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Infiniti Emerg-E

After 23 years, Infiniti has worked itself into a luxury car equivalent of a safety school. Many Infiniti models rank among the best in their class and deserve consideration from any shopper -- but there's no class where Infiniti clearly surpasses its rivals, which always seem to have just a touch more style, power or panache. Nissan's made steps to turn Infiniti into more of a luxury brand, painting its name on the Red Bull F1 car powered by corporate parent Renault, but no one's really making that connection yet because there's no real connection to be made. What Infiniti needs is a model that stuns the world, and the Emerg-E looks like the first Infiniti concept that could do it. The Emerg-E is apparently a range-extended electric vehicle; there's clearly a rear-mounted engine under its glass deck, but Nissan hasn't revealed any details about power output or driven wheels. There's been a few two-seat concept electric vehicles, but the extreme weight penalty of a big battery-engine combo has made building a competent sports car from such a concept impossible. The upcoming Acura NSX is a more straightforward hybrid, with electric motors driving the front wheels and a traditional gas engine powering the rear. That's still three years off -- enough time for Infiniti to decide whether it wants the reward of a big risk or to keep playing it safe.

Infiniti Emerg-E concept

Infiniti Emerg-E concept at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show.