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LA show: Infiniti launches performance convertible

Playing in the IPL: Infiniti’s more performance-oriented convertible has yet to be engineered for right-hand drive.

Infiniti unveils IPL G Convertible and JX SUV, but lack of RHD rules out Australia

17 Nov 2011

INFINITI has introduced a convertible version of its IPL G Coupe – a direct competitor to the BMW M3 and Lexus ISF – but it will not be part of the Nissan-owned brand’s return to the Australian market from September next year.

Unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show today, the convertible becomes the second model in the brand’s sporty ‘Infiniti Performance Line’, which is designed to ultimately compete with BMW’s M and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG operations.

However, there are no plans to produce IPL models in right-hand drive, at least for the time being, but Infiniti Australia general manager Kevin Snell is “really keen” to get the cars and pushing hard with head office in Japan.

“Infiniti is a performance-oriented luxury brand so building a performance sub-brand is a great opportunity,” Mr Snell told GoAuto today.

“There’s huge potential for performance lines in this market, but IPL will not be part of the launch line-up because they are only left-hand drive for the US market at this time.

“Infiniti’s goal is for 500,000 units globally – 10 per cent of the luxury market – by 2016 and to expand from seven models currently to 10 models within five years, so we have to leverage every opportunity. We have a big appetite.” Mr Snell said Australia would probably have to wait for Infiniti’s next generation of models starting in 2013 before we could get any IPL-branded models.

16 center imageWhen Infiniti launches in Australia next year, it will feature three model lines – the regular the BMW 3 Series-rivalling G in sedan, coupe and convertible variants, the M executive sedan range (5 Series rival) and the FX compact SUV (which will target the X3, Audi Q5 and Lexus RX).

Still under consideration for Australia is the larger JX crossover vehicle, which was introduced at the LA show in production trim and will go on sale in the northern spring priced from $US40,450 in front-drive form and $US41,550 with all-wheel drive.

However, right-hand-drive production of the Q7 and XC90 rival has yet to be confirmed, although the basic architecture has apparently been engineered with that in mind.

Mr Snell told us he still wants the vehicle and is putting together the business case – in conjunction with other RHD markets – which he is “cautiously optimistic” will be accepted in Japan.

Infiniti announced at the LA show that the IPL G Convertible will go on sale in the US during the northern spring of 2012 but has yet to reveal pricing.

The IPL-badged G Coupe – which went on sale in December 2010 and is also on the cards for Australia – is priced from $US49,350 with a six-speed manual, but the Convertible will only come with the seven-speed auto, which costs an extra $US1900.

Unlike its high-performance German rivals, Infiniti’s IPL product design philosophy is claimed to focus on “total vehicle performance” but makes do with modest performance improvements for now while adopting a more aggressive exterior look and enhancing the interior with unique appointments.

Although the drop-top gets the same power-enhancing dual exhaust system and recalibrated engine management system, the IPL Coupe’s already modest gains (17kW and 12Nm) over the standard Infiniti 3.7-litre V6 engine are reduced in the Convertible, which produces 256kW (down 3kW) of power at 7400rpm and 370Nm (down 4Nm).

The standard electronically controlled seven-speed auto features a quick-shift Drive Sport mode with magnesium paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

The steering has been tuned for better response and the brakes are upgraded with four-piston aluminum-alloy calipers operating 356mm discs at the front and two-piston calipers grabbing 351mm discs at the rear.

Front spring rates are 14 per cent stiffer over the normal G Convertible Sport and four per cent stiffer at the rear, the stabiliser bar rates have been increased by six per cent at the front and some 125 per cent at the rear, and different shock absorbers are fitted.

In addition to the three-piece retractable hardtop, the new IPL G Convertible features special aerodynamic styling pieces, including a more aggressive nose with integrated fog lights and black finishers, sculpted side sills and round chrome exhaust tips.

Split seven-spoke 19-inch graphite-finish wheels are fitted with low-profile W-rated Bridgestone Potenza RE050A performance tyres.

The leather-appointed interior is offered in two colours – a neutral stone shade and an IPL-exclusive Monaco Red – and comes with red stitching, climate-controlled front seats with embroidered IPL logos, extra driver’s seat adjustments, leather-bound steering wheel, embroidered front floor mats and aluminium-trimmed pedals and footrest.

Other Convertible-specific features include a 13-speaker Bose sound system with noise-compensation technology and front seat headrest speakers, an adaptive dual-zone climate-control system that automatically adjusts fan speed and air volume based on the roof position, and pop-up roll bars built into the rear seat.

“The Infiniti Performance Line, as demonstrated by our first offering, the IPL G Coupe, challenges the concept of ultra-high cost sports series,” said Infiniti Americas vice-president Ben Poore.

“IPL pushes the premium performance envelope for buyers seeking a higher level of exclusivity and driving exhilaration, but does so with an Infiniti twist.

“Like every Infiniti, the new IPL G Convertible takes a different path from its established competitors, with its retractable hardtop that is designed to look as good with the top up as down.

“It’s a terrific addition to the Infiniti Performance Line, taking the dramatic Infiniti G Convertible to an even higher level.

“With its pure IPL style and performance, and the added dimension of open-air motoring, the IPL G Convertible is a welcome addition to the Infiniti Performance Line line-up.

“Watch for more models joining the IPL lineup in the future.”

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