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I Miss Liking Infiniti

By: Anthony Fongaro
Original Post:
As we know, automotive manufacturers go through phases. Back in the early 2000s, BMW had the controversial designs of Chris Bangle.  Hyundai and Kia went from crappy budget vehicles to having Hyundai create their own luxury brand, Genesis, bringing amazing design and tech at an affordable price. Unfortunately, some manufacturers go backward. They may discontinue certain cars, not update their vehicles in a timely manner, or just make terrible decisions.
At first, I was going to talk about both Acura and Infiniti. Acura seems to be going in the right direction. They came out with two vehicles in the last few years that will help them. The first is the RDX. This small SUV has a nice interior, good A-Spec styling, and a 270-horsepower engine with a 10-speed automatic. Acura just unveiled the new TLX and from the looks of it, it’s going to be a serious competitor to both the Japanese and German brands. So for now, it looks like Acura is going in the right direction. The same can’t be said for Infiniti. In the last few years, we’ve seen stale designs, mediocre engines with...CVTs...and poor luxury. Can they change? Absolutely. Let’s first see what they had going for them.

Infiniti had a great coupe and sedan with the original 2002 G35. The design of both the coupe and sedan were handsome and has aged quite well. Powering the G35 was a 3.5-liter V6 producing between 260 and 280-horsepower and 268 lb-ft. This meant 0-60 MPH was around 5.2 seconds. Powering the rear wheels and utilizing either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic, the G35 was a fun car. Today, you can find them for around $10,000-$15,000 with leather interiors, xenon lights, and a Bose® sound system. 2008 saw a redesign and new name with the 2008 G37. This time, an available AWD system, a new 7-speed automatic, and a 328-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 saw 0-60 times of 5.0-5.1 seconds. The G35  was apart of Car and Driver’s 10 Best in 2003, which says something.

Moving on from Infiniti’s sports sedan and coupe, we now look at their performance SUV. This was the FX, and the one we are going to look at is the 2008 FX50. Although there was a rear-wheel-drive FX37, I want to look at the more powerful and sporty FX50. Starting with the looks, this thing was aggressive. What helped the aggressive and powerful look was the engine. With a 5.0-liter V8 and a seven-speed automatic, the AWD only would tie the G37 to 60 MPH at 5.0 seconds. FX50s had navigation, heated and ventilated seats, and BlueTooth. Since both the FX37 and FX50 are rear-drive-biased, the all-wheel-drive system goes to the rear wheels unless it detects a reason to place the power to the front. Apart from the German SUVs, the FX50 was a fun and powerful SUV that can be bought for around $20,000.

Just looking at these three models, we can see that Infiniti was a combination of sporty and luxury. They were a great alternative to the more luxurious Lexus and questionable Cadillac in 2002-2010. Unfortunately, they made some blunders. These weren’t small blunders, either. Starting with their naming structure, they decided to go the way of Audi, but more confusing. The G37 from before? That turned into the Q50. A lower-powered version became the Q40. The FX line turned into the QX70. While I understand that streamlining your vehicles’ names makes sense, why use Q and QX? I know that they had an Infiniti Q sedan and QX SUV, but using those seems random and confusing. Also, changing your entire lineup’s name isn’t the best for your brand image when most of those vehicles were the same vehicles.

There are only five vehicles as of 2020 in Infiniti’s lineup. For cars, Infiniti has the Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe. They offer more SUVs with the compact QX50, midsize QX60, and the absolutely massive QX80. At one point, they did have the QX70 but got rid of that in 2017 along with the full-size Q70 sedan which was discontinued in 2019. It does make sense that they have more SUVs than sedans and coupes, but that doesn’t mean that any of their vehicles are class-leading. If you have vehicles that don’t sell like the Q70 and QX70, go ahead and get rid of them. When you do that, make a plan to replace them. Sadly, there are more problems that Infiniti has other than a paltry lineup.

First off, their engines and transmissions. From a performance standpoint, the only one that is impressive is the Q50 and Q60’s Red Sport 400’s engine. Guess the amount of horsepower it has? Yup, it has 400-horsepower! This engine has a seven-speed automatic and can be rear or all-wheel-drive. 0-60 MPH comes at around 4.5 seconds which is pretty good, but not exactly impressive. The Germans and the Genesis G70 either come around that time or a few tenths slower with less horsepower. Really, the best engine for Infiniti is their 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 in the QX50. It makes 268-horsepower and 280 lb-ft. A great engine brought down by...a CVT. What a disappointment and missed opportunity to utilize a new gearbox. All-in-all, all of these cars are lacking in the engine and transmission department.

Second, age. Some of these vehicles are old. The QX60 came out in 2014 and looks visually the same, albeit with a more powerful 3.5-liter V6. There was a hybrid version but that was discontinued. The Q50 and Q60 also came out in 2014 when the name changes happened. Thankfully, the Red Sport 400 has a strong engine and good handling. The last two vehicles, the QX50 and QX80 are only a few years old with redesigns. Sadly, these aren’t enough. The infotainment systems are just plain old as are some of the designs. Dual screens are coming back in style rather we like it or not, but Infiniti has had the same layout for six years. Despite some changes to engines, transmissions, trim levels, and options, it’s time for a major overhaul. Thankfully, there are a few things that Infiniti can do to help their brand.

What was Infiniti known for when I liked them? Semi-luxurious and sporty vehicles. The G35/37 and FX lineup were fun and luxurious, so why not go back to that? Create vehicles that are a lot more luxurious and have better handling. If the QX60 isn’t supposed to be sporty, make it a luxurious power-house. The Q50/60 utilizes 3.0T V6s but they just aren’t up-to-par with rivals. It may not be a bad engine but it can make more power and torque. Transmissions are simple. No CVTs. Ever. Non-hybrid luxury brands should never use CVTs.  Leave the CVTs to Nissan. Utilize either dual-clutch transmissions or at least eight-speed automatics like almost all of their competitors.

Engines should be streamlined throughout the entire range of vehicles. Use one or two engines and pair the more powerful engine with mild-hybrid technology. Add hybrids or plug-in hybrids will add to brand value and image. If Nissan has the LEAF, create a few luxurious electric vehicles. This will help with both their car and SUV range. Infiniti has to make sure that they aren’t looked at as “fancy Nissans”. While the Q50, Q60, and QX50 are quite attractive, the QX60 is just plain boring. All of Infiniti’s vehicles need design changes. They need a true identity. Finally, please get rid of the QX80. It’s a monster and is from the olden days. Gas may be cheap, but a $70,000-$90,000 large vehicle isn’t necessary for this day and age.

Infiniti isn’t a bad brand. Can I recommend any vehicle in their range? No. If they make a lot of changes, I hope that that can change. I used to like Infiniti. They were more sporty than Acura, looked better than Lexus, and had some great cars such as the G and FX. Having five mediocre to decent vehicles isn’t enough. Only time will tell how they change their lineup. I bet anything they’ll create an SUV-coupe because who isn’t doing that these days?


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