Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2019, you’ve probably realized that just about every major carmaker has plans to go “fully electric” at some point in the rapidly approaching future. That’s going to mean big changes in the way we buy and use cars, obviously— but change is hard, and not every company is going to be willing or able to make those changes.
That equally obvious fact begs the question: who’s not gonna make it?
It’s that time of year again – time for our best and worst cars of 2021. Chris and I are the ones who most consistently get test cars, so it will be just the two of us putting our heads together. We’ve each picked one best and one worst car, as well as a few that deserve a mention either way.
Nissan-owned Infiniti has opted to merge marketing, public relations, and social media oversight into a single position. Framed as a promotion for Wendy Orthman, the brand’s current global head of communications, the management shift takes place shortly after former General Manager Global Brand and Marketing Phil York decided he had better things to do in Europe. But it really just seems like the company figured out a way to roll three jobs into a single paycheck.
Effective today, Orthman will be assuming the freshly minted title of general manager of Global Integrated Brand, Marketing and Communications. According to the automaker, the position combines the roles of a chief marketing officer and head of communications while also providing oversight for Infiniti’s social media and public relations.
Like the Nissan Pathfinder it shares its bones with, the 2022 Infiniti QX60 is redone for 2022.
Infiniti folks try to shy away from the Pathfinder references and comparisons because it’s their job to sell consumers on the differences, as well as why one should pay more for the QX60 when it’s mechanically a Pathfinder.
Never mind that most car buyers, regardless of their level of industry knowledge, know that Infinitis are Nissans in fancier clothing, just like Lexus with Toyota and Acura with Honda. Luxury-car shoppers know this and don’t care – they are spending bigger bucks on the luxury brands for some combination of the following reasons: Standard features, available features, the dealer experience, interior materials, and styling.
I can’t speak to the dealer experience, but Infiniti has gotten the differentiation right when it comes to the rest of that list, especially the styling and materials. As for the feature and content mix, well, that’s going to come down to what you’re willing to spend.
Late last year I put forth some thoughts about the future direction of Infiniti, largely about how the company was on a downward trajectory. Looking forward, the brand needs a major change in direction – not much has changed since December when I wrote that piece.
But one might then logically ask “Where did the company first lose its way?” I’m going to answer that question right now. Let’s take a little trip to the Before Times, in 1990.
Infiniti wants so badly to show that it is back on the comeback trail.
It wants to do that so badly that it made a big marketing and P.R. push around the QX55 crossover. It even trailered the vehicle to journalists’ homes when it came time for each writer’s turn to evaluate the vehicle.
In Part I of this two-parter we were introduced to the J30, Infiniti’s luxurious new sports sedan for the Nineties. Having learned from their Q45 mistakes, the brand was determined their new mid-sizer would be appealable to the American Market.
So what went wrong? Let’s find out.
The other day while we were reviewing the daringly spectacular first generation Q45, commenter SSJeep requested coverage of Infiniti’s other rear-drive sedan from the period, the J30. I thought Rare Rides already covered Infiniti’s mid-size offering, but it turned out I was remembering an installment of Buy/Drive/Burn.
That means it’s time for J30.
After teasing, promises, and COVID-related delays, the Infiniti QX55 debuted a few weeks ago, as Infiniti eagerly drew direct comparisons between their new “classy” successor and the departed FX35/45. You might remember that shapely SUV headed to its demise in 2017 after it was left to rot for a few years, then renamed QX70. Infiniti chose to ignore its final QX70 name in the press materials and call it FX instead, which says something about their branding strategy, doesn’t it?
Today I’m here to tell you this “new car” is a perfect example of exactly what’s wrong at Infiniti, and the changes needed years ago, not sometime in the future.
We’ve covered the second album of Infiniti’s ill-fated Q45 flagship previously, in a stunningly clean example from 1998. However, the first generation is much harder to find; they just didn’t have the longevity or caring ownership profile of the Lexus LS 400. But someone in Japan maintained this one, and it’s been imported to the US just for you.
It’s time for blue-green, grille-free luxury.
With auto shows borked until next year – assuming that’s even possible – automakers need to show off concepts one way or another.
So it is that yet another livestream reveal took place tonight – this one showing the Infiniti QX60 Monograph. Which isn’t a production vehicle so much as it is an expression of what Infiniti wants to do going forward, in terms of design.
In this case, the brand wants to take the QX60 three-row crossover even further upscale.
With the upcoming QX55, Infiniti is tearing a page from the Volkswagen Atlas’ playbook. That German manufacturer saw that it had a good thing in its midsize crossover, so it decided to get more bang for its buck by shaving a little length and height from the three-row model, creating a mildly upscale, slightly restyled two-row variant to widen the model’s net.
The QX55 is the same recipe applied to Infiniti’s QX50 crossover — a model that landed with a resounding thud in late 2018, but one whose sales have proven interesting in the grim year of 2020. Why is that, you ask?
We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on Infiniti lately, primarily due to the grim announcement that the brand will become “Nissan-plus” in the coming years. While the brand produced a few bright spots like the G35 and FX over its 30-year history, most of its products were duds.
That got me thinking about one such dud product, and one that happened to appear for sale right as I was pondering. It’s the 1998 Q45, a disappointing flagship.
Commenter Chocolatedeath is absolutely adamant we talk about today’s trio of unpopular sedans. They’ve all got V8s, rear-drive, and found few buyers in their day, but that won’t stop us from choosing one among them to take home.
So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at Chocolatedeath’s car comparison, shall we?
Celebrating 30 years of existence, Infiniti announced it was time for a sea change this week. While sales have improved since the recession, last year saw a modest decline in volume that carried over into 2019 in a big way. Year to date, Nissan volume is down 6 percent, with Infiniti posting a 17.1-percent loss — we discussed this earlier in the day, if you’re interested.
Most of this saga is occuring in the United States, where Infiniti sources the bulk of its sales. China and Europe are footnotes for the manufacturer. Yet Infiniti would very much like to improve its global appeal, so it’s banking on EV adoption as being the next global consumer craze.
Considering how many countries are embracing stringent emission goals, Nissan’s premium arm could be making a wise choice. However, the U.S. hasn’t been quite so eager to push (or embrace) automotive electrification — meaning Infiniti could be endangering the one market that’s keeping it afloat. Unfortunately, the status quo doesn’t seem to be working, either — encouraging the automaker to adopt alternative powertrains and design cues in the coming years.
Infiniti’s sales took a tumble in September, dropping 44 percent (43.9 percent, to be exact) compared to September 2018.
Last year, Nissan’s luxury brand sold 12,536 units in September, while just 7,031 units left dealer lots this time around. The brand is also down 16.5 percent over the first nine months of the year.
Bigger picture, the industry has been hit by six months of sales declines in 2019, and all large automakers, Asian or American, were facing large drops (double digits, in many cases) in September. The good news for the industry is that the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR) checked in around 17.16 million units across all brands – a healthy number despite the sales declines.
Regular readers of these digital pages are well aware of the pressures facing Nissan’s Infiniti brand. While the premium marque’s status is better than in years past, it is not where the brand would like it to be. U.S. volume has declined since 2017, and the marque recently gave up on Europe.
Perhaps a slinky new crossover will draw eyes — and buyers — in an overly crowded segment?
As it blows out the candles on its 30th birthday cake, Infiniti’s biggest problems aren’t rocks and trees, but sales. That, and a shaky financial foundation underpinning its parent’s house.
Unlike in 1989, when the fledgling premium brand tempted buyers to pick up a new Q45, um, sight unseen, Infiniti is doing all it can to draw pairs of eyes to its real, physical vehicles, launching an Edition 30 trim package to mark the anniversary.
Last week, we accepted suggestions for our readers’ least favorite front-drive cars from the 1990s, but commenter Art Vandelay (an importer/exporter) wanted more. We’re back a week later to repeat the same question, but with a focus on rear-drive rides. Let the aero-infused criticism begin.
Think of an occasion in which something really good appeared in a place where it was underappreciated. A fantastic steak at the downtown greasy spoon, perhaps? Beautiful new windows installed in a student rental house? My writing on this website? Wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that last one out loud…
Buried in the mire of Ghosngate at Nissan is some nifty new tech that should be turning the car world on its ear. The company’s variable compression engine, displacing an industry-typical 2.0 liters from a turbocharged four pot, is actually about as far from industry-typical as Yugo was from being a class leader in fit and finish. It’s able to vary its compression from 8:1 to 14:1, thus offering the best of power and economy characteristics. It’s been called the “holy grail.”
So where does this engineering marvel and technological triumph first appear? In the company’s sports car? Don’t be silly. It’s under the hood of a grey crossover, of course.
Talk about being underappreciated.
Recently, I’ve shared musings about selling my old Infiniti, as well as the coupe or sedan options pegged to replace it. You readers had your helpful hearts in the right place, with funny suggestions of Challenger, Charger, and Mustang. A couple of weeks have elapsed since then, and there have been developments. Let’s chat.
In an introductory post last week, I detailed a couple of cars I was considering as a replacement to my decade-old Infiniti M. The comments (some filled with unusual anger) prodded me to add another car to the list.
A week later, I can tell you that two of those former options are absolutely out of the question.
Nissan’s Infiniti division has a new president. Announced Tuesday, Infiniti marketing and sales boss Christian Meunier will take the helm of the automaker’s luxury arm, replacing a departing Roland Krueger, who led the brand since 2015.
The change at the top is effective immediately, as Kruger apparently left in quite a hurry “to pursue new opportunities,” Nissan said in a statement.
“I thought the sun rose in your eyes, and the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave … to the dark … and the endless skies, my love,” sang Roberta Flack in the heady and decadent early ’70s. Suffice it to say this writer didn’t feel the earth move in his hand upon gazing at the Infiniti QX Inspiration, not did his heart tremble like a captive bird.
The QX Inspiration, like the Q Inspiration concept of 2018, heralds Infiniti’s electric — or at least electrified — future, and it’s a future without a face.
Luckily for no one, the addition of electric model ranges to various OEM portfolios will only make today’s alphanumeric naming situation worse, including at Nissan. Mercedes-Benz and BMW deserve honorable mentions in this naming crime, but it’s really an industry-wide problem.
That brings us to this tidbit: the names IMQ and IMS, which just appeared in a trademark application. Until now, we’ve only heard about the Nissan IMX, which fails the name-recognition test compared to more more well-known monikers like CRX, MDX, and, um, DMX. The sought-after names point to two future vehicles, both of which might accompany the IMX electric crossover into production.
The Buy/Drive/Burn series has ventured into unpopular cars territory a time or two before. Most recently we discussed three large American sedans that are most unpopular indeed (two of those three are now on their way out). Today we pick a Buy amongst three lower-volume midsize offerings from second-tier luxury brands.
It might not be the reality we want, but it’s the only reality we have. As car sales continue to dwindle (they’re down to roughly 30 percent of new vehicles sold), light trucks have picked up the torch at most brands, though some aren’t arriving fast enough to satisfy jittery executives in today’s stagnating market.
At two premium Japanese brands, the arrival of two crossovers in the scorching compact segment had exactly the effect their creators hoped for. Acura and Infiniti, faced with declining sales in recent years, had reason to smile in October. The recipe is working.
Infiniti doesn’t want you to look at the Project Black S prototype and ooh and ah over its looks. It’s a Q60 with an aero makeover. No, Infiniti created the Project Black S as a technological showpiece, due to be revealed Monday in the periphery of the Paris auto show.
Beneath its hood is what Infiniti’s mulling for the sportier side of its electrified future. The prototype incorporates a hybrid system that finds energy at every turn — not just from regenerative braking, but exhaust gasses, too. While mashing the throttle of an internal combustion vehicle is hardly the greenest way to generate electricity, drivers looking for added boost likely won’t mind.
While popularity varies among brands, hybrids remain a tough sell in today’s marketplace, despite half of all automaker-produced literature going towards the touting of their environmental cred. Still, few automakers stand apart from the crowd by not offering a green vehicle of some sort, even if it’s a low-volume, rarely-heard-about offering aimed at satisfying the EPA.
Infiniti, which recently deep-sixed its Q70 Hybrid (not long after jettisoning the QX60 Hybrid), has now done the same with the gas-electric version of the Q50 midsize sedan. It’s a confusing product time at Infiniti, with new models arriving as others depart. This isn’t the end of green vehicles for Nissan’s luxury marque, however. Hybrid power will return, just not in the same form.
Last summer, Infiniti revealed an open-wheeled racer that merged the sex appeal of yesteryear with the electric powertrain of tomorrow. It was called the the Prototype 9 and it was stunningly beautiful. This summer, the brand attempted to repeat that success with the Prototype 10.
While the vintage maxim of “lightning never strikes the same place twice” isn’t scientifically accurate, it’s applicable here. Unveiled at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Prototype 10 is a rehash. It’s another reimagining of mid-century racing, bestowed with an electric motor and some modern flair.
It’s an incredibly handsome automobile, but unnecessary, as it’s representative of absolutely nothing. Infiniti isn’t planning on building single-seat race cars and doesn’t appear prepared to jump into the mass assembly of high-performance EVs. This has been a problem with Infiniti for a while now. The company embraces forward-looking and completely fantastical concept vehicles at the expense of something that might enter into production within a few years. Ultimately, it feels like a wasted effort.
One of our trio is on its last legs, another is brand new, and the third option is near the middle of its life. They all share V8 power up front, driven wheels at the rear, and midsections full of luxury equipment. Most people avoided them when new, so it should be no problem finding one to burn.
Who isn’t talking about the Infiniti Q70? Okay, maybe more than a few people. The Infiniti brand’s largest passenger car enjoys low but fairly stable sales, returning volume in the high 5,000s in both 2017 and 2016.
Alongside the rear-drive, V6- or V8-powered four-door was a hybrid variant, but that green companion dies for 2019 — leaving just one gas-electric model in the Infiniti stable.
A report in a Japanese business publication claims the partnership that gave us the Infiniti QX30 crossover — built on the same MFA platform as the Mercedes-Benz GLA — won’t yield a compact Infiniti luxury car, as was planned.
This isn’t a case of bad blood between the two automakers, however. The United States just isn’t a ripe target for such a vehicle anymore, apparently, and the vastly uncertain trade situation doesn’t help.
Over the past seven weeks, we’ve spent time filling the various sections of our Crapwagon Garage with the sort of vehicles only a true connoisseur of cheap can appreciate. This eighth edition in the series is the last we have planned, unless one of you enterprising members of the commentary can think of some style of vehicle the series missed.
Otherwise, we wrap up the series with some convertibles. Many of you have been holding onto your convertible selections for about three weeks, as when we covered coupes all drop-tops were specifically off-limits. Now’s your chance to let loose and [s]take off your top[/s] talk about convertibles.
This is one of those times when I was actively keeping an eye out for a particular Rare Ride. It’s one which is hard to come by in any decent condition, and harder still to find listed with pictures worth using in an article.
The day has finally arrived. It’s time for M45.
Outside of my hometown of Chicago, New York City remains one of my favorite metropolises. I don’t know why – Manhattan is overstuffed with cars and people, garbage is put out on the sidewalks, hotel rooms are no oasis from street noise, and most goods and services are way too expensive.
Perhaps New York has a unique sort of charm that compensates for all its flaws, some sort of charisma that continues to exist despite the continuing transformation of Manhattan into a living Disney city for the wealthy.
I mean, in what other city would I be brazenly approached by a young man trying to sell me cocaine as I walked back to my hotel after some late-night pizza (partake, I did not. Drugs aren’t my thing. Pizza was good, though) while almost within sight of the most famous urban intersection in the world – one that was undoubtedly crowded to the gills even at that hour? In what other city would I have a surreal on-street argument with a fellow pedestrian over an innocent, touristy picture I took of a street sign? There’s this “only in New York” feeling, a sense that certain things happen to you that just wouldn’t elsewhere.
It’s the kind of place where you can swear bloody murder because the F train didn’t show, but find value in the 40-minute walk across lower Manhattan you undertake instead, all because you don’t feel like doing the logical thing and hailing a cab. SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown all look much better from on foot.
Back in January, we asked you B&B to tell us about the least reliable car you’d ever owned. The stories poured in, amounting to a shocking 240+ comments. It took us days to emotionally recover from the sad tales expressed in your replies.
But today will not be a day of tears. We want to know: what’s the most reliable car you’ve ever owned?
Our last few entries in the Buy/Drive/Burn series have been stuck in the 1990s, and we’ve had a request recently to talk about something a bit newer, perhaps even… current. While you recover from your immediate shock, I can assure you we aren’t going completely mainstream. No talking about boring everyday things. No, these three will likely all qualify as Rare Rides subjects in the future, assuming I’m 70 years old and there’s still an Internet media (hopefully there isn’t).
Three untouchable large sedans, all of them trading on their luxury intentions. Remember, you only get to burn one, and one has to go home to your garage.
Even with vehicles that aren’t at the forefront of public discourse, the winds blowing in favor of trucks and SUVs usually fill the sails of under-the-radar models, too. That’s been the case, more or less, for Infiniti’s top-of-the-heap QX60 and QX80 utility vehicles.
Born as the JX35, the QX60 three-row crossover shares its unibody architecture with the Nissan Pathfinder, but, despite a facelift for 2016, sales slipped last year. Its larger sibling, the body-on-frame, Nissan Patrol-based QX80, gained its own facelift for 2018. The range-topping SUV is the poster child for gradual sales inflation. Between 2016 and 2017, the QX80 found an extra 1,109 buyers in the United States. Another 1,126 hopped aboard between 2015 and 2016.
Hoping to lure more customers into the showroom (while squeezing more profit from both models), Infiniti is putting a time-honored strategy into action. For 2019, the automaker dials up the glitz and slaps on a “Limited” label.
In our last Buy/Drive/Burn entry, we traveled to the heady year of 1995 to peruse a trio of alternative luxury cars. One American and two Swedes vied for a place in the fantasy garage. The comments seemed to indicate a desire for more Japanese cars in the running, and commenter JohnTaurus suggested a trio we might discuss.
The year is 1995 (again). The cars are three unsuccessful Japanese luxury sedans that time forgot. Are you feeling… Vigorous?
It is impossible to ignore the present pattern in the Buy/Drive/Burn series. We’ve had three entries in the series so far, two of which have been coupe-focused. In today’s fourth edition, we talk coupes again and sort out some questions of arson from B&B commenter Dal20402. He suggested today’s modern, rear-drive sports coupe lineup in the QOTD post where we introduced the rules for this series.
The coupe category spans three continents, each with its own idea of what a rear-drive coupe should be. Which one will burn?
One thing is clear — with variable compression comes a newfound lack of thirst.
Infiniti’s previous midsize QX50 crossover didn’t astound in its thrift, garnering 20 miles per gallon on the EPA combined cycle. The move to a new, front-drive platform and addition of a years-in-the-making gasoline engine for 2019 has done wonders for the model’s drinking habit, however, and Infiniti engineers pegged the MPG figures right on the nose.
With the 2019 QX50‘s fuel economy now confirmed by the EPA, it begs the question: just how much of the model’s thriftiness can the variable compression engine take credit for?
Miles per gallon can vary from driver to driver. We all know that. Now, Infiniti is trying out an engine that can vary its compression ration from scenario to scenario.
Miles per gallon is also a key spec for the new QX50, since the variable compression ratio tech is responsible for a claimed improvement in combined fuel economy – 35 percent for front-drive vehicles and 30 for all-wheel-drive units.
As is the usual case on first drives, I had no chance to verify those numbers – which, according to Infiniti, work out to 27 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 26 mpg with all-wheel drive. Improved fuel economy is just part of the picture when it comes to variable compression, which is making its production debut in the 2019 Infiniti QX50.
There’s that misleading word again. At this week’s North American International Auto Show, Infiniti promised it would only field new products featuring some sort of electrified propulsion starting in 2021, thus joining half the automotive universe in promising an “electric” future.
In reality, this means each new model appearing after the target date will launch with at least a hybrid variant in tow. In Infiniti’s case, it means a handful of fully electric vehicles, plus the use of a novel Nissan technology that sees a gasoline engine running at all times.
Why Infiniti needs a subcompact crossover that shares its platform with the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a mystery that only the folks at Nissan HQ know the answer to.
After all, I spent four days wheeling one all over Los Angeles, from the airport to downtown and back, and I still don’t know the answer to that question.
Separating the QX30 from its platform mate and judging it on its own merits, however, is nonetheless revealing.
At the end of 2017, we’ve reached a point where it seems odd to launch, or even hint at, a new large passenger car. So it’s with a furrowed brow that we gaze upon this teaser from Infiniti.
The blindingly white car you’re seeing a corner of is real, bowing at next month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It’s a concept that “previews a new generation of Infiniti vehicles,” the automaker tells us, so it’s no wonder Infiniti chose the large sedan category as a canvas for this design study. Generously proportioned sedans and coupes excell at showing off long, flowing lines and curves.
Of course, it’s crossovers that actually sell these days, which makes the rumors that this concept heralds a real-life flagship sedan all the more questionable.
At this week’s L.A. Auto Show and Traffic Negotiation Event, Infiniti will reveal the next generation QX50 — an overdue replacement for the aged model formerly known as the EX35. While the introduction of a crossover that’s losing its V6 and rear-wheel-drive platform wouldn’t normally interest me, the model’s new engine does.
Today we’re going to discuss variable displacement and the future of internal combustion engines. Fly or flop, what say you?
You saw a teaser the other day, but here’s the real thing. Infiniti’s next-generation 2019 QX50 midsize crossover has appeared online before its official unveiling at next week’s L.A. Auto Show.
The model’s uncloaking doesn’t yield any great design surprises, as this next-generation model — bearing Infiniti’s new “Powerful Elegance” styling — was preceded, somewhat oddly, by its own namesake concept vehicle. One surprise, however, is the model’s anticipated fuel economy.
With a 2.0-liter variable compression four-cylinder resting under the hood, the new QX50 sips less gas than initially claimed.
Nissan’s luxury division isn’t saying it’s the next-generation QX50, but everything we know about that model and its revolutionary (and potentially risky) engine points to one conclusion.
For now, and until the vehicle’s unveiling at the L.A. Auto Show on November 28th, Infiniti simply refers to it as an “all-new model” — one boasting “world-first” technology. The technology’s no mystery, as after two decades of development Infiniti plans to launch a 2.0-liter variable compression gas engine. Expect class-leading interior volume, the automaker tells us.
Nearly 30 years ago, Infiniti introduced the first-generation Q45 — a remarkable flagship sedan packed with performance and technology but whose rocks-and-trees ad campaign went on to become a staple of “what not to do” in undergrad marketing courses across the land.
Infiniti pulled the plug on its flagship after the 2006 model year, following poor sales performances that plumbed the depths of Excel charts heretofore unknown to any model since the Lincoln Blackwood.
Which was unfortunate because the Q, by and large, was an excellent car. Now, there appears to be a good chance we’ll see a new Infiniti flagship sedan, perhaps as soon as the Detroit Auto Show in January.
We’ve mused on Infiniti’s Variable Compression Engine in the past, calling it everything from a chameleon to the holy grail. Its killer app? The ability to changes the distance the pistons travel in their cylinders by as much as 6 mm, or about a quarter of an inch.
Why is this important? Because it is, arguably, the first major change to the workings of a internal combustion engine in more than a century.
I recall once having a discussion in TTAC’s Slack chatroom. The topic, one that doesn’t come up all that often these days, was styling excess. Way too much gingerbread, far too much latter-day Baroque flourishes, and too confusing a design can turn a high-priced vehicle into a dog’s breakfast.
In my opinion, that described the Infiniti QX80 to a “T.”
When Infiniti’s full-size, body-on-frame SUV launched in mid-2013, “understated,” “muted,” and “tasteful” were not words that jumped to the forefront of one’s mind. Thankfully, Infiniti has taken an eraser to the model’s most controversial elements for 2018, resulting in a vehicle that’s much more cohesive, yet similar in profile.