Gimme back my gears

Nissan is busily bolting continuously-variable transmissions into almost everything it sells, though it should be noted that the only Infiniti that gets a CVT, the QX60, is the only one that’s also sold for a few dollars less as a Nissan (the Pathfinder). That said, the upcoming Q30/QX30 will presumably be fitted with the Mercedes-Benz 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, because people will avoid it in droves if it has the rubber-band box — and because its engine, albeit built by Nissan in the States, is a Mercedes design. There has been no suggestion that any other Infiniti will be saddled with a CVT, which is a good thing, given Dale Franks’ opinion of the CVT inflicted on every Nissan Altima:

Some people, of course, will find the Continuously Variable Transmission perfectly acceptable, but for me, it’s a hump I can’t get over. Which, I must say, biases me against Nissan in general, because the CVT powertrain is their bread and butter, and it appears in nearly all of the cars in their lineup. Nissan, as I’ve mentioned before, is fully invested in the CVT, and they’ve done everything they can to make as good a CVT as possible. Yet, the end result is like a gourmet pastry, baked by Paul Bocuse, and made from the finest flour, the richest chocolate, the purest cane sugar, the freshest heavy cream, and bat guano.

But is it the highest-quality bat guano? Not at the Altima’s price point, I suspect.

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The Nissan Maxima, argues Jack Baruth, is an anti-halo car:

  • Customer comes in to see the Altima
  • Customer sees Maxima with giant SALE banner
  • Customer compares price of discounted Maxima with less-discounted Altima
  • Sees that Maxima is a better deal
  • Doesn’t really like the Maxima
  • But he’ll be damned if he’ll pay just as much for an Altima as he would pay for the Maxima he doesn’t want
  • Customer leaves, buys a Camry, which is what his wife wanted him to do anyway

Conclusion: Nissan doesn’t need this car. But somebody does:

The company that most needs a Maxima is Nissan’s own sub-brand, Infiniti.

“But wait,” you say, “Infiniti’s brand values don’t include some big Fail-Wheel-Drive barge.” I assume you’re kidding, dear reader. Infiniti has no brand values whatsoever. It’s always been a grab-bag of whatever Nissan had sitting around the Japanese showrooms. The original Q45 was a Nissan President — although, to be fair, the idea of the Q45 was certainly on Nissan’s mind when the President was being developed. The Q-cars that followed were rebadged Nissan Cimas with virtually no US-market development. The G35 that took over as the “heart of the brand” was a Skyline. Only the FX-thingys were really meant from the jump to be exclusively Infinitis. The current lineup is a dog’s breakfast of awkward-looking SUVs and the Q50, which is lovely inside but doesn’t really exude much sporting intent.

And if they push it over to the Infiniti side of the business — as they did between 1997 and 2003, so there’s precedent — it has a chance of justifying a $40k price point, something it can’t do as a Nissan. Besides, it would kill off all that “four-door sports car” crap once and for all. I drive a 2000 with an Infiniti badge; it does have four doors, and it’s definitely a car, but it’s sporting only in the sense that it’s not the sort of anti-sporting vehicle for which General Motors was so famous for so long. If you can imagine an Oldsmobile Cutlass Semi-Supreme with better dampers, you have the I30/I35. If they bring it back as a Q40 or something, I’d have to seriously consider buying one.

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Trademark erased

Infiniti’s US branch tweeted this on Tuesday:

I took one look at it, and shot back:

Turns out that there’s a reason for that:

We knew the Q30 had a lot in common with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class but as these images show, this is far more than a common platform. The steering wheel, instrument cluster, switchgear, and shifter are direct from the Mercedes parts bin. From the looks of the images, the Q30 will even have a Mercedes-style key.

Which invites a fairly obvious question: How are they going to sell this as a Benz competitor when for somewhere around the same price you can get an actual Benz?

There better be some serious chassis tuning going on here. (We already know it’s the same engine: the Mercedes M270 turbo four with around 208 ponies, albeit built by Nissan in the States.)

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Now with deBlartification

Ezra Dyer grumbles in Car and Driver (August) that cars have too many dysfunctional functions:

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that carmakers indulge the temptation to cram in every feature that might theoretically have a moment of utility over a car’s life span. For example, I just tried Infiniti’s new InTouch system in the Q50S. Several menus down the infotainment rabbit hole, I had the car giving me movie times for Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. A disclaimer at the bottom of the screen read, “Screening times displayed are not always up to date.” I suppose this function would be useful, if something happened to your phone — maybe you ran it over? — and you then had to use your car to find uncertain movie times. But in all likelihood, you would never miss this feature if you never had it, leaving your car and your life just a little bit simpler.

I’d take a different approach. The Q50S is already smart enough to detect when you’re drifting out of your lane and nudge the car back into position. With this much brainpower, surely it’s possible to arrange for the car never to even mention stuff like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.



Gwendolyn went in for a spa day this week, and the dealership sent me off in a Q40, which nobody admits but everybody knows is the old G37 with a new badge. (I said something to this effect while signing out the car, and got a stare worthy of Fluttershy.) At least it’s familiar, always a useful trait in a borrowed car, and there’s a “3.7” emblem in front of the doors, just in case you didn’t catch on.

Then again, this wasn’t the stripper G they usually relegate to loaner duty: this one had the full nav package, which I looked at just long enough to realize that our street grid, or Nissan’s graphic representation of it anyway, appears to have been designed by Piet Mondrian on Quaaludes. Otherwise, it’s the same tried-and-true machine, which is undoubtedly why Infiniti kept it around even after its replacement, the Q50, was introduced: at under $40k, it’s a decent price leader.


Another M dashed

From several summers ago:

BMW for many years has affixed the letter M to its highest-performance cars, and they probably didn’t pay much attention when Nissan’s Infiniti division begat M35 and M45 sedans: the Bimmers, after all, had labels like M5 and M6, and anyway Infiniti had had an M30 way back when, which no one would have confused with anything Bavarian. It was probably not a good idea, though, for Infiniti to refer to the M35/M45 collectively as the “M.” And then Infiniti came up with the idea of an M6 sport package for the Canadian-market G35, and BMW drew a line in the legal sand.

A Canadian court has now ruled that BMW owns the M mark.

And now all Infinitis are Qs of some sort. I can’t prove that Mercedes-Benz was listening through the door, but the M-Class is no more:

As part of its efforts to re-brand crossovers, the Mercedes-Benz ML is now the “GLE,” the X5 to the GLE Coupe’s X6.

Along with a diesel 4-cylinder and a gasoline V6 (with or without turbos), there is an AMG version, the GLE63 AMG and an “S” version.

The new GLE is essentially the same W166 Benz it’s been, albeit with a facelift to go with the new badge.

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Four-cylinder butterface

Last month, we were treated to a three-quarter-rear look at the upcoming Infiniti QX30 crossover-wagon-thingie. At Geneva this week, they’re letting us see the front:

Infiniti QX30 concept at Geneva Auto Show 2015

I can see why they wanted you to see the back first.

(With thanks to Cameron Aubernon at TTAC.)

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More wee wheels

This is apparently a glance at the future Infiniti QX30:

Teaser for Infiniti QX30

A cousin to the Mercedes-Benz GLA, this little wagonlet is supposed to slot in under the QX50, which used to be the EX35. I expect a turbo four, and maybe a diesel, instead of the V6s farther up the line. And I figure both this and the QX50 will be uncomfortably close to $40k once I start shopping again.


Defending the American knee

Not so long ago, I posted a shot from a Buick print ad showing a young lady busily tableting away in the back seat of an Encore, incorporating the following observations:

[T]he fact that Miss Tablet can actually cross her legs back there is reassuring, though I’m not sure how close her head is to the ceiling.

This latter point is seldom made by automakers; I can remember only once in recent years when it was blatant, and even then it was only a tweet.

Now comes this, to show you the space available in the long-wheelbase Infiniti Q70L, and once again legroom is a factor:

Rear sear of Infiniti Q70L, occupied by dreamy female

Of course, the great tragedy of my life is being unable to attract anyone like that to the front seat.

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El Q

I found this ad on the Fark Politics tab, which I suppose makes sense, inasmuch as pretty much all public policy these days calls for spending money, and many of the recipients — not to mention many of the dispensers of said cash — are decidedly challenged by actual English:

Banner ad for Infiniti Q50 in Spanish

Then again, I have to wonder what I’d been reading to be sent this particular ad in the first place.

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That’s your Q to leave

Johan de Nysschen, last heard explaining why Infiniti needed to replace all its alphanumerics with more inscrutable alphanumerics, is moving on, to an American marque whose badges already make no damn sense:

Johan de Nysschen, the executive largely credited with Audi’s rise to Tier 1 luxury brand status, has left his post at Infiniti after just two years on the job. He will assume the top job at Cadillac, after former President Bob Ferguson was moved to a new post as GM’s head of public policy… de Nysschen, who took the helm as Infiniti moved its headquarters to Hong Kong and re-organized its nomenclature (into the confusing “Q” and “QX” lines), was expected to lead a long, progressive turnaround for the brand, much as he did with the once-struggling Audi.

ATS? CTS? ELR? WTF, Cadillac?

This may not be a matter of mere letters, though:

An Automotive News story suggests that CEO Carlos Ghosn’s extremely ambitious targets may have played a part in de Nysschen’s departure.

And let’s face it, you don’t mess with the Johan.

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Tam’s wheels (eight of them, anyway) are in the shop, and while she’s tooling around Naptown in a perfectly reasonable, if unexciting, rented econobox, she’s telling this tale:

Last oil change rolled around and I pulled up to the Jiffy Lube (yes, I know how to change it myself, but it’s worth it to me to not have to lie down on gravel) and the whole staff of strapping young men had to stand around while they went to find the only person in the store who could operate a manual transmission, a leathery middle-aged country gal. You would be drummed out of the Subtle Fiction Writer’s Guild for including that scene in a book.

Now I’m wondering. Infiniti has had, since 2003 anyway, exactly one model with a stick shift; I’d be surprised if the local dealership sold more than a single truckload in any given year. What are the chances that any of their service personnel can drive a manual? (I’m betting that the one female on staff can, and probably none of the others.)

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Needs an eye-bleach dispenser

Nissan, perhaps due to rubbing up against corporate cousin Renault for all these years, always seems to have a weird mix of genuinely handsome and downright fugly vehicles. I drive a 14-year-old Infiniti sedan which I think is at least acceptable-looking (apart from a really dumb aftermarket spoiler), especially considering the atrocities that have been vended in this size class in recent years in the name of fuel economy/aerodynamics/designer perversity. On the other side of the divide is the Juke utelet, of which Car and Driver said: “There are no logical reasons for it to look the way it does, so clearly drawn without conventional aesthetic considerations in mind.” And they liked it.

The revised Infiniti QX80, née QX56, née Nissan Patrol, may get similarly blistered in the press. At TTAC, Cameron Miquelon made no particular observation about its appearance, other than to note that the hood was “massive.” However, Michael Zak at Autoblog brought out the pejoratives:

[I]t’s hard to call this SUV anything but ugly. It’s bulbous and almost brutish, which aren’t generally words you want to have to use when talking about any kind of luxury vehicle.

Or even Lincolns.

On the basis that you should be able to make this fine judgment call on your own, here’s the new QX80, as seen at the New York auto show:

2015 Infiniti QX80

No amount of ethanol could persuade me that this thing is desirable. (Your mileage, of course, may vary.) Then again, the driver only has to look at the inside of it, except when refueling — which, given the size of this thing, he’ll be doing rather frequently.

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A finite list

Jack Baruth explains the bottom of the Infiniti car line — the truck line makes no more sense, but that can wait for another time — thusly:

The G37 is no more. Enter the Q40, which is basically last year’s stripper-model G37 with a different badge. Supposedly an entry-level compact-lux car is coming, which would be named Q30. Think of the Q30 as being the old G20, the Q40 as being the old G37, and the Q50 as being the new G37.

You already know what I think of this scheme. We can only imagine what names they threw away to arrive at this point:

  1. T42
  2. asi9
  3. EcoBurst
  4. 1WK
  5. Z71
  6. 4.9GX
  7. Aluminum Duke
  8. 10.2.4
  9. 2002ti
  10. WD-40

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A very modest recall

The details, admittedly, are a little scary:

Nissan North America, Inc. (Nissan) is recalling certain model year 2014 Infiniti Q50 vehicles equipped with Direct Adaptive Steering. The affected vehicles received a power steering software version that, should the engine compartment reach freezing temperatures, the power steering software may disable the electric steering system and also may delay the engagement of the mechanical steering backup system.

And this isn’t some electric-assist steering job like you see elsewhere: this is true drive-by-wire, with only a stream of electrons connecting the tiller and the rack. (Which is why there’s a mechanical backup, which also seems to be tetchy.)

This line provides a (small) quantity of reassurance:

Potential Number of Units Affected: 23

The local Infiniti store has at least that many units sitting on the lot, so this is evidently not what you’d call a widespread problem. Still, we’re talking software, goshdarnit, and I’m not sure I want to steer with software, now or any time soon.

(Via Autoblog.)

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There is a light that never seems to go out

An operation called CarMD compiles each year something it calls the Vehicle Health Index, which is derived from repair statistics stemming from the appearance of the dreaded Malfunction Indicator Light, known familiarly as the “Check Engine” light. Since I have reason to fear this horrid little device — I joke, or at least I claim it’s a joke, that every time I see it, it costs me $600 — I figured I’d look at their report [pdf] and see what sort of dire catastrophes have befallen my fellow Glorified Nissan owners.

For the year ending 30 September 2013, CarMD reports that the single most common cause of the MIL on an Infiniti is a bad ground wire, which costs essentially nothing for parts and about $170 for labor. This revelation is sort of disheartening. And the fourth is the failure to tighten the gas cap adequately, which, assuming the cap is okay, costs zilch, though the tech is likely to snicker.

The three remaining in the top five, I’ve had to endure in the past seven years: bad ignition coils ($290, assuming you didn’t have to replace all six), bad oxygen sensors ($360, assuming ditto), and catalytic-converter replacement, which allegedly one might have avoided with a little attention to those oxygen sensors ($1190). A check of other brands indicates that bad cats typically run over a grand, and the domestics are a hair less than the imports.

Various GM models, though, seem to run into problems that require this solution: “Remove Aftermarket Alarm System.”

As to where they get this (these?) data, CarMD says they collect it from their network of ASE-certified techs, which seems reasonable to me. In all, they say, Hyundai rules: Toyota has just as few repairs, but fixing the Toyotas costs more.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Girly in the morning

We’re a long way from getting past automotive sexism, it appears: I got my wife an Infiniti G37 because she really liked it and still loves it. I ride it in sometimes not a lot but from what I tell its just a car. The acceleration is better in it is better than my brothers crap Acura TL and feels and sounds better than an Acura. But I saw this new Infiniti I liked called the JX. It's big, sits high of the ground, and has some good looks to it. I'm about tired of my pilot and it has some problems I'm not in the mood for so I think it's time to replace it. Is this a good, reliable car and are Infiniti's for guys as well?

If you ask me, this guy should:

  1. Buy the biggest, baddest, pickup truck with as many option packages as he possibly can;
  2. Drive it into the farging sea.

It’s the only way to clean up the gene pool.

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Quasi-automotive imagery

Mark Stevenson, contributing half of an Infiniti JX35 QX60 review to The Truth About Cars:

The JX seems to be able to hit that middle ground sweet spot: not terribly forgettable like the Audi Q7 but it won’t make your kids lose their government approved school lunches when you pull up to the front door at the end of the day like the Lincoln MKT. While I would be remiss to call the JX sexy, it definitely has the right curves in the proper places, like an over-sexed female biology teacher with a strict workout regimen and a winky eye. You know it is wrong to like her, but you still do, even 15 years after she taught you the reproductive rituals of chimpanzees.

For the record, I took my high-school biology classes from a nun — a Sister of Saints Cyril and Methodius, if I remember correctly. She looked like she might have worked out, to the extent that you could tell, but you may be assured that her eye wasn’t the least bit winky.

The other half of this review, incidentally, contains this remark by Matthew Guy: “I think it looks like a Murano with breasts, and well developed co-ed ones at that.” I guess a two-person review is easier when both persons are single-minded.

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That’s Jack’s Q

I have been properly agnostic about Infiniti’s switch to an all-Q lineup, and decidedly skeptical about the Official Explanation. What I was waiting for, evidently, was Jack Baruth’s response:

Because it is part of my job to know, I will eventually put away my disgust long enough to internalize the ridiculous new naming convention employed by the not-really-autonomous luxury arm of Nissan. What I know offhand is this: the G37 successor will be called the Q50. This arrant stupidity is roughly equivalent to Rolls-Royce introducing a new small car and calling it the Phantom Eight. Or calling the new Acura ILX the Legend Plus Five. Or calling the swoopy 2014 Lexus IS the Lexus LS510hL. I could go on, and I encourage you to do so when you are wasting time with your work buddies at lunch (“Hey! I’ve got one! The new Mercedes CLA coulda been the S650!”) but you get the idea. The just-unveiled Infiniti Q-ship system has the previously unknown-to-science ability to make the utter marketing dolts at Lincoln and Cadillac look like geniuses just for not calling the MKZ and ATS the Continental Mark XIV and Fleetwood Talisman Brougham Eldorado, respectively.

And counter-threaded pot-metal dolts at that.

But what’s worse than a whole line of Q? A whole line of QX:

[T]he trucks all take a nomenclature cue from the QX56, a vehicle so unspeakably crass it depresses the space-time curve around it for kilometers and causes cordovan Alden penny loafers to spontaneously evolve into Chinese-sewn Kenneth Cole white-trash square-toe monstrosities as all notions of human decency are shattered beyond hope or recognition in its lumbering, cetacean wake.

All this and they still don’t have a proper follow-on product for the original Q45. I’m aware that 85 percent or so of automotive marketing consists of ripping off the competition; what I can’t fathom is why Nissan thinks the competition is Lincoln, which still doesn’t have a proper follow-on product for either the Continental or the Town Car.

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Q, and some A

Apparently the reaction to Infiniti’s spading over its current nomenclature in favor of a whole line of Q-ships was sufficiently negative to prompt Johan de Nysschen his own bad self to issue an explanation, which went like this:

1. We are embarking on a massive product offensive, and these new cars need names. There are no suitable combinations of Alphanumeric naming options remaining which are not already trademarked by another automaker. In order to expand our line up with the fascinating new models we are developing, we must create a more flexible nomenclature philosophy.

Not flexible enough to eschew alphanumerics entirely, though. Remember the Acura Legend? Or the Integra? Now, do you remember any Acuras since then?

2. Our new advanced technology engines under development will be smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient yet more powerful. And we will introduce some exhilarating performance machines in the future. I’m sure you will agree, it would be a bit odd to have a powerful, luxurious and refined V8 powered Infiniti M56, then position a new high-tech 550+ horsepower performance flagship for the Infiniti M range above it, using a potent charged induction V6, but then call it Infiniti M30, which we would be obliged to do, following our current naming logic.

The M isn’t the flagship. (If it were, it would be something like Q90, a step ahead of the dreadnaught QX80 — previously QX56 — SUV.) This is where the Q should be. I will be generous and not mention the second-generation Q45, which actually had a 4.1-liter engine.

3. Infiniti is becoming a global brand now, we are already active in almost 50 countries, the majority only very recently. Our new customers are unfamiliar with the brand and struggle to understand our range hierarchy. Is a JX above or below an FX? Where does an EX fit? What is the relationship between G and Infiniti M? Research confirms the majority of newcomers to our brand consider the naming to be somewhat arbitrary and confusing.

M, then G; QX, JX, FX, EX. Reverse alphabetical order. Of course, the JX, being a thinly-disguised Nissan Pathfinder, is way out of position, but it doesn’t even fit the brand, let alone the hierarchy. (Lowest power of any Infiniti, and a CVT besides? Shoulda been the DX. This had to be Carlos Ghosn’s idea: only someone comfortable with ripping the roof off a Murano fercrissake could possibly imagine such a thing.) And please note: two actual cars, four SUV-like things. What’s wrong with this picture?

4. Infiniti owns the naming assets of Q plus double digit, and QX plus double digit. And it is a permanent part of our heritage.

So you stretch it over the entire line? This isn’t as insane as Lincoln’s MK[whatever] branding strategery, but it’s close.

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