Sabtu, 07 Juni 2008



By Robert Farago

When you make the market’s most un-SUV-like SUV– a large, fast, expensive, thirsty, luggage and mud-aversive vehicle– what do you do for an encore? If you’re Infiniti, you make a virtually identical smaller version that’s slightly more fuel efficient. And how do you convince consumers to buy this $40k FX35 mini-me? You cram it with enough electronics to keep an AWACS crew busy for hours. Strangely, that’s not the best reason to buy an EX35. Hell, it’s not even a good reason. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Visually, the difference between the FX and EX is no more profound than the disparity between Sarah Connor in the first and second Terminator movies. The “coupe inspired” EX is a bit more compact and a lot more cut than the FX. And that's it. To this reviewer’s eyes, the FX’ zoftig curves are far more appealing than the Bimmer-aping character lines bisecting the EX’ prow and flanks. The EX’ rear window treatment is especially over-wrought; a mish-mash of shapes assembled for the sole purpose of not being an FX.

The EX’ back end lacks the FX’ way cool integrated coffee can exhausts, but the smaller sib’s helm leaves no doubt to which letter in SUV it aspires. The Japanese cute ute’s steering wheel is meaty enough to inspire a vegetarian backlash. That said, the EX’ designers clearly decided that G comes before Z in their aesthetic alphabet. To justify the Lexus-like price tag, Infiniti’s designers have once again benchmarked Audi. From the climate controls to the red-faced LCD trip computer nestled between the gauges, the EX grasps for Ingolstadt's four rings.

And misses the marque. The EX’ dash may be as handsome as Poggenpohl kitchen, but the gauges’ violet inner rings and oversized font stick out like an oil can of Fosters in a wicker wine cradle. The EX’ leather seats may look elegantly sumptuous, but they feel as plasticky as your grandmother's vinyl couch covers. The EX’ rotary controller is suitably Starck, but sits dorkily on the dashtop, like a nerd's polyester trousers grazing his nipples. While I can appreciate the oil-dampened glide of a glovebox door as much as the next OCD pistonhead, the EX’ cabin proves than lackluster imitation is the sincerest form of bad branding.

If Infiniti has a "thing," it's gizmos. We're talking voice recognition, an Intelligent Key (that couldn't answer the simplest trivia questions), Intelligent Cruise Control (that kept Tom away), an "Around View" parking monitor (in case you need to park sideways), a brake-actuating Lane Departure Prevention system, Sat Nav (with real time traffic info), Bluetooth, Bose blasting (with 24-bit DAC, 11 speakers, two subwoofers, six CD player, iPod connectivity and a 9.3GB hard drive), remote rear seat release (and motorized retraction) and the usual luxury everything. Wait. No power liftgate? Nope.

But power it's got. The EX’ fourth gen VQ engine stumps-up 297hp and 253 ft.-lbs. of torque. As max shove clocks-in at a relatively high rpm, sporting drivers must give the EX’ go-pedal a proper pasting to satisfy their accelerative urges. So motorvated, the 3752lbs. EX heads for the hills like you TASERed its tailpipes. The dash from rest to 60mph takes a shade under six seconds. Provided you use the EX’ five-speed autobox’ manual override to hold onto tight to your revs, the SUV will pass long lines of traffic in a single bound.

On the downside, EX lacks the similarly speedy FX35's operatic mellifluousness under wide open throttle. What's worse, the silence allows the EX' tire roar to come to the fore (damn those fat all-season shoes). The EX35's prodigious thirst is another inconvenient truth. Ambling around town, the accommodation and cargo-challenged SUV gulps gas at the astonishing rate of 16mpg. Drive the EX like you stole it and the fuel bills will make you wish you had.

Still, if you had to evade the long arm of the law in an SUV (closed course, fake arm), you could hardly do better than pilot an EX equipped with ATTESA ET-S (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System with Electronic Torque Split). If you ignore the FX-donated crashy rear suspension, and the EX' unsettling tendency to porpoise over undulations, the all wheel-drive Infiniti can perform the same stupid truck tricks that help Porsche Cayenne S owners justify their bizarre whip to incredulous mainstream motorists– only faster.

Yes but– you can’t drive an EX35 off road. Or tow anything. Or carry four adults in comfort. Or their luggage. Yes, the Infiniti EX35 is the fastest, best handling of all the luxury cute utes. But who cares? How many people have been hankering for a really expensive jacked-up two-plus-two sports coupe with a billion megabits of electro-mechanical mishaps just waiting to happen, produced by an automaker whose street cred hovers in that near luxury no-man’s land once occupied by Buick, currently home to Acura?

In fact, the Infiniti’s EX' EXtreme lack of utility consigns this so-called SUV to an EXtremely rarified niche: drivers who want a less practical G35 sedan with a better view; or customers looking for a smaller, cheaper FX35. Otherwise, well, what was the point?


By Jonny Lieberman

When launched, the Infiniti Q45 was infinitely more desirable than Lexus's stuffy LS400. Unfortunately, Lexus had already eclipsed Mercedes as the brand recent Black Sea immigrants asked for by name, and BMWs remained the must-have nouveau riche accessory. Although today's M45 is best-in-class, BMW 5-Series' still runs the schoolyard. Meanwhile, Infiniti (and everybody else) is striving to wrest control of the all-important, profit-laden next class down. So how does Infiniti's AWD 3-Series fighter stack-up?

When images of the second-gen G35 started leaking onto these here internets, I was taken aback by the hood's flowing cut line. Simply perfect. The rest of the car appeared to be a subtle evolution of the old one. Two years later, I still love the hood line. Everything else is tired. Parked next to the current gen Altima, the Nissan is a much more attractive package. The four-door G is just too mousy and restrained. And the taillights are still too damn big. That said, the seven-spoke, 18" aluminum wheels on our tester are impressive.

Inside, it's an entirely different picture. The Infinitis of yore offered cheap Nissan parts binnage, with navigation screens that looked like convenience store cash machines. No more. In fact, the nav screen is the single most gorgeous part of a decidedly swanky interior. Specifically: the sweeping, organic layout of the fun-to-fondle buttons below the screen.

Gizmos abound: Microfiltering HVAC, rear seat-heater ducts, dual antennas and XM radio. The rest of innards are posh, well thought out and supremely comfortable. Even the (useless) faux-flappy-paddles feel fantastic. Off the hill Audi; there's a new haptic king of the hill (with a prince of an XF also fighting for succession).

If one was forced to stereotype Nissan, one might quote the Ferrari dictum: sell them an engine and throw the rest in for free. Since 1994, the VQ family of V6s has been giving customers throughout the model range (Pathfinder, QX, FX, Altima, Murano, Quest, Z, etc.) more power than the competitors at a (usually) lower price, with plenty of torque.

For all-weather entry-level luxury duty, Nissan mates the 3704 lbs. G35x AWD to the 3.5-liter VQ35HR. The HR part of the alphabet soup stands for "High Revolution"– as in a 7500 rpm redline. The spinning metal pumps-out 306 horses at 6,800 rpm and 268 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. Should you opt for an all wheel-drive (AWD) G, you opt out of the six-speed manual transmission. Although the G35x' cog-swapper is "only" a five-speed, its seamlessness moots any objection. For both around town and highway duty, the G35x has an entirely useful drivetrain.

Yes but… As you'd expect, the G35x' all wheel-drive mechanicals means it weighs more than the standard four-door. Therefore, it takes 5.9 seconds to hit 60 mph; the rear wheel drive makes the same sprint in 5.6 seconds. I can already hear the keyboard clacks of people writing in that some magazines have clocked a G35 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and the G35x AWD in 5.5. And we'll counter that some magazines employ a 1-foot rolling start to consistently record the lowest (and therefore most attention grabbing) numbers.

But my point stands. The AWD G is slower than the regular G.

Not only is the G35x slower on radar, but, worse, it feels more sluggish to the driver. Again, losing a little (though noticeable) straight line thrust in under six-second world is no biggie. After all, you can make the time back in the corners, right? Uh, no.

I've long considered the FM platform to be one of the marvels of the modern automotive landscape. Forget about the Gs and Zs, you ever driven an FX? There's no way a sedan on stilts should be so nimble and so much fun. Yet it is. Sadly, the good times end with the G35x. The steering feels artificially heavy yet distant at all speeds. The car wants to do anything but turn in. Look, I love AWD performance cars. But the engineers need to have AWD in mind from the start. If not, it's like adding on a basement once a house's foundation has been poured– an expensive afterthought.

While not bad in any glaring way, the G35x AWD left me wanting. Especially after spending time in both the Subaru STI and BMW xDrive35i, two 300+ hp AWD cars designed from the outset to butcher the corners and bloody the straights. With those two machines there aren't slimmer, cheaper, equally powerful variants to remind me of money poorly spent.

I'll grant that if you need to blast across South Dakota during a blizzard, the G35x would be a hell of a comfortable way to go. But for all other applications, stick with the original. Or, yeah you guessed it, a 335i.


By admin

If I worked for Infiniti, I’d spend a lot of my day pissed off. Infiniti G35 equals The Japanese BMW? Man that must rankle. Not as much as G35 equals The Poor Man’s BMW, but more than enough to aggravate auto execs all the way from Yokohama to Boulogne-Billancourt. In fact, I bet there’s a bunch of Infiniti engineers who’ve compared their handiwork to Munich’s motorized meisterstuck and can’t decide whether to commit seppuku or hunt down Bimmer’s boffins and make them eat sushi, if you know what I mean. OK, that’s a bit overly-dramatic, but what the Hell’s a Japanese sports sedan got to do to get a little respect around here?

Admittedly, the original G35 sedan (2003-2006) was continually (and properly) slated for its lackluster looks, lack of refinement and lackey’s interior. On the exterior front (and side and back), the G35’s “all new” sheetmetal suddenly seems a lot less bland and a lot more “understated”– thanks to the latest 3-Series’ flame-broiled exterior. From its dual after-burner taillights to the L-shaped headlights, the Infiniti G35 has stayed true to its own unique design vocabulary. The roofline’s down a bit, the stance is a bit wider (the old “wheels pushed out to the corners” routine), the side gets a crease and the strips of metal that form the trademark grill twist a few inches backwards from the edges, to enhance the similarity with the traditional Japanese Katana blade. Hai!

The changes to the G35’s cabin are far more important and obvious (i.e. discernible). For one thing, Infiniti’s interior decorators have finally banished the hard plastic econo-box buttons blighting the old model. The new G Sport sports the sort of quality rubber you’d expect at an upmarket S&M party, or inside a $35k sports sedan. The aluminum trim has the texture of hand-rolled Japanese Wahsi paper (supposedly). And the despicable orange-on-black gauges– which made it virtually impossible to see the tachometer’s redline– have been replaced by Lexian electroluminescent white and violet “fine-vision” gauges. The fit and finish could use a bit more fit and a tad more finish, but we're more or less there.

Provided you get jiggy with the option sheet, the Infiniti G is still a gadget freak’s delight; including an intelligent key (it leaps out of your hand and hides if you’re drunk), intelligent cruise control, a rear-view backup monitor (that tells you where and when you’ll hit things), voice activated navigation with real-time traffic updates (that tells you where and when but not how to get off), a Bose “Studio-on-Wheels” sound system (as opposed to…) and a touch-screen display. On NAV-enabled cars, you also get a 9.6gb hard drive, so you can copy and paste up to 2000 songs from pirated CDs.

Once underway, the G35 is the Muhammad Ali of sports sedans. In the sting like a bee category, Nissan tweaked the beJesus out of the heavyweight sedan’s 3.5-liter VQ V6, giving it better breathing and extra wallop (306hp @ 6800rpm). The company calls the resulting non-flat thrust curve “swell”– which is a bit like calling a The Greatest’s left jab “dangerous.” Plant you foot and the beefier VQ yowls in the time-honored, product sharing tradition. According to our friends at Edmunds, the G35 storms to sixty in 5.6 seconds. Hooked-up to a paddle shifting five-speed smooth and quick enough to make Bimmer's SMG system seem even more ludicrous than it is, the G35’s torque-tastic powerplant (268 ft-lbs. @ 5300rpm) has an answer for every situation: power. Right answer.

In the float like a butterfly department, the G’s got the footwork– to a point. Even with its fatter tires and stiffer suspension, the G35 Sport maintains a reasonably compliant ride. The bigger Brembo brakes may lack initial bite, but they’re plenty damn effective. The power assisted rack and pinion (now with an optional four-wheel steering system) is much sharper than before; turn-in and transitions approach Porsche-levels of prowess, if not feel. If the road is glassine, the G35’s appetite for lateral G’s astounds. If the bitumen’s broken, well, the G35 is still a little ragged at the limit, capable of bumping and jumping off your chosen line at an “inappropriate” moment. It’s a challenge only the truly committed/insane driver will face, but there it is.

If you compare apples to apples, the faster (though faster depreciating) G35 Sport is a more elegant and exciting steer than a similarly-priced 3-Series. Unfortunately, that’s not how most pistonheads see things. The cast their eyes upon the ultimate ultimate flickable sports sedan driving machine– the new twin-turbo BMW 335i– and cede victory to the Germans. On one hand, that’s not fair. In the real world, enthusiasts have only so much money and want it to go as far– and fast– as possible. On the other hand, image demands that at least some version of their chosen ride is top dog, period. Until that day arrives for Infiniti’s dogged G35, until it finds that final measure of poise at 9 or 10/10ths, it will continue to be, in many eyes, the “alternative” option. That sucks.


By Jonny Lieberman

Maybe it's because my father's Canadian, but I always pull for the underdog. Right from the start, I wanted Nissan's upstart Infiniti brand to kick Lexus's polished derriere. And so it did. The Z — make that G — 35 made the original IS250 look like an over-stressed poodle. Where Lexus offered an overwrought interior (ahoy there diving-watch gauge cluster) and under-cooked mechanicals, Infiniti served-up a four-door Camaro. The G35 dispatched the IS, yawned and started hunting Germans. When Japan's 'other' luxury brand (not counting Acura) re-launched its 5-Series fighter, I thought right; here we go. Round two…

At first sight, all bets were off. Why would Infiniti produce such a fat, unsightly beast? Up front, the sedan's massive chrome grill clashes with the body's not-so-svelte proportions, and the brash headlights are just plain wrong. The M's obese hind quarters are more offensive than a cartoon of the Prophet lounging by the pool. I'm not saying the M45's taillights are garish, but they'd look huge on a school bus. From the side, the M45's not a tragedy, but that's only because you might mistake it for the more comely G35 at twenty paces. In all, the M45 is only vaguely alluring, like a post-partum Britney.

The M's interior is slightly more cohesive, if only because of Infiniti's relentless pursuit of luxury. Several severely pampered heifers gave their lives for the M45's opulent leather, while a walk-in humidor deconstructed itself to further Infiniti's pursuit of gentleman's club chic. The M45's 10-way adjustable climate controlled seats are seriously firm yet deliciously comfy, and the cabin provides four adults with ein Uberflusse of lebensraum. Even so, drivers who aren't coddled into a coma may still notice the M45's humble roots: the vents are pure Altima and the switchgear's about as classy as the buttons on your first cell phone.

In some ways, the M45 is simply trying too hard. Not only does the Japanese luxury sedan have every luxobarge bell and whistle and flute and flugelhorn, but it provides many of its pleasures in triplicate. For example, you can Bluetooth phone a friend by punching the nav buttons, fingering the steering wheel's tiny doodads or shouting at the voice recognition system– which works about as well as Cambodian Communism. When equipped with a DVD-based sat nav, the M ships with three players — one for watching movies whilst parked and yet another in the stereo to accommodate Bose's 5.1 surround sound.

And a killer stereo it is, too. The 308 watt, 14-speaker system– complete with speakers in the front headrests– is loud, accurate, rich and bright. Although the 5.1 audio format is proving to be about as popular as ye olde eight track, the Bose blaster delivers the best sound you've ever heard in a motor vehicle. Plant the M45 on a secluded bluff, crank-up something suitably lyrical and… bliss. Alternatively, slip in something raucous; fire-up the M's 4.5 liter V8 mill and rock and roll.

Although the four-door's 335hp powerplant stumps-up 340 foot-pounds of torque, the grunt only fully manifests itself above 4000rpm. So the M45 isn't smacked-in-the-ass-by-a-polo-mallet explosive; it's more like being shoved forward by a giant unseen hand. Even so, it's crack cocaine quality thrust. Four-thousand twenty pounds of mass is no match for that angry beast of an engine. Stomp on the go-pedal around 50 mph, blink twice, and you're going 100. Keep stomping and hyperspace awaits. Good thing Infiniti equipped the M45 with woofer-sized brakes that can haul you down to sensible speeds, swiftly.

At speed, even a blindfolded pistonhead would know that the M45 is derived from Nissan's unflappable FM platform (the endorphin-enhancing chassis underpinning all the company's relevant rides, from FX to Z). With its magnesium cross-bar beam and multi-link rear suspension, the M45's body roll is so perfectly contained, the limits of adhesion so accessibly benign, the ride so elegantly inspiring, you'll swear she's German. The tighter the turn, the more the M45 digs in, snarling, daring you to kick your right foot through the floorboard. The slush box is positively telepathic; only the most Luddite of enthusiasts will miss a manual cog-swapper. You can switch off the Nanny, kick the M45 in the ribs and drift the light fantastic.

The M45 Sport features a crueler suspension set up, 19" wheels and active steering at the rear, but the plain-Jane M45 offers as much control as average hooligans will need without threatening their bridgework. Either way, the aesthetically bankrupt Infiniti M45 is dynamically pure; more athletic than a comparable Lexus, which sacrifices adrenaline, grit and 'get some' for wafting in yawny silence. That said, the Germans had better watch out. One day, one of these Japanese luxury cars is going to get every single thing right. Judging by the M45, that day is near.


2009 Infiniti FX Exclusive

By Robert Farago

Imagine you're approaching your favourite viagra store. There's no traffic, the weather's fine and all the cops are down at the donut shop. Now, imagine you're in an SUV. I know: let's not and say we did. Still, if you had to thrash an SUV, which one would you choose? If you're thinking Porsche Cayenne, you're not wrong. But think again. Because no matter how you look at it, the Infiniti FX45 is the sportiest sports utility vehicle money can buy.

Saying that, a lot of people don't like looking at the FX45. From the front, it's a Chrysler Pacifica morphed with a robotic fish. From the back, it's a Renault hatchback with J-Lo's butt. From the side, it's got the same tiny rear overhang that makes Mercedes' SLK the Cyrano de Bergerac of sports cars. Yup, the FX45 is yet another Japanese attempt to create a new design language from American and European styling heritage. The result denies your eyeballs a moment's rest, but it is, um, "interesting".

Aesthetically offended drivers can shelter from the FX's manic futurism inside the cabin. Audi still owns the words "elegantly restrained interiors", but the FX45 shows that the rock garden dudes know a thing or two about Zen minimalism. Their judicious use of brushed aluminum, supple leather and soft touch plastics creates a calm, controlled environment. Sure, the three-spoke steering wheel looks a bit odd. And yes, the information system's tiny control knob practically begs you to snap it off. But the overall design is pure LJC (leather jacket comfortable).

Which is weird, because the moment you fire up the FX45's engine, the damn thing growls. Actually, it's more like an angry purr; the sort of noise the technically minded would expect from a 4.5-litre V8 with a variable intake manifold, 32 titanium valves and molybdenum coated pistons (for friction free fun). The supersmooth powerplant cranks out 315hp and 329 ft. lbs. of torque. That's more than enough grunt for the FX45 waggle its two fat tailpipes at the Porsche Cayenne S, BMW X5 4.6is and Mercedes ML55 AMG.

No really. The FX45 blasts to 60mph in 6.3 seconds. The Cayenne S is almost a second slower. The rest of the flying brick pack? Slower still. The FX45 is also incredibly quick from any speed, to any speed. Tickle the accelerator at 50. The "soft roader" drops down a cog and lunges forward like a puppy dog unleashed. Press the go-pedal harder. The SUV downshifts twice and leaps down the road. The choice is yours: effortless progress, confident overtaking or high-speed handling.

Normally, the words "SUV" and "high speed handling" don't appear in the same universe. Normally, the best way to manouevre an SUV around a sharp bend is choose an alternate route, slow down or turn in as early — and gently — as possible. Ask a Ford Explorer Owner; a hard-driven SUV can roll like a maki-making sushi chef.

The FX45 is an SUV, but not as we know it. Its G35-derived "Front Midship" platform places most of the mondo-V8's weight behind the front wheels, low down in the chassis. Its dubs (20" wheels) put more rubber on the road than the Rhode Island chapter of the Hells Angels. And the big ute's "sport tuned" front struts and forged aluminum multi-link rear suspension tie the beast down to an inch of its life. (Jag lovers: you have been warned.)

Back to that corner…

Snick the FX45's gear lever over to manual, rev the engine to 4000rpms and give it some. Infiniti's luxury leviathan will power through the turn like a big-engined Audi — with a big difference. The FX45's steering is better. OK, that's not really saying anything. How about this: the FX45's steering would delight a hardcore Carrera-ista. Anyway, just squeeze the gas, limit your steering and throttle inputs and go for it. Amazing Grace. How sweet the feel.

Of course, there are rules. Avoid roads with nasty mid-corner bumps. The dubs bunny hop sideways while the chassis flexes like pre-Conan Arnie. Remember that no driver's aid can save your bacon if you get a 4299lbs. of vehicle seriously out of shape. And don't take the FX45 off-road. The FX45 has part-time all wheel drive and 7.6" of ground clearance. And that's it. It can hop a curb, escape a soccer field, weather a snow shower and ford a rainy street. But it can't follow any of its rivals into the wilderness.

In case you were wondering how an upmarket Nissan could "steal Porsche's thunder", there's your answer. Infiniti built an SUV that goes like Hell on tarmac and left the rough stuff to its competitors. Infiniti calls it a "Crossover". Fair enough. If any truck can convince a corner-carving sports car owner to cross over to an SUV, it's the Infiniti FX45.