Future Models - Infiniti 2012 FX
First drive: Infiniti SUV to lead charge in Oz
On the move: The FX50 mid-sized luxury SUV will headline Infiniti's attack on the Australian market from August this year.
Infiniti comeback to begin in August with the first of seven model lines by 2015
5 March 2012
INFINITI’S flagship FX50S SUV will lead Nissan luxury brand’s renewed assault on the Australian vehicle market from August, spearheading a range that will grow to seven model lines by 2015.
Punching out 287kW of power and 500Nm of torque in its headline act 5.0-litre V8 guise, the big five-seat wagon will be joined immediately in Australian showrooms by another Infiniti debutante, the M Sedan range with three engine choices, followed by the two-door 3 Series rivalling Infiniti G, in coupe and cabrio forms, in December.
The arrival of the new-look Infiniti range in Australia marks a comeback by Nissan’s Lexus competitor, which was nearly euthanised when the Japanese company collapsed financially under $20 billion of debt in 1999.
In Australia, the first Infiniti foray died with the withdrawal of the lone Infiniti model, the Q45 full-sized luxury sedan, in the 1990s.
Now, Infiniti is back and gunning for a 10 per cent share of the global luxury vehicle market, with a major expansion of models and markets.
The local comeback countdown will become official when Infiniti – which sponsors the Red Bull team of world champion Sebastian Vettel and Australian Mark Webber – displays some of its new-generation models at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne this month.
Left: FX interior. Below: M sedan, G sedan and coupe.
The marketing hero of the new Infiniti line-up will be the FX, which will be tasked with taking market share from high-end luxury SUVs such as BMW’s top-selling X5, the Mercedes-Benz M-class and, to a lesser extent, Lexus’s LandCruiser-based LX570.
The Japanese-made FX50S – to be priced north of $100,000 – will make its Australian debut in a new three-dealership network in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in August, alongside two other more affordable FX variants, the FX37 (with a petrol 3.7-litre 235kW V6 taken from the Nissan 370Z) and FX30d, powered by the Renault-sourced V9X 3.0-litre 175kW/550Nm diesel V6 from the Laguna.
Potential Infiniti customers in other cities such as Adelaide and Perth will have to wait at least a year for a dealership in their neck of the woods, as Infiniti Cars Australia plans to bed down its operation on the east coast before extending its reach (see separate story).
Joining the Infiniti FX50, FX37 and FX30d in showrooms at the same time will be the the mid-sized M sedan line in three variants – petrol V6 M37, diesel M30d and hybrid M35h.
The latter will be the Nissan group's first hybrid in this country, combining a 225kW petrol V6 engine with a 50kW electric motor for total power of 275kW and peak torque of 620Nm.
The M35h is described as a sporty hybrid rather than an out-and-out fuel miser, a fact born out by its 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.5 seconds – a time apparently recognised as a hybrid record by the Guinness Book of Records. Infiniti says the M35h can out-sprint Porsche's Panamera S hybrid.
Fuel economy is claimed to be 7.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions at 162 grams per kilometre.
Its direct rival in the market place is expected to be the upcoming Lexus GS 450h hybrid, which achieves a claimed 6.3L/100km and 145g/km.
The conventional petrol and diesel Infiniti M models will take on a broad range of executive cars such as BMW's 5 Series, the Mercedes E-class and Lexus GS350.
From December, the launch range will be rounded out by the G37 coupe and cabrio, both powered by the acclaimed 246kW VQ 3.7-litre V6, which is already employed in a wide range of Nissan vehicles.
The G37 is designed to take the fight up to the likes of the BMW 3 Series coupe and convertible, Audi A5 and Lexus IS250C.
All three Infiniti lines to be offered in Australia this year are based on the same versatile monocoque platform as the rear-drive Nissan 370Z.
In the case of the FX SUV, all models get all-wheel drive, while the M and G models are rear-drive only.
All will come with with double-wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear suspension and a seven-speed automatic transmission.
Some models get Infiniti's active rear steering system and, in premium variants, a raft of driving aids such as active lane assist, selectable driving modes and blind spot warning system.
In the M models, a high end Bose sound system will be standard.
Range pricing and specifications will not be revealed until launch, but all models are set to be loaded with standard equipment, so they won't necessarily be cheaper than established rivals.
From about the end of 2013, the local Infiniti range will be expanded with the arrival of the new-generation G-series sedan, and later, a luxury compact hatchback to be developed jointly with Mercedes-Benz under a recently signed pact.
Overall, five new models will be added between late 2013 and 2015, with a sports car and all-electric car also in the pipeline.
Four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines from the Daimler Group will also make their way into the Infiniti range as part of the cross-brand technology swap deal.
Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Kevin Snell said Infiniti’s hero vehicle in its opening line-up would be the FX50S, which he said best fitted the brand’s intended positioning of sports luxury.
He said Infiniti would be aimed at a younger group of buyers than other luxury marques, drawing customers between the ages of 35 and 45, attracted by Infiniti’s risk-taking styling and performance orientation.
While the Australian range will grow to at least seven models, it will miss out on two other models – the EX and JX SUVs – at least initially.
The newly released Infiniti JX – a three-row crossover vehicle based on the same platform as the upcoming, new-generation Pathfinder – is built only in left-hand drive at Nissan’s Smyrna plant in Tennessee.
The smaller EX was skipped by Australia because, Mr Snell said, it did not fit the target position of the brand in Australia as well as vehicles like the FX.
INFINITI has sharpened its act in readiness to give the world’s luxury car-makers a black eye.
Sumptuous interiors, pin-sharp dynamics tuned in Europe, high-tech gadgetry and impeccable build quality are the main hallmarks of the new and greatly expanded range from Nissan’s luxury brand as it once again looks beyond America for fresh volumes.
Australia will get the European-tuned suspension and steering settings when the born-again brand returns to this country after an absence of more than 20 years.
While the old Q45 was more of a luxo-barge than sports limo, the new range has been purposely targetted at a more BMW crowd, at least in performance and dynamics.
Clearly, the Infiniti designers have walked their own path in the exterior styling of the new range, and the company executives concede people will either love it or hate it.
Inside, the three models destined to open the account in Australia this year – the FX SUV, G coupe and cabrio, and M sedan range – all have sculpted dashboards full of emotion and not a little bling.
Soft leathers and a multitude of surfaces – some would say it is too busy – will find appeal among people who are tired of the less-is-more school of German interior design.
Infiniti has not yet spelled out exactly its range specifications, but the test cars driven by GoAuto in Europe were all loaded to the hilt.
Dynamically, the three models due in Australia this year all share the same platform and chassis architecture.
The steering is sportscar-like, to the point that we wonder if it is not too sharp for back-road travel where swift turn-in could lead to swift oversteer.
However, the Infiniti engineers unashamedly wanted to put other manufacturers, particularly Lexus, in the shade in the search for a younger and more vibrant audience.
A short sampling of all three body styles and powertrains in England – where the right-hand-drive range is already on sale – showed the engineers have generally hit their mark.
In the hybrid M35h, however, the sportiness tends to overshadow the hybrid thriftiness, with fuel figures on our drive well outside the claimed figures. To get close, the driver needs to engage the Eco setting on the drive control system, reining in the throttle, transmission and other controls, turning an engaging drive into limp-home mode.
All up, the new Infiniti range may take a handy slice of the local prestige car market – if the styling proves to be as engaging as the drive experience.
However, price will be the telling factor, and for that we will have to wait.