style. But at Goodwood, this rather beautiful coupe does a fine job of providing a first introduction to the brand, which has only just been launched in the UK and to judge by the many that asked questions about it, is barely known here.
When the Essence was conceived there were no plans to produce it, the mission instead to preview the hybrid drivetrains that the company will be launching next year, and to hint at some of the sculpting that we can expect to see in the next generation of Infinitis. Word is that the assertive shoulder line, the C pillar treatment, the headlights and the dashboard will all get aired again.
From my station inside it’s easier to admire that dash of course, which is finely tailored in leather and suede and striking for its clean, sculpted swoops and an impressively well-contained button count. This is one of the most tastefully conceived high-end concept coupes to have come out of Japan, and that is doubtless the point.
The point right now, however, is for Henkel to exercise this silver machine on the Goodwood hill. Being a concept car it’s not really built for speed but Henkel, who has been minding this car for weeks and is now pretty familiar with it, hits speeds of 60-70mph, which is a lot for a concept if decidedly snail-like compared to much other machinery running here today.
But that’s enough to give the Essence an airing, and wonder why Infiniti isn’t going to build highly desirable this car. And word is, in fact, that the company is reconsidering, so keenly has the Essence been received in Europe. If it wins similar enthusiasm in America - the Pebble Beach concours is a future destination - the momentum behind it could strengthen.