To Infiniti and Beyond

Given the relatively cheesy name that Nissan gave to their premium offshoot when it launched way back in 1989, I should be forgiven for the cringe-worthy title of this post. That said despite it’s attention-drawing name and pretty sharp looking product line up, the brand still remains a near-unknown in the UK and Europe several years after it was launched on this side of the Atlantic.

Panamera fighter is at the ready apparently

The majority of you reading a blog post like this will probably have some sort of idea about Infiniti, but for those of you that don’t consider it to Nissan as Lexus is to Toyota; ie a luxury spin off from a Japanese marque. Infiniti themselves would like to be considered the ‘Japanese BMW’, and by that I mean a car company renowned for agile handling and athletic styling as much as for luxury interiors and in-car tech. But unlike the Bavarians, the folks at Infiniti seem to have a problem producing consistent hits and despite their best efforts they have been unable to match even Lexus’ relatively paltry European sales figures let alone anything mainstream.

Early Infinitis like this J30 would probably have fared a lot worse in Europe than the current batch…just

Without making this post too much of a history lesson, after a decade of ups and downs in the 90’s filled with dull styled, rebadged Japanese-market Nissans, Infiniti finally began to release a consistant line-up of cars in the early-to-mid 00’s. Thanks mainly to the compact G35 saloon and coupe they were finally able to grasp a slice of the luxury market and the car proved so popular that it eventually constituted 60% of the brand’s sales. Although the flagship Q45 saloon was discontinued due to low sales, the 5/E/A6 sized M45 saloon garnered praise for it’s sharp handling and luxury interior, and both EX/FX crossovers got a fair amount of attention for their outlandish styling and questionable practicality.

The new-for-2003 FX was a complete bolt out of the blue and still looks fresh today

It’s the FX which really drew my attention to the marque long before it’s launch in the UK; a crossover that looks like nothing else on the road with a V8 under the bonnet, the first generation car was very well received initially and competed with the likes of the first generation Porsche Cayenne and sportier versions of my very own first-gen X5, and it even gained a mini-me in the form of the EX in 2007. Yet because of it’s squat stance and sloping roof-line, neither Infiniti crossover has set the world on fire amongst the buying public who value practicality almost as highly as a desirable badge. The launch of the Nissan-based JX in 2012 went some way to recapturing a slice of the family-market, but at a time where even Lexus has launched a ‘traditional’ compact crossover, Infiniti seems to be paying the price for it’s failure to jump on the SUV bandwagon earlier.

The ‘G’ family has been crazy successful for Infiniti, and even though it’s been replaced by the Q50 it is still sold in some markets beneath the newer model

That said, both the EX and FX are among the models which have made the jump across the Atlantic (alongside the G saloon and coupe and M), and although initially they were only available with 3.7 V6 petrols (or a 5.0 V8 in the larger FX and M) Infiniti were quite quick to make use of a 3.0 V6 diesel engine which was knocking around the Renault-Nissan group stable for the use in other markets. This combined with RHD cars from the outset (take that Cadillac) and that outlandish styling meant that Infiniti had a relatively strong starting point with which to wow UK buyers, even if their dealer network was very small (if admittedly plush with dedicated ‘experience centres’ as opposed to dealerships). However nearly 4 years later and Infiniti are still yet to make a dent on the UK market with very poor sales across all model line ups.

Infiniti’s sharp looking Q50 hasn’t really improved the brand’s UK fortunes…slap a Jag badge on it though and it would be eaten up

Some would say that their extremely confusing naming strategy has gone some way to alienating buyers, but whilst this could be true across the pond I very much doubt that most people in the market for a luxury saloon in the UK know that there is a car called the Infiniti Q50 on sale. Oh that’s right, the previously well regarded ‘G’ family has now been scrapped in favour of the letter ‘Q’, which is the same for all saloons and coupes actually. ‘QX’ is now the name given to all crossovers/SUV’s, taken from the previous range-topping SUV (an ugly but somewhat charming Escalade rival in the US), so the FX is now the QX70 and EX is the QX50…confused much?

The current FX/QX70 is a rare sight on UK roads despite bags of road presence

Still I’ve seen a few FX/QX70 on the roads and they really are striking vehicles; much lower than a conventional 4×4 but drivers would probably still sit a hair above those in a Nissan Qashqai, and of course that’s incredibly important to some 😉 That diesel engine isn’t the most powerful or economical, but the 7 speed gearbox and relatively low weight of the car mean it gets to 60 in a respectable 8.3 seconds, and it should return an achievable 33mpg with emissions falling just in the crucial tax band to prevent £485 per/year becoming a possibility.

The interior of the QX70 is more old school than the exterior, but still pretty classy in my opinion

Inside the QX70 and things are pretty old-school with loads of buttons and an analogue clock! But alot of people prefer the button/touchscreen mix as opposed to the central-control approach that has become a mainstay of most luxury marques…if people laugh at your QX70 then remind them that Porsche follow a very similar approach in the Cayenne, admittedly with less plastic but then the Porsche doesn’t start at £42k with generous equipment and before any discounts…you’d be lucky to get a Macan for that little to be honest (a smaller car which is very similar in concept and yet gets universal praise btw!). You’ll also get a car which is unquestionably good to drive and can still carry a weekly shop no matter what reviews say, unless you have 5 kids in which case you need an MPV/to use protection.

The Q30 looks like a solid A3 competitor, but could morph into a posh Qashqai with QX30 branding

With the upcoming introduction of a new compact ‘Q30’ to compete with the 1-Series/A3 and the likelihood that the next-gen QX50 will morph into a more conventional X3/Q5 rival it seems possible that Infiniti may still have a fighting chance at success in the UK market, but it is a shame that not many people were able to embrace the quirkier side of the brand while they still had a chance…a 2012 FX 3.0d at £25k looks pretty good value for those who are tempted though – depreciation ftw.

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One response to “To Infiniti and Beyond

  1. Pingback: Japanese Funk | readingandwrighting·

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