Second bite at the cherry
By the 1980s, Japanese manufacturers trying to make a go of premium cars found that all the build quality, performance and features in the world weren’t enough to shake off their mass-market image. Nothing could compete, it seemed, with the snob value of a pedigreed badge. So they created their own stand-alone brands.
As a strategy, it’s had mixed results. Despite this, the likes of Infiniti have managed to carve out a niche for themselves. Briefly seen here in the 1990s – and then only with a single model, the big Q45 luxury sedan – Infiniti never really had a chance to set the local market alight. Fast forward to the present, and with the company’s moderate international growth accelerating and a decision to locate its global HQ in Hong Kong, it looked like a good time to retry South Africa. The local range consists of the:
- M luxury sedan (M30d);
- FX performance SUV (FX30d, FX37 and FX50);
- EX compact SUV (EX30d and EX37);
- G Coupé (G37); and
- G Cabrio (G37).
V6 and V8 petrol engines, V6 diesel engines and a 7-speed automatic transmission are available across the range. Other engine options, including hybrid, are under consideration.
All of that’s backed up by a brand-new team of dedicated Infiniti personnel, with in-house finance and five model lines being sold out of two dealers in Gauteng initially and 10 by 2014.
Our first taste of the new Infiniti range came in the shape of the FX luxury SUV. Its curvy styling looks imposing from the outside and just a little old-school (pleasingly so) from the command post. The FX is no rumbling continent-crosser: if anything, it feels like a big muscle car. And, by the way, it goes like a big muscle car. The ride is firm and the engine feels urgent. The interior, though, feels like a traditional luxury sedan’s, complete with distinctive dashboard-mounted clock.
The range-topping FX50 is powered by a 5-litre V8 that produces a breathtaking 287 kW and 500 N.m. Acceleration of 5,8 seconds to 100 km/h and a top speed limited to 250 km/h are more usual in a sports car, though the average fuel consumption of 13,1 litres/100 km isn’t. There are also a 3,7-litre V6 petrol engine that isn’t much slower, or much less powerful (235 kW and 360 N.m) and a turbocharged diesel V6 that consumes 9,0 litres/100 km.
Less utility, more sport. All-wheel drive is standard across the FX range in the form of Infiniti’s ATTESA E-TS (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split), which surely takes longer to say than to act. Usually rear-drive, the FX uses a central clutch to channel drive to the front as needed. At its limit, the torque is split equally front-rear.
Even the chassis is designed to be sporty, with a front-midship engine position and rear-drive bias for better weight distribution and centre of gravity. Upscale models get variable-mode continuously adaptive damping. In addition to this, Rear Active Steering uses electric motors to steer the rear wheels (up to 1 degree). Swivelling the rear wheels opposite to the direction of the steering at low speed sharpens turns; swivelling them in the same direction as the front wheels aids high-speed stability.
Wallpaper> New on the block (September 2012 issue)