Posts from ‘Infiniti’
You’re probably familiar with the successful Eat This, Not That! series of books, which document America’s unhealthiest meals while offering other suggestions that provide just as much taste with less nasty stuff.
Consider this article the automotive equivalent, but with a slight twist. I present to you five vehicles that might be on your shopping list, but I would encourage you to check out their alternatives. Eat This, Not That! crosses platforms, offering suggestions for similar meals at different restaurants. This list will primarily focus on alternative vehicles that you can find either in the same showroom or under the same corporate umbrella; e.g., Toyota/Lexus/Scion.
All cars are model-year 2013.
Drive This: Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost
Not That: Ford Explorer Sport
In this battle of 7-passenger, 350-plus horsepower midsize crossovers from Ford, the funky looking Flex wagon is our choice. It’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison since the company positions the Flex EcoBoost as sort of a luxury-touring vehicle while the Explorer Sport is a high-performance model. The former overwhelmingly succeeds in its mission while the latter is largely a flop. Flex rides well, handles more competently than you would expect, and is plenty powerful. The Sport is fast, too, but its brittle ride, lackluster handling, and general lack of refinement leave us cold.
Within about an hour of each other at the 2013 New York Auto Show, Nissan and its luxury Infiniti division launched a pair of gas/electric hybrid SUVs, the first such vehicles for each brand.
Nissan was up first and showed off the 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid. Aside from discreet badges, you would be hard-pressed to tell that this vehicle was not a standard Pathfinder. Indeed, Nissan officials specifically mentioned that there was no sacrifice to passenger or cargo room when they designed this vehicle.
It was basically the same story over at Infiniti, which revealed the 2014 QX60 Hybrid. What’s a QX60? It’s essentially a renamed JX35. Infiniti is renaming all of its products for model-year 2014 and onward, bestowing the Q prefix on cars and the QX prefix on crossovers and SUVs. It’s supposed to promote unity and cohesion across the brand’s entire product line. It’s not entirely surprising that the company would go down this road, as its chairman was the former head of Audi.
With the Detroit rollout of its updated G37 compact sedan, Inifiniti puts in motion the wheels of what it hopes represents a new era of simplified model naming. See, the new G37 isn’t a G at all. It’s a Q—a Q50 to be exact.
The marketing folks at Nissan’s luxury brand have decided that its current portfolio of model names—FX37, QX56, M56, and so on—are doing more to confuse customers than to inform them. So, beginning with the 2014 model year, each Infiniti model will enjoy what the automaker hopes is a simpler, easier-to-remember name.
From 2014 onward, all car models will sport a model name beginning with Q. All crossovers and trucks will have names beginning with QX. Here’s the breakdown:
Was: G37 Sedan
Compact Coupe and Convertible
Was: G37 Coupe and Convertible
Becomes: Q60 Coupe and Convertible
Was: M37, M35h, and M56
7-Passenger Midsize Crossover
5-Passenger Midsize SUV
Was: FX37 and FX50
After much publicity regarding the brand’s change of nomenclature, Infiniti revealed the first model to carry the “Q” designation, the 2014 Q50 sedan, at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.
As part of a new marketing effort to clarify the arrangement of the model lineup for new markets, the company will be rebadging all of its vehicles with new labels: Q for cars, QX for SUVs and crossovers.
The Q50 premium-midsize sedan will be available with two engine options: a V6 or hybrid powertrain. The V6 is a 3.7-liter unit that produces 328 horsepower. The Hybrid is composed of a 3.5-liter V6 paired with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack for a total of 354 horsepower. Both powerplants are paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission that comes with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Speaking of steering, the Q50 has a new available steering system that relies on electric motors to transmit the driver’s inputs to the front wheels. This is accomplished by interpreting the driver’s intentions and independently controlling each wheel to deliver the outcome the driver wants. A mechanical steering system is present, but works only as a backup. We assume it’s installed in case of an electrical power loss. Four different drive modes modify the effort required and steering gear ratio. Both powertrains are offered with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Infiniti JX, a premium-midsize SUV that starts at $40,450.
Test car came equipped with: Technology Package, Theater Package, Deluxe Touring Package, Premium Package, roof rails. Total MSRP with $950 destination =$54,070.
Powertrain: 3.5-liter 265-horsepower V6, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), front-wheel drive
Acceleration: The JX runs 0-60 mph in a little under 8 seconds with all-wheel drive, but this slightly lighter front-drive version felt more like 8.5 seconds. The main report states that less weight partly offsets a power deficit versus most rivals, but the weight-to-power ratio is still fairly leaden at 16.8 lbs/hp. The weight-to-torque ratio is worse, 17.8 pounds/lb-ft, and maximum twist isn’t online until a fairly high 4400 rpm. So unlike my colleagues, I thought the JX really is a bit underpowered, not only for on-the-level merging and passing but when going up even moderately steep grades—and that’s with just this driver aboard.
Since Infiniti admits it’s aiming the JX mainly at the 300-hp Acura MDX—0-60 in under 7 seconds with AWD—I can’t understand why the engineers didn’t provide more power by whatever means made sense. Unless, of course, the marketers said, “No, you can’t do that because it might cut into sales of our FX35.”
In 2009, I wrote a piece called The Five Best Connected Auto Brands to highlight the car companies that were at the forefront of in-vehicle connectivity.
Three years isn’t necessarily a long time in the automotive industry, but it is a lifetime when it comes to technology. We are seeing an explosion in the development and implementation of in-vehicle “infotainment” systems. With the number of smartphones exceeding that of “feature” (read: dumb) phones, it’s only natural for carmakers to want to integrate them into their products.
Recent developments in vehicle smartphone integration are the perfect impetus for revisiting this list. First, however, a couple notes are in order. I didn’t make as many changes here as I thought. Three of the five companies who earned a “Best Connected” distinction in 2009 are returning in 2012.
Let me briefly touch on the two companies that lost their spots.
One of the Hyundai Veloster’s few redeeming qualities is the availability of a spunky turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Unfortunately, I believe the car around which it’s wrapped holds this eager powerplant back. In this vein, I present for your consideration a list of vehicles that could be awesome but will probably never see the light of day for whatever reason.
Hyundai Accent Turbo
Take the Veloster Turbo’s 201-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, put it in Hyundai’s excellent Accent hatchback, give it a starting price of $19,995, and poof! You get an instant homage to the original “hot hatchbacks” of the 1980s, when car companies stuffed powerful motors into otherwise mundane cars. Let me put it this way: It certainly couldn’t be any worse than the Veloster.
Infiniti G56 IPL
In 2011, Infiniti debuted the G37 IPL (Infiniti Performance Line) coupe. Though sportier than the standard G37, its 348-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine was no match for the likes of other factory-tuned luxury cars, such as the BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Lexus IS F, or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. One thing these rivals have in common is a high-output V8 engine. Infiniti has one in its stable: the 420-horsepower 5.6-liter unit from the M sedan. Drop it into the G37 (if it fits; if it doesn’t, make it fit) sedan, coupe, and convertible, and you would have a bona fide BMW M3 fighter. For a leg up on the Germans, make all-wheel drive available, too.
Most folks with even a passing interest in things automotive are aware of Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus. Premium Japanese-brand vehicles are now a part of the American automotive landscape, and we can credit them, especially Lexus, for bringing some sanity to import luxury-car prices, as the Germans were going a little nutty with the window stickers by the end of the Eighties.
Looking all the way back to the genesis of the Japanese luxury car, a few models stand out as having been well-regarded—and well sold. Think Acura Integra and Lexus LS 400 and you get the idea. But there are a few premium Japanese rides that didn’t get quite the love they deserved. I would like to pay homage to them here.
1989-1992 Toyota Cressida
While Toyota was busy foisting front-wheel-drive cars on the American public, it continued to build rear-drive models for the more discriminating shopper. Among those vehicles was the last generation of Cressida—a vehicle with decidedly BMW-like specs. Sporting rear drive, a slick inline 6-cylinder engine, and what Consumer Guide referred to as “lots of luxury,” the Cressida was very much a premium car disguised as a common family sedan. Credit the car’s somewhat dowdy styling for its relative anonymity (and current scarcity). Sadly, with Lexus in full bloom, Toyota chose to stop selling a higher-end model through its mainstream marketing channel. It discontinued the Cressida after 1992.
Before roof pillars got thicker, thus escalating “visibility” to my No. 1 pet peeve, control layouts headed my list of automotive annoyances.
This is slightly different than control complexity, in which you get the sense that a 12-year-old video-game junkie dreamed up the “logic” used to access the tidal wave of new-age electronic functions, and that drivers should be concentrating on the genius of his work rather than on guiding a two-ton projectile down the road. No, this has more to do with placement and simplicity of use.
Unlike visibility, control layouts have actually gotten better over the past few years. It used to be common that climate controls, in particular, were mounted low and recessed into the dash, making them a long, awkward reach away. That’s less often a problem nowadays, but many cars still don’t seem to place a high priority on making controls easy to reach, easy to use, and clear in their functions.
Hold on, America. I’m about to give you my crit of some of the styling on view at the 2012 New York Auto Show. “Crit” is shorthand for critique at professional design schools. Now, I’ve never been to design school and I don’t draw very well, but I have met many professional designers who’ve helped me to see and judge styling the way they do.
Full disclosure: I did not cover the New York Show, nor have I yet seen the new models exhibited there in person, so the opinions expressed here could change—maybe.
The Face from Outer Space
I’ve been haunted by Lexus’s new “spindle” grille since it appeared at last year’s New York show on the LF-Gh Hybrid concept, a lightly disguised preview of the 2013 GS sedan. I knew I’d seen it before, and the other day I finally remembered where: the 1961 full-size Plymouth. That’s right, sports fans. Consciously or not, Lexus has cribbed from what many regard as one of the weirdest-looking Detroit cars ever. The “spindle” also graces—if that’s the word—the 2013 RX SUV and, as revealed in New York, the midsize ES sedan. But though it may work as a brand “identifier,” it’s also just another big fat grille of the kind Audi has been doing for years, only less attractive to my eyes. Worse, it demands careful handling. The “spindle” execution on the wild LF-LC concept at this year’s Detroit Show is as sci-fi strange as the old Plymouth’s. Memo to Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda: Tell your designers to stop watching anime.