LUXURY CARMAKER INFINITI is spreading its wings, with Europe and Russia having recently been added to the growing list of regions selling its multi-award winning vehicles.
The upmarket vehicle division of Nissan boasts fifteen countries where it now has a dealership presence, including the North American, Middle-East and Chinese markets.
The US was the first market (way back in 1989) for Infiniti; with Nissan then deciding it needed a premium brand to compete with Toyota?s Lexus and Honda?s Acura.
Surprisingly, Australia was early in the queue for the Infiniti brand, with the 207kW/400Nm 4.5-litre V8 Q45 sedan launched into showrooms here in 1993, before fading from dealerships in 1996.
The last Q45s retailed for over $150,000, making it the most expensive Nissan vehicle ever sold in this country.
Thirteen years have now passed, and Nissan has decided not to venture back to these shores with the Infiniti badge.
But it?s a big brand overseas, especially in the US, and has some very appealing cars in its stable. Is it time for a return?
To whet your appetite just a little, following is a run-down on some of Infiniti?s recent models and the vehicles they would likely muscle up to in this market.
2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan
- Price range: US$33,250 - $38,700 (AU$41,376 ? $48,155)
- Fuel Economy: 9.0 l/100km hwy, 13.0 l/100km city
- 0-100 km/h - 5.5 secs
The Infiniti G37 sedan is once again ensconced in the 2009 Car and Drivers ?10 Best List?. It is the fourth time the Infiniti sedan or coupe has made the coveted list since 2003.
The sedan scored a significant upgrade in 2009, with the addition of a new 3.7-litre V6 rated at 241kW and 365Nm of torque.
The power cube (Americanism for engine) is now mated to a new seven-speed automatic transmission or close-ratio six-speed manual transmission. The 2008 versions had five-speed auto boxes.
Options include magnesium paddle shifters for the seven-speed automatic, along with intelligent cruise control with preview braking (which identifies sudden braking, pre-pressurizing the brake assist system).
It is available in four models: the base G37 model; the Journey which adds dual zone automatic temperature control and auto on/off headlights; then the 37S Sport 6MT which scores a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission with short-throw shifter, viscous limited slip differential and sport brakes with opposed-piston brake calipers; and, lastly, the AWD which adds intelligent all-wheel drive and heated front seats and outside mirrors.
Its local competition here would be the BMW 335i Sedan, Mercedes C320, Honda Legend, and Lexus IS 250.
2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe
Late last year, TMR?s Tonester drove and reviewed an imported five-speed auto 2008 Nissan Skyline Coupe 370GT (also known as the 2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe).
He hopped out of the driver?s seat wondering why it wasn?t released here, feeling that Aussie buyers would be clamouring to get into one. (This model figures highly among private and ?grey? imports to these shores.)
Adding to the 2008 Coupe?s considerable allure, the 2009 version has more power, the brand-spanking-new seven-speed auto, in addition to a host of other goodies also found in the latest G37 sedan.
Local Competition for the Coupe would include the BMW 335i Coupe, Mercedes CLC-Class Sports Coupe, Peugeot 407 Coupe and Audi TT 3.2 V6 Quattro.
2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible
The curvy convertible is the first-ever open-air ?G?, and will hit US dealerships on June 19, promising seductive styling and G-worthy dynamic performance.
Based on the current G37 Coupe, it comes standard with traction and stability control and has the same powertrain as the sedan and coupe.
The drop-top features a three-piece automatic retracting hardtop, to keep a coupe-like roofline, and is optioned with exotic African rosewood veneers on the dash, door, and console.
Handy features are the audio and climate-control systems that automatically adjust to topless driving, the audio volume and air-con adjusting according to the road speed.
Among the local up-market competition, if we were to see the G37 Convertible here, would be the BMW 335i Convertible, Volvo C70 T5 Convertible, Saab 9-3 Aero V6 Convertible, and Mercedes SLK350.
2009 Infiniti FX35 and FX50
- Price range: ?42,600-?53,800 (AU$86,100- $108,700)
- FX35 Fuel Economy: 10L/100km Hwy, 14L/100km City
- FX50 Fuel Economy: 11L/100km Hwy, 16L/100km City
- FX35 0-100km/h - 6.1 secs
- FX50 0-100km/h - 5.0 secs
The 2009 Infiniti FX is a premium mid-size crossover SUV available with V6 or V8 power that claims to exhilarate on-road, while holding its own off-road.
The FX35 teams a 3.5-litre V6 engine - good for 222kW and 354Nm of torque - with either rear or all-wheel drive.
Or, for a bit more grunt, the FX50 models come with AWD as standard and a high-output 286kW and 500Nm 5.0-litre V8.
The FX35 gains 20kW over the previous model while the FX50 gets a boost of 51kW over the 2008 FX45.
Both use the new seven-speed automatic transmission that is also available in the G37 and M series.
The FX35 rides on standard 18-inch wheels, while the FX50 secures the more imposing 21-inch tread.
Standard safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags.
There are some nifty optional safety features available on the FX series: like Infiniti's Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), that sounds a warning and activates the vehicle's stability control system if straying across lanes.
Also available is Around View Monitoring (AVM), using four cameras to display the entire circumference of the exterior on the navigation screen and Intelligent Brake Assist, deploying lights and warning tones if a forward collision is imminent and automatically applies braking power.
Leather upholstery, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, keyless entry and starting, and a rearview camera are all standard inclusions. Sport suspension with continuous damping control is also available on the FX50.
A premium SUV, the Infiniti FX35 and FX50 would go head to head with Volvo's XC90, BMW X5, Lexus RX350, and the Mercedes ML350 in this market.
2009 Infiniti M35 and M45 Sedans
- Price range: US$45,800 - $54,650 (AU$ 57,072 - $68,075)
- FX35 Fuel Economy: 9L/100km Hwy, 14L/100km City
- FX50 Fuel Economy: 11L/100km Hwy, 17L/100km City
- M35 0-100km/h - 6.2 secs
- M45 0-100km/h - 5.6 secs
The 2009 Infiniti M35 and M45 Sedans are the largest in the Infiniti range, and ?teched? to the hilt.
This year, the M received more V6 power, with the rear-drive M35 models sporting the silky smooth seven-speed automatic transmission. All other versions use a five-speed automatic.
The 2009 M35 has a 3..5-litre V6 engine with 222kW on tap, an increase of 20kW over the 2008 V6 versions.
The M45 has a 239kW/362NM 4.5-litre V8, which, of course, proves to be the thirstier power train, but provides more power.
Each is available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. AWD versions are dubbed M35x or M45x.
In this market, the M35 and M45 Sedans would line up against the BMW 530i Touring, Lexus GS 300 Sports Luxury, Mercedes E-Class 350 and Audi A6 3.2 FSI.
According to Car & Driver: "The Infiniti M35 is a car for connoisseurs, an assemblage of finely tuned parts that deliver a sublime driving experience."
So, a strong performer in similar markets, should we see the Infiniti brand here? Or is the Australian market too small to sustain yet another brand and its associated national marketing and dealership costs?
What advice would you give Nissan Australia?