Déjà vu on the show circuit
At this year’s Geneva show, Maserati announced the Alfieri concept; a preview for a new Grand Turismo, aimed at the sort of affluent customer who might otherwise choose a Porsche 911, Aston Martin or heaven help us – one of those vulgar new Mercedes-AMG things.
The massed congregation of auto journalists and commentators swooned as one over its voluptuous lines and surfaces – courtesy of Lorenzo Ramaciotti’s Centro Stile. And pretty it certainly was; with its characteristic long bonnet, short rump, GT silhouette and classical proportions, all guaranteed to promote lust at ten paces. Looks-wise then, it certainly had the potential to knock any putative rival out of the stadium. But I found it difficult to shake a nagging voice – surely I had seen this car – or something remarkably akin to it before. I rationalised on the basis that such a classic shape has been done to death since its 1960’s heyday and merely a sense of the familiar. Or perhaps not…
I had seen it before. Five years ago, to be exact. At the 2009 Geneva Motor show, Nissan’s Infiniti sub-brand showed the Essence concept – aimed at showcasing a new design ethos and forecasting an entire range of more exciting vehicles to wear the hallowed Infiniti badge. The Nissan press release gushed that it embodied the ‘essence of the brand’; designed to celebrate Infiniti’s past – (really?), while debuting their ‘Dynamic Adekaka’ design language. Based on Japanese traditions, the sharp lines and complex surfacing referenced cultural pieces like the ‘Kanzashi’ hairpin worn with the kimono. Come now, surely you knew that?
All of which may or may not be a whole load of old toffee, but either way the Essence was one hell of a looker. However, just like label-mates Renault, Infiniti have shown a marked tendency to talk a good concept, but when it comes to production, water it down to such a degree, very little of what attracted you in the first place remains. So while you can see the essence of the Essence in today’s Infiniti saloons and crossovers, they have (so far) productionised nothing that even remotely approaches this concept’s visual flair.
So am I saying Maserati referenced Nissan? Not really, especially given the fact that Infiniti have no appreciable design heritage to draw upon anyway. Many observers at the time noted the Essence resembled a selection of European designs from the late ’60s, so any assertion is probably moot. Nevertheless, the visual similarity between both concepts (to these eyes at least) is striking, although for me, the Essence wins the beauty contest by some margin.
The Infiniti never saw production, which was something of a pity. But on the other hand it’s highly likely the Maserati will. Having said that however, it is equally likely that some of its more outré design details may fall on the cutting room floor once the production engineers get their hands on it. Certainly the ill-proportioned appearance of both current Maserati saloons doesn’t auger well for the Alfieri or whatever Maserati choose to name it when it launches in 2016.
Nevertheless, both it and the Essence embody the kind of mastery of line and proportion the new Mercedes-AMG GT would probably commit atrocities to emulate. Meanwhile, let’s all hope that when Maserati finally launch a production version of the Alfieri, we are not left wondering how it lost the essence of its concept – even if it could be said to contain an Essence of another one altogether.