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Skyline taking an Infiniti

Don't hold your breath: Infiniti's sexy G37 Coupe.

Nissan Australia’s Skyline chances fade while an Infiniti launch also stalls for now

19 May 2008

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in PORTUGAL

NISSAN Australia is unlikely to be granted access to the V36 Skyline model series.

The large rear-wheel drive range, released in North America as the Infiniti G35 sedan in October 2006 and Infiniti G37 coupe 10 months later, has so far been denied to Australia for two reasons.

The first is that right-hand drive production is only now being ramped up in Japan and secondly because Nissan in Japan is insisting on only marketing the V36 as an Infiniti G outside of Japan.

This presents problems for Nissan Australia, which has indicated that it is not yet ready to commit to launching the Lexus-rivalling brand in this country.

“Nissan will not allow the G to be badged as anything other than an Infiniti outside of Japan,” said one company spokesman.

“And this includes Australia. Doing so will devalue the Infiniti brand globally.” The fact that the model range is now beginning to age means that a decision from Japan must be made quickly otherwise, the V36 will be too far into its life cycle to be considered effective enough against the ever-improving German competition that it was designed to rival.

Currently, the Skyline/G35 uses Nissan’s renowned VQ35 3.5-litre petrol V6 producing 236kW of power at 6800rpm and 358Nm of torque at 4800rpm. The standard six-speed manual can be discarded for a five-speed automatic gearbox.

Expect the sedan to score the G37 Coupe’s VQ37VHR 3.7-litre V6, delivering power and torque outputs rated at 245kW at 7000rpm and 363Nm at 5200rpm respectively.

12 center imageLeft: EX35 SUV and G35 sedan.

While the Coupe is currently fitted with a five-speed automatic gearbox, a new seven-speed automatic from Nissan subsidiary JATCO is believed to be in the pipeline for the car in the not-too-distant future. A six-speed manual transmission is also available.

The V36 Skyline sits on Nissan’s E-platform architecture – formally known as the FR-L Front-engine, Rear-wheel drive, Large and FM for Front Mid-ship – that underpins the 350Z, as well as every other Infiniti model that isn’t the truck-based QX SUV. Nissans using it also include the oddball Stagea wagon.

Meanwhile, the V36 Skyline range is spearheading a European rollout of the Infiniti brand from October this year.

It is expected to take about two years, and also include the EX and FX luxury SUVs (think BMW X3 and X5-sized vehicles), as well as the M full-sized sedan.

According to Infiniti spokesman Wayne Bruce, there have been more than 500 changes wrought upon the V36 Skyline in its transition from American sports sedan contender to BMW 5 Series rival in Europe.

These include revised suspension for improved steering and handling responses, larger brakes, an upgraded cabin presentation that sees thicker carpet, higher-grade leather, improved seats and new door seals, plus headlight washers and redesigned wipers for more effective high-speed performance.

However, with no diesel or smaller vehicles in a range consisting of petrol-powered V6 and V8 models, Infiniti is not expecting huge volume in Europe from the outset. The “accessible market share” as Mr Bruce puts it is only 4.4 per cent.

Nevertheless, the former issue will be resolved when Nissan – via Alliance partner Renault – engineers a new 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel tuned to deliver around 200kW and 550Nm.

Whether European-bound Infiniti models also score the new hybrid drivetrain being devised specifically for North America and Japan remains to be seen.

Mr Bruce is confident that Infiniti will find a ready market regardless, pointing to the 2000-plus FX SUV grey imports across Western Europe over the last few years – putting that vehicle just behind the Ford Mustang in popularity.

Further down the track, more new models will arrive. These are expected to be a smaller sedan and crossover, as well as a hatchback and the G37 Convertible announced in Nissan’s mid-term business plan last week.

“Mr Ghosn has only given us one chance to do it right,” Mr Bruce said.

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