Opinion: Infiniti is Headed Nowhere Fast, and Needs an Entirely Different Approach

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

After teasing, promises, and COVID-related delays, the Infiniti QX55 debuted a few weeks ago, as Infiniti eagerly drew direct comparisons between their new “classy” successor and the departed FX35/45. You might remember that shapely SUV headed to its demise in 2017 after it was left to rot for a few years, then renamed QX70. Infiniti chose to ignore its final QX70 name in the press materials and call it FX instead, which says something about their branding strategy, doesn’t it?

Today I’m here to tell you this “new car” is a perfect example of exactly what’s wrong at Infiniti, and the changes needed years ago, not sometime in the future.

Despite the framing of the new QX55 as successor to the FX, a rear-drive based and V6/V8 powered SUV, the two don’t have much in common. FX was far ahead of its time in its display of “coupe SUV” styling, and much more legitimate as a sporty luxury SUV in its context than this new crossover. Underneath FX was the platform of the G35, for the record. The QX55 offers two less than six cylinders and is front-drive, utilizing the QX50’s compact crossover platform.

The QX55 is a slightly chopped version of the relatively unsuccessful QX50, where the roof and cargo area are lower, and the whole vehicle is slightly less useful in the name of “style.” QX55 joins the ranks of the Volkswagen Atlas Cross and the Toyota Venza in this trend. The merits of such design aside, look closely at the QX55, inside and out.

Inside are a collection of Infiniti parts donated from other vehicles. Notably, the center stack, wheel, and most of the buttons hail from the Q50 sedan. That’s unfortunate given their quality in general, the resolution and size of the screens, and the fact the lot is from circa 2014. Check out those window switches!

Outside, the new ride repeats the same styling theme Infiniti has used for years, accompanied by uneven panel gaps and a tailgate which even on the press photos is visibly misaligned. There’s just nothing new on this all-new car, aside from some roof shapes. And check the key in the man’s hand in the headline photo. It debuted on the G35 in 2006.

One could extend these comments to the rest of the aging Infiniti lineup as well. The brand’s present trajectory seems to usher its transformation into a crossover-only outlet, which is absent the performance and rear-drive roots of the brand. And I suppose that’s not an awful approach, perhaps it’s even necessary for today’s crossover-hungry market.

But Infiniti is not especially good at selling crossovers, either. The QX50 had all the hallmarks of a crossover people might want, yet customers largely turned to Lexus or Acura instead. In Q3 2020, Infiniti shifted 5,500 QX50s, while Acura sold 15,038 copies of the RDX. It’s hard to fail at the compact or midsize crossover game, but here we are. And by the way, the company has zero present electrification. It tried an expensive Q50 hybrid previously with the old VQ35 engine, but that didn’t last long.

But maybe that sort of failure is a good thing from Nissan’s perspective, because as they announced previously their intention is to create a “Nissan-plus” lineup at their luxury brand. It’s beyond my understanding why anyone would willingly and intentionally draw a direct line from Infiniti to Nissan and make the former sound like a trim level of the latter, but that’s another issue.

The company has two electric concept designs in the Q and QX Inspirations, which are of sedan and crossover shapes respectively. They’re exciting in theory, and carry the new origami-inspired dented paper design theme the brand will use. But the last time they talked about them was in late 2019, and there’s no date given for these EV product releases. What’s taking so long?

Speaking as someone who willingly bought two Infiniti vehicles in past (the other was an I30), I’m also speaking as someone who’d avoid anything they make today. Unfortunately, I don’t see movement on that needle any time soon. Infiniti should work on building excitement and a solid portfolio of upcoming EV models. Create an EV (and electrified) path forward with cars people actually want to buy, and get one on sale as soon as possible. Creating slightly modified versions of the Altima-adjacent things already on sale while avoiding major product updates like a crowded restaurant in The Current Year? That’s not cutting it, and you can do better.

Infiniti needs to drop the Nissan-plus ideas and go all-in on EV development, yesterday.

[Images: Infiniti, Corey Lewis/TTAC]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 82 comments
  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Dec 04, 2020

    For a long while Infiniti quality paled in comparison to Lexus. Then Lexus dropped the ball and their cars seemed cheaply made compared to earlier days. Genesis is sneaking up with an SUV that is far more attractive than Lexus or Infiniti's offerings - and it's only a matter of time before they match them in quality and reliability, if they haven't already. As far as the Germans go, they are unassailable to the Japanese and Koreans, as their customers will tolerate any abuses in the repair shop to have that badge. Infiniti needs a critical rethink as described here and Lexus needs to quit being smug about competing with the Germans and watch out for Genesis.

  • ToyotaCorona ToyotaCorona on Apr 29, 2021

    The Infiniti QX55 is a dud, period. My 2009 FX-35 with over 100K miles is much nicer in every way! 21" Wheels, better horsepower: 303 hp @ 6800 rpm vs 268 hp @ 5,600 rpm. More interior room, even now, more WOW factor. Let's face it, Infiniti / Nissan are making cars that are boring as hell! The FX-35 was in the tradition of the 280Z and other alpha cars with plenty of testosterone. On the other hand, the QX55 is a tame, lame, beta, soy-protein wimp-moibile! LOL Infiniti / Nissan never had the build quality of Lexus / Toyota or Acura / Honda, but at least their cars used to be fun. Now they are bland as well as mediocre. And still doubling down on the cheapo CVT technology? Are they trying to become Japan's answer to Hyundai? I'll take the 7-speed on my FX-35 any day over Infiniti/Nissan's CVT! Like another poster said, this is yet another deal-breaker. What were they thinking when they put an anemic 2.0 four in this thing??? What will that embarrassing 6.4 seconds 0-60 drop down to when the engine and turbo have 5 years, 60k miles on them??? I'll pass, thank you very much!

  • Carson D I hadn't seen a second-generation Courier with a Mazda engine before. I've seen a few with Ford engines. There was one at the Cox Driving Range that they used to collect golf balls. Golf would definitely be more entertaining to watch if they used moving targets.
  • Tassos ooops, Tim, you missed this one. Would make a lovely "Tim's used car of the day". It satisfies all the prerequisites except the wildly overpriced bit.
  • Tassos ASTON AND BOND BY A MILE. While Aston Martin sells a TINY FRACTION of what even the rarified Ferrari and Lambo sell, it is unbelievably well known. Credit the idiotic, but hugely successful and sometimes entertaining James Bond Movies.
  • Tassos 1988? Too young for me. It's all yours, Tim... BAHAHAHAHA!
  • Gray Awesome. Love these. But, if I had the money for a Fox-body, there is a clean '84 GT 350 here for little more than half the price.