When car companies need to stretch out a model’s useful lifespan, there are a number of tricks they use. After the first year, new colors are added. The next few year options and trim parts are tweaked. Around year four, a limited edition surfaces followed by a drivetrain revamp in year 5. And so it is with Infiniti’s sporty FX crossover, now entering its fifth model year as the “new” 2013 Infiniti FX37. You guessed it, the only thing new about the FX37 is the engine. Today’s burning question is: does a new engine give a luxury vehicle a lease on life? Or is this thinly disguised crossover life support? Click through the jump to find out.
So you think you need to carry seven people in comfort with decent economy but you don’t want to buy a minivan? Enter the three-row crossover. Thanks to stronger fuel economy regulations there are plenty of three-row CUVs to choose from, but you want something with a better brand name under 55-large, what does that do to the playing field? You’re left with the Lincoln MKT, Acura MDX, Volvo XC90, Buick Enclave and the newcomer in this phone booth sized segment: the 2013 Infiniti JX35. The new soft-roader Infiniti is already off to a good start coming in third in sales to the Enclave and MDX despite sales starting in April of this year. What’s it like to live with for a week and how does it stack up? Click through the jump to find out.
Infiniti has characteristically taken the path less travelled. The original Q45 was styled to express Japanese culture (rather than imitate the Germans), tuned for drivers, and infamously advertised with video of rocks and trees. The brand finally hit its stride thirteen years later with the compact rear-wheel-drive G35. It jumped on the crossover bandwagon with a pair of cozy cabined, firmly suspended, VQ-propelled eggs. Those seeking space for their family and their family’s stuff had a choice between the massive truck-based QX56 and something that wasn’t an Infiniti (often an Acura MDX). Market and dealer pressure to offer something much closer to the norm was no doubt intense. So, for 2013, we have the Infiniti JX35 (originally reviewed by Derek Kreindler). Has the brand’s character been overly compromised, or is this the crossover Infiniti should have offered from the start?
The Infiniti JX marks the fourth SUV or crossover for the brand, slotting between the FX sporty crossover and the gargantuan QX56. According to Infiniti, the brand had nothing to stem the flow of customers who were dabbling outside the brand when it came time for a three-row luxury crossover. Instead of letting their clients go off and get an Acura MDX or Audi Q7, Infiniti took the underpinnings of the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder and co-opted them for a luxury vehicle.
“This is Infiniti’s design language for the next 10 years to come,” says Francois Bancon, and points at a laptop that shows pictures and strategy of the INFINITI EMERG-E, a concept car that debuts today in Geneva.
We are in Yokohama, on the fifth floor of Nissan’s corporate world headquarters, while Infiniti’s first range extended mid-ship concept sports car is unveiled in Switzerland. It is there, I am told “to provide a glimpse into Infiniti’s future.” The future is undecided. This car may, or may not come.
The design of the car oozes seductive sex. That, thankfully, will rub off on the whole Infiniti line, I hear.
Will the Emerge lead Nissan to a range extended future? “Not necessarily,” says Bancon, with the best sybillinic smile he can muster.
Most luxury sedans try to do everything fairly well, while taking no risks that might turn off a potential buyer. The typical end result: a car with few memorable characteristics, good or bad. Despite a “have your cake and eat it too” powertrain, the Infiniti M35h is not such a car. You might not like everything about it. But you will remember it.
If you thought high gas prices and a questionable economy meant the era of big SUVs was over, you’d be wrong; 2011 saw large SUV sales in the US grow 3.7% with a 7.4% growth in the luxury SUV segment. If you are one of those people with six-figure salaries and snow-filled school runs, the Cadillac Escalade is probably on your short list. But what about the person who isn’t ready to look “gangsta” while dropping Jimmy Jr. off at softball practice? Infiniti might just have the answer: the all-new, all-enormous QX56. Michael Karesh snagged a QX56 from a dealer back in March 2011, and in December Infiniti tossed me the keys to a 7-seat QX to see what the behemoth is like to live with for a week.
As auto enthusiasts, we champion cars that deviate from the soporific segment norm. If we don’t, who will? Most manufacturers offer, at most, one or two such vehicles. Then there’s Nissan and its luxury arm, Infiniti. In the crossover / SUV / minivan arena they field a fiscally insane hodgepodge of deviants: cube, JUKE, Xterra, Quest, EX, FX. Automotive deviants rarely sell well, and (like their human analogues) often die tragically early deaths. Not the Infiniti FX, now in its tenth model year. But will there be a third generation?
Let’s face it, hybrids are boring. They are slow, complicated, come with hard tires and soft suspensions, sloppy handling, and they look weird. We’ve heard the story before: this hybrid is different. First Lexus gave us the GS and RX hybrids claiming V8 performance with V6 fuel economy, but the result was more like V6 performance with V6 economy, not really a great sales pitch. Still, hybrids sell well and with Infiniti marching towards mainstream luxury success they “need” a hybrid. Of course, with Infiniti aiming to be the “Japanese BMW”, performance is obviously a prime concern, so the claim from Infiniti that the M35h will deliver “V8 performance and four-cylinder economy” was expected. But is it another case of leather clad disappointment? Let’s find out.
I’m a horrible car guy; I dislike convertibles. It’s not really for the usual reason car buffs dislike going topless, it has nothing to do with the inevitable loss of stiffness or added weight and complexity and everything to do with the reduction in practicality. I realize that a practical convertible is something of an oxymoron, but some are worse than others. It’s no wonder the convertible landscape is littered with has-beens, convertible sales only account for 2% of passenger car sales in North America and premium ‘verts are an even smaller part of the pie. It is therefore no surprise that the G37 convertible is only the second ever Infiniti convertible.
You have your reasons. Gas prices might be high and headed higher, and car-based crossovers handle better, but you want your full-sized, full-lux, body-on-frame conventional SUV. GM and Ford, the segment’s traditional rulers, have had nothing new to offer in five years. But Infiniti has as much faith in the segment’s continued vitality as you do—why else would they have introduced an all-new QX56 for the 2011 model year?
As recounted last week, I had been wanting for years to meet up with my best friend and both of our fathers in a pair of Mazda RX-8s for a spirited West Virginia road trip. Finally, the appointed day arrived for the drive from Detroit to West Virginia. The car selected for the task: a 2010 Infiniti G37S six-speed coupe.
Infiniti was born out of international politics. When the Japanese government caved to US demands that exports from Japan be limited, Honda decided that it would be more profitable to sell high-profit (read: more expensive) variants of the Accord branded as an Acura Legend than an equal number of Civics. Soon Toyota was rumored to be plotting to do one better with their F1 project and Nissan knew they couldn’t be late to the party. Japan’s third brand’s solution was the 1990 Q45, which looked like a Ford Crown Victoria in drag. Sadly its replacement in 1997 wasn’t much better and the total re-design in 2002 was too little, too late. In the end Nissan canned the Q-ship deciding to make the Infiniti M battle the medium to large imports solo.
Two decades have elapsed since rocks and trees went on TV to announce the birth of a new, proudly Japanese luxury car brand from Nissan. Infiniti somehow survived that car-free campaign and the (baker’s) dozen years of wandering in the desert that followed to finally enjoy some success with the 2003 G35. Sales might be off lately, but in light of the brand’s first 13 years and the entire industry’s last few years the mere act of survival merits a celebration. And what better way to celebrate than with special editions of the model that saved the brand (and that is currently most in need of a bump), recently renamed G37 to reflect an enlarged V6. Of course, some special editions are more special than others. Just how special is the G37 Anniversary Edition?
“We need young, college-educated people like you,” the man said, “because the old way of selling cars is dead and gone. That’s why I was hired — to bring the dealership into the present day.” And with those thoroughly self-deceived words, the new sales manager at “Infiniti Of Columbus” welcomed to me to the team in March of 1994. It was the end of winter in Ohio, but it was just the middle of Infiniti’s long winter of discontent. We had three products. There was a facelifted Q45 which precisely nobody wanted. There was a facelifted G20 which cost nearly as much as a Lexus ES300 while closely resembling a Nissan Sentra inside and out. Note, however, that the G20 shared nothing but the engine with the aforementioned Sentra. On any given month, we would sell two G20s and no Q45s. In fact, during my entire six months’ tenure at the store, we only sold two Q45s, one of them to a salesman who was quitting to go work for Merrill Lynch.
It was the new-for-1993 J30 that kept the lights on and paid our meager draws against commission. The jellybean-shaped, rear-wheel-drive sedan was available as a J30 or J30t. Neither car had any options available: in an amazing reductio ad absurdum of the Japanese export philosophy, the equipment list was the same for every single car that came off the boat. The “t” model added HICAS four-wheel-steering, a rear spoiler that truly spoiled the otherwise interesting design, and some cross-spoke wheels. They were hideously expensive — $37,995 and up in an era where an LS400 could be had for fifty grand or less — and they were both controversial-looking and suspiciously similar to a Nissan Altima at a distance. (Jerry Hirschberg designed ’em both.)
It didn’t matter. We rarely sold any outright, but more than 20 would leave the lot every month thanks to the Magic Lease.
With the 2006-2010 Infiniti M, a highly competent luxury performance sedan was hidden beneath utterly forgettable sheetmetal. Before my father bought his 2008 Cadillac CTS I suggested that he also check out the M. One glance at the car’s exterior was all he needed to summarily reject it. Well, for 2011 Infiniti has totally redesigned the M to address this shortcoming. The question now: does the rest of the car measure up to the new come-hither exterior?
Many cars look and drive much like any number of other cars. They’re simply not special in any way. You might as well toss a coin to choose among them. The EX35 is not one of these cars. Infiniti’s compact crossover is unlike anything else in the U.S. market. And you’re either going to love it or, more likely, hate it.
Luxury sport sedans have a lot of boxes to tick. In a segment where high price points have not prevented a a crowd of competitors from gathering, every contender must develop a unique identity that sets it apart from the pack. This means a combination of performance, character, quality and feel that makes the car’s priorities evident, and speaks to the tastes of its well-heeled driver. Instead of picking a specific formula, the M35x tried too hard to check all the boxes, leaving it almost completely without distinguishing characteristics. The upside is an almost utilitarian soullessness, an anonymous competence that defines much of the front-drive luxury market. In this group though, we’re looking for more than that. The Infiniti’s driving experience comes across as a pastiche of other, more memorable cars, and this lack of identity drops the M to last place.