Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti, is upgrading its two mid-size entries in the middle of their product cycle. This is not unusual these days as carmakers attempt to keep up with new technologies and keep fresh products available to their buyers. Infiniti’s one-two punch comes with new powertrains for the Q50 (nee G35/37) rear wheel drive mid-size sedan and freshened styling for the QX60 (nee JX35) front wheel drive/AWD mid-size crossover SUV.
The Q50 changes target enthusiasts and the QX60 changes target families. Let’s talk about the Q50 first.
Q50 Powertrain Updates Infiniti positions the Q50 against the Lexus IS and the BMW 3-Series. To us, it is closer to the Lexus GS350 in size and ambiance, but priced lower. Q50 looks the same as before. Its changes come in the form of new engines. The top-of-the-line is the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. What does all that mean? The “400” is for the 400-horsepower twin turbo 3.0L V6 engine. “Red Sport” refers to the red “S” sport badge on the fenders and rear of the vehicle. The Red Sport 400 is very flexible from easily lumping around town in stop and go traffic, to quickly running rural roads. With several drive selections from Eco to Sport+ available, the personality of the car can transform dramatically. In Sport + mode throwing the car around sharp curves over undulating terrain is a blast. A fully loaded Q50 Red Sport 400 should set you back around $55,000 although pricing has not been finalized. About 20%-25% of Q50 mix will be Red Sport 400 models.
Rounding out the new powertrain news for the Q50 is the high volume engine which is a de-tuned version of the Red Sport 400 – a twin turbo V6 with 300-horsepower. This will be on 50%-60% of the volume. The Infiniti Q50 2.0t is powered by an all-new base engine developed with Daimler – a turbo 2.0L 4-cylinder with 208-horsepower. This will be on about 20%-25% of the Q50s sold. The power output of the 4-cylinder seems pretty anemic. Other 2.0L turbo 4s on offer today are more common with between 230 and 240-horsepower. Some even have as much as 270-horsepower. Infiniti says only the basic engine design is from Daimler. All the accessories and systems engineering were by Nissan engineers. The engine is produced in Infiniti’s Decherd, Tennessee Engine Plant.
QX60 Freshening Moderately Extensive The QX60 is Infiniti’s mid-market family hauler. It is in the middle of an SUV lineup that includes the flagship QX80 (formerly QX56), the “urban gorilla” QX70 (nee FX35/45/50). Below the QX60 is the QX50 (nee EX35) and the upcoming QX30 (based on a Mercedes 5-door bodystyle).
The 2016 QX60 looks pretty much the same as the 2016 model, but it does have new front and rear styling that evolves slightly from the 2015 version. The grille and headlamps are new and now de rigeur LED accent running lights are part of the headlamp design. Outside mirror-mounted turn signals are standard. The taillamps and liftgate are new, but look similar to their predecessor. Inside, the seat trim is new with more intricate sew styles. The instrument panel upper is softer and looks more appropriate for luxury brand vehicle. Driver assist technologies abound.
Responding to criticisms about ride control and handling, Nissan upgraded the suspension. While ride comfort was excellent, body lean in cornering was excessive. The update to the suspension yields a vehicle that is more confident feeling, more nimble and lighter on its feet. This is a very positive move forward.
While these updates to Infiniti’s mid-market entries are not earth shaking, they keep the vehicles fresh and up-to-date. The changes to the QX60 are more extensive, but the powertrain changes to the Q50 will get the most attention. Both are good moves.
The 2014 Infiniti QX80 is the highest scoring Luxury/Large SUV in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. Behind the QX80 are some very impressive competitors: the Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LS, Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition, and the GMC Yukon. This is the second year in a row QX80 has won the VSA for its class.
The 2014 Infiniti QX80 wins or ties in twelve of fifty satisfaction attributes. The QX80 is within one tenth of a rating point in thirteen other attributes. For fifty percent of the satisfaction measurements the QX80 is on top.
The top ten highest ratings by QX80 owners are: vehicle and brand reputation, exterior and interior styling, the overall quality and seating capacity, the perception of reliability and dependability, the vehicles ride, feeling safe while driving, and the exterior color.
Crossovers are all the rage these days. What’s not to like? Car-like handling, decent fuel economy, room for the kids? One trend I’ve noticed in crossovers is the move towards limited visibility. Beltlines have gotten so high that kids have trouble seeing out of the windows and backing up requires an extensive use of all three mirrors and a NASA satellite to see what lurks behind you. And if you don’t have a back-up camera you can pretty much count on hitting something at some point in time. Well, how refreshing the 2011 QX56 was to drive. The QX56 isn’t a car-based crossover. It is Infiniti’s truck-based answer to the Escalade. Based on the Nissan Patrol, which has been a huge sales hit in the Middle East because of its rugged construction and reliability, the QX56 can shuttle you around in the same comforts as a cash-stuffed Saudi oil mogul. With 20 MPG on the highway, you won’t need to personally know a sheik either.
The King is DEAD, long live the King. Very appropriate for the all new Infiniti QX56 being launched in the USA later this year. But first, we have to set the stage for the review itself – not the vehicle. Infiniti hosted small groups of journalists at the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville. The hotel itself was worth the trip. Quirky, quaint with 42 plastic red penguins to entertain the guests. Penguins with bibs at dinner. Penguins with a shower cap in the tub. The “museum” part of the hotel’s title relates to the art on display – all by artists alive today and produced during the 21st Century. When an artist dies, their works are removed to a private gallery in the owners’ quarters on the 4th floor of the hotel. Oh, yeah, THE BOOK – found in the bar with a plain cover is worth the price of a martini.
The great drive in the QX56 through bourbon country and horse country from Louisville to Frankfort (Kentucky’s capital) was picturesque and the roads were great. Not much traffic. Rolling hills. Perfect for the large sport ute. Major surprise, however, was that the historic mile-after-mile of white fences Kentucky horse country is known for has transformed into creosote black fences… lower cost and longer life. The drive through northern Kentucky is highly recommended. Hopefully you have more than a stock rentacar. Don’t forget to stop at Choctaw Jim’s general store in Campbellsburg. They make a mean peanut and jelly sandwich with peanut butter bread. Yum. The only blemish is that the authentic American Indian artifacts mostly are made in China.
Intiniti QX56 Formidable Competitor in Premium Luxury SUV Class Now, about the second generation Infiniti QX56. As you probably know, the first generation QX is based on the Titan pickup and assembled at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi assembly plant. The new QX is based on the Japanese market Nissan Patrol and produced in Japan.
Coupe SUV Refined
2009 Infiniti FX35
2009 Infiniti FX50
The next new Infiniti arrives in June 2008, in the form of an updated FX, and facing new competition from the only other coupe-SUV in the BMW X6. The new FX offers more power from a refined 302HP 3.5L V6 or an all-new 390HP 5.0L V8, with all-wheel drive still optional. There is a new standard seven-speed automatic transmission, new electronic aids for crash avoidance and easier city driving, and even self-healing paint. Infiniti gave the FX a worldwide introduction at the Geneva motor show, launching the brand in Europe at the same time, the U.S. introduction is at the 2008 New York Auto Show.
The FX keeps its unique overall shape, with short overhangs and coupe-style roofline, but a slightly longer wheelbase makes for a longer hood and better-proportioned stance. Everything about the FX has been tucked and reshaped. The reshaped integrated rear spoiler and tailgate surround are bodycolor, though the tailgate opening looks as though it is smaller this time. There are still dual exhaust pipes, but the shape of the lower rear fascia is smoother. The new LED taillights carry a more distinct, decorative shape than the prior car.
2009 Infiniti FX50
Seattle is known for rain and coffee, but the city gets its share of beautiful days complemented by a scenic backdrop of mountains, trees, and water. Infiniti picked this town for a media introduction of the latest G37 coupe. We were lucky enough to miss a ten-day rain trend and drove Infiniti’s new G37 coupe through a perfect day of high 70s, clear skies, and dry roads. We reported on the Coupe Concept from the 2006 North American International Auto Show that gave us our first hint of the new generation and the formal production reveal at the 2007 New York Auto Show; now we bring you our first driving impressions.
The G37 takes the same second-generation FM rear-drive platform of the G35 sedan and that the next-generation Nissan Z and GTR will take. This is a bit backward compared with the first-generation launch schedule, when the boy-racer 350Z launched a couple of months before the G Coupe. The G coupe also introduces a new-generation of VQ engine. Larger displacement, larger bore, and variable valve timing and lift are among key elements for wringing 330HP from a 3.7L DOHC 24v V6 that betters its predecessor’s fuel economy for a 18/24 city/highway rating.
The engine drives the rear wheels through an all-new five speed automatic or a revised six-speed manual transmission. Bringing 30HP more to the table, the new engine moves the G37 along with strength and grace. Despite an industry trend of more gears for automatics, Infiniti stays with five gears. The first three gears have wide ratios for maximum acceleration and response and fourth and fifth are dialed in for overall fuel economy.
The result is a very nice coupe, particularly the Sport ordered with its $1300 four-wheel active steering system. This is not at all the same as a four-wheel-drive system, which uses engine braking, traction control, ABS, and brakes to ensure traction in inclement weather or inconsistent surfaces. The sedan is offered with optional all-wheel drive, but not the coupe, and the M sedan offers rear-wheel active steering. The coupe’s four-wheel-active steer improves handling, balance, and stability but does not address the issue of torque and which wheel gets more or less at any given point like AWD systems. Does 4WAS, in Infiniti speak, work? Is it worth the cost? After twenty miles of curves, we say yes and yes. The system is subtle and responsive. Diving into corners and twists can be done with a supreme confidence, and with it you could gain speeding tickets quickly.
AutoPacific has announced the results of its 2007 model year vehicle satisfaction research. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award (VSA) is an industry benchmark for objectively measuring how satisfied an owner is with their new car or light truck.
The top ranked brand this year is Infiniti, winner of a close shoot-out between Infiniti, Lincoln, Cadillac and Lexus. The top ranked vehicle and top ranked car is the Cadillac DTS. The top ranked truck is the all-new Lincoln MKX. The Ford Edge also won its category giving Ford’s new Crossover SUVs an impressive outing.
Of twenty-eight vehicles receiving awards (there were three ties among our twenty-five categories), twelve were new this year. Of thirteen car winners three were from Detroit Three brands, seven were Japanese or Korean, three were European. Of the fifteen truck winners, seven were from the Detroit Three and the remaining eight were from Japanese or Korean marques.
GM and Toyota won six awards apiece. Ford Motor Company won five. Hyundai and Nissan won three apiece and Honda won two. No vehicle from DaimlerChrysler (Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler Group) was ranked at the top of a category.
AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction measurement is more valid than counting things gone wrong. How well a buyer is satisfied with the vehicle is the true test of how the product has been designed, engineered and manufactured. Often times, the most satisfying vehicle is the one with the most personality, not the one that is screwed together the best.
“Infiniti wins the Vehicle Satisfaction Award as the top brand in the closest race in years. Strong satisfaction performance by Infiniti cars and trucks has Infiniti winning over strong performances by Lincoln, Cadillac, Lexus and other luxury marques,” says AutoPacific president George Peterson. “The dual wins by Ford Motor Company’s new Crossover SUVs – the Lincoln MKX and Ford Edge – shows Ford was on target when developing these important new vehicles.”
Peterson continues, “The Cadillac DTS is the highest rated car and vehicle overall. The Hyundai Santa Fe was the first Korean vehicle to win AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award – in 2001 – and continues its strong performance for the sixth year in a row. Winning an AutoPacific VSA is testament for any vehicle that their owners are confident they have made the right choice.”
2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award Winners
Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS/BMW 7-Series
Aspirational Luxury Car: Jaguar X-Type
Large Luxury Car: Cadillac DTS
Large Car: Hyundai Azera/Toyota Avalon
Luxury Mid-Size Car: Nissan Maxima
Premium Mid-Size Car: Nissan Altima
Mid-Size Car: Saturn Aura
Image Compact Car: Audi A3
Compact Car: Pontiac G5
Economy Car: Honda Fit
Premium Sports Car: Lexus SC
Sports Car: Porsche Boxster
Sporty Car: Scion tC
Large Light-Duty Pickup: Chevrolet Silverado
Large Heavy-Duty Pickup: Chevrolet Silverado HD
Compact Pickup: Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Luxury Sport Utility: Lincoln Navigator
Large Sport Utility: GMC Yukon XL
Mid-Size Sport Utility: Toyota 4Runner
Compact SUV/Off-Road Vehicle: Toyota FJ Cruiser
Luxury Crossover SUV: Lincoln MKX
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV: Ford Edge/Hyundai Santa Fe
Mid-Size Crossover SUV: Honda CR-V
Compact Crossover SUV: Hyundai Tucson
Minivan : Nissan Quest
In addition to identifying category winners, VSA also establishes numerical satisfaction ratings for virtually every passenger car and light truck in the North American market. Owner satisfaction is measured across 46 specific areas related to a vehicle’s operation, comfort, safety and the overall purchase/lease experience. The 2007 ratings reflect input from buyers and lessees of new vehicles acquired September through December 2006.
Back in September, VehicleVoice had the chance to drive the Infiniti FX35. Our driving impressions were largely positive giving it a thumbs up for those interested in an unconventional CUV, without a whole lot of “U”. With an FX back into our fleet recently, we’re given a chance to update our impressions.
My family is sort of schizophrenic when it comes to vehicles. Among others, our garage includes a MINI Cooper S and a Ford Expedition. As the primary driver of the Cooper, you can easily guess how I feel about the Expedition. While I sometimes appreciate it’s utility, vehicles this big should be used for hauling vegetables, not people. When I drive it, I often gaze in wonder at its expanse of empty seats, ready to reduce my passenger miles per gallon. Yet I understand that I am clearly (still) in the minority. The US has a lot of full size SUVs with happy drivers on the road.
…Of course I’m excited about the assignment of covering the 2008 refresh of the gargantuan QX56 for VehicleVoice.
Evolutionary Improvements to Award-Winning Model
The G35 joined Infiniti‘s lineup for the 2003 model year and, after a relatively short four-year run, gets an overhaul for the 2007MY. On sale in November, Infiniti revealed the new sedan alongside the all-new Nissan Altima, and VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were on hand for the reveal. When the G35 was introduced, it won Motor Trend magazine’s car of the year award and was a finalist for North American Car of the Year (beaten by the MINI Cooper). It also made Car and Driver‘s 10Best list two years running (January 2003 and 2004). It didn’t make the Automobile Magazine All-Stars list or Edmunds.com’s Most Wanted for 2003, but Edmunds readers did vote it in as their most wanted sedan under $35,000 for 2003MY. With the evolutionary nature of the new sedan, we wonder if it will receive similar accolades. It should in any case continue to win hearts of buyers, as its overall goodness is improved though not re-invented.
The sedan shown in New York is production form rather concept, like the Infiniti Coupe Concept in Detroit this past January. The Coupe Concept previewed the styling updates to both coupe and sedan, though the coupe is not scheduled to arrive until spring 2007 and a production version has not been shown. While striking, styling is evolutionary compared with the current design. We haven’t had a chance to drive it yet, but we’ve been told that the updates result in a significant improvement in handling. The updated G35 gets more dramatic curves in the hood and a more aggressive lower fascia. The overall shape of the rear taillights is similar, but tweaked, and the headlights and grille take on a shape more like the M35/45.