INFINITI is planning to capitalise on car customer dissatisfaction with existing luxury brands that charge extra for a wide range of features that buyers assume would be standard in a prestige vehicle.
Announcing pricing and specifications for the born-again Nissan luxury brand’s opening salvo at the Australian market from next month, Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Kevin Snell said his company had listened carefully to potential customers in surveys and clinics before locking in its equipment levels and prices for the first two Infiniti models to arrive in showrooms, the FX large SUV and M mid-sized sedan.
He said luxury car customers wanted value for money, and because many of them were time poor, they wanted simplicity.
“We have sought to make the equipment and prices for each of our cars transparent and simple to understand so our customers will enjoy a better purchase and ownership experience with us,” he said.
Sunroofs, heated and ventilated front seats, 10-way power seat adjustment, heated steering wheels, keyless engine start and premium Bose sound systems are some of the features that will be standard on Infiniti models as it tries to woo buyers away from entrenched luxury marques.
The new Infiniti range will go on sale in just three dealerships, in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, before the network spreads to Perth and Adelaide late next year.
Left: Infiniti M35h sedan.
The Japanese-made range will be expanded with the arrival of the smaller G Coupe and Convertible in December, with more models – including the all-new G sedan that is set to get Mercedes-Benz four-cylinder powertrains – later next year.
The big FX will compete with the likes of the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Lexus RX and Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, and will be launched in seven variants covering three powertrains and three equipment levels with pricing ranging from $83,900 to $114,900.
The engines will include two V6s – the Nissan-sourced 235kW 3.7-litre petrol and a Renault-based 175kW 3.0-litre turbo diesel – as well as a flagship 287kW 5.0-litre petrol V8.
A highly modified form of that V8 will form the basis of Nissan’s V8 Supercar attack next season.
The M sedan range will go into bat against German six-cylinder variants of the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Lexus GS and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The Infiniti will have five models covering three powertrains and three equipment levels.
Like the FX, the M sedan entry models will be equipped with V6 petrol and diesel engines, but instead of a V8 range-topper, the M will gain a V6 hybrid powertrain that promises to be the fastest hybrid car from zero to 100km/h – 5.5 seconds – at least until the arrival late in the year of BMW’s ActiveHybrid 3 Series which can do the dash in a claimed 5.3 seconds.
For now, the Infiniti range is a four-cylinder-free zone, meaning the vehicles are mostly pitched at mid-range models from the German luxury manufacturers, as well as Lexus, Volvo and Jaguar.
The M sedan comes in three equipment levels – GT, GT Premium and S Premium, although not all powertrains are offered with all levels.
The V6 M37 and M30d come in entry GT and flagship S Premium packages. The M37 GT starts the ball rolling at $85,900 (plus on-road costs), with the M30d an extra $2000 at $87,900. In S Premium guise, the M37 is $97,900, with the M30d S Premium at $99,900.
The hybrid M35h comes in just one specification – the middling GT Premium – at $99,990, which puts it smack on top of the price of its main competitor, the hybrid Lexus GS450h.
The entry M37 GT is cheaper than all of its logical competitors, such as the BMW 535i ($115,100), Audi A6 2.8 TFSI ($93,400), Lexus GS350 ($89,400) and Mercedes E350 ($132,135).
With 235kW of power, the M37 is more powerful than all of these rivals, although its 360Nm of torque falls short of the BMW 535i’s 400Nm and Lexus GS’s 378Nm.
The Lexus and BMW both shade the Infiniti over the 0-100km/h dash, with the BMW fastest at 5.9 seconds, the Lexus GS next at 6.0 and the Infiniti at 6.2 seconds.
The Infiniti is the thirstiest of that bunch, with a combined fuel economy reading of 10.2 litres per 100km, compared with the 535i’s class-leading 7.6L/100km.
The 175kW Infiniti M30d is also a heavier drinker than the Euros, with a combined test figure of 7.5L/100km, compared with the BMW 535d’s 5.4L/100km.
The M30d scoots to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds, while the class-leading and more expensive (by more than $30,000) BMW 535d puts it down in 5.5 seconds.
The V6 M sedans both come with a seven-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control, along with front double-wishbone suspension and multi-link rear suspension.
While the GT variants come with 18-inch alloy wheels, the S Premium steps up to 20-inch wheels with 245/40 rubber.
Sports-tuned suspension is also standard on S Premium, along with active four-wheel steering, a dynamic cornering system, sports seats, sport steering wheel, upgraded sound system and a raft of safety warning systems such as blind spot intervention, forward collision warning, intelligent cruise control and lane-departure warning.
The M35h hybrid also gets many of these safety systems, as well as a Bose sound system and power rear sunshade, among other things.
The hybrid Infiniti, which combines a 3.5-litre petrol V6 with an electric motor for a total power output of 268kW, is faster from standstill to 100km/h than the Lexus GS450h, 5.5 second to 5.9 seconds.
However, the Lexus returns serve on fuel economy, recording 6.3L/100km to the Infiniti’s 6.9.
The FX SUV range is also offered in three specification levels – GT, S and S Premium.
The V6 petrol and diesel powertrains will be available at all three levels, while the flagship V8 FX50 will come only in a top-spec S Premium variant at $114,900, making it the most expensive Infiniti in the new line-up.
The base FX37 will be the cheapest Infiniti (for now), starting at $83,900 for the GT, rising to $92,900 for the mid-range S and then to $95,900 for the top S Premium. Again, diesel adds a $2000 premium.
Infiniti says much of the initial inquiry about the FX has been for the V8 FX50, which will be both sporty and well-equipped.
It is cheaper than the V8 BMW X5 50i ($133,500) and Mercedes ML500 ($119,400), but a touch thirstier at 13.1L/100km, and marginally slower to 100km/h (5.8 seconds).
All FX models get all-wheel-drive and seven-speed auto transmission.
The base V6 models get large 20-inch alloy wheels, while the other models step up to monstrous 21-inchers.
The FX37 covers the 0-100km/h run in 6.8 seconds, while the diesel FX30d makes it in 8.3 seconds.
Fuel economy for these models is 12.1L/100km for the petrol and 9.0L/100km for the diesel.
Ten-way power driver’s seat with heating and ventilation, sunroof and BOSE sound system are standard on the GT, while the S adds items such as active damping suspension with sports mode.
The flagship S Premium gets around-view monitor and a bunch of high-level safety systems such as forward collision warning and lane departure prevention.
All Infiniti models will be covered by a four-year, 100,000km new-vehicle warranty, plus an innovative roadside assistance package that even covers other cars in the family.