Auto blogTue, 03 Jun 2014
The door that separates automotive journalism and automaker PR swings both ways, and swings often as we see journalists move over to PR and vice versa. This time, however, it's one of ours.
That would be Matt Davis, longtime European correspondent for Autoblog and frequent contributor to numerous other publications including AutoWeek, Edmunds and Esquire. He was co-founder and longtime chairman of the World Car of the Year Awards, and serves on the jury for the International Engine of the Year awards as well. Matt has resided in Milan since 2001, writing for publications around the world in a number of languages, but will now be moving to Hong Kong.
That's where he will be taking up his new position as Global Director of Production and Brand Communications for Infiniti, which relocated its global headquarters to Hong Kong from Japan more than two years ago. In his new capacity, which he officially assumes on July 14, Davis will report directly to Infiniti's general manager of communications Stefan Weinmann.
Infiniti launched its seven-passenger JX crossover for the 2013 model year with the automaker's familiar 3.5-liter V6 as standard equipment. For 2014, the model was renamed the QX60, and a new variant packing a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain joined the lineup. (For those interested in the family lineage, the new arrival is a mechanical twin to the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, which we took for a Quick Spin last year).
Hidden beneath the hood of the QX60 Hybrid is a supercharged, 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine, rated at 230 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. The combustion engine is supplemented by a 15-kilowatt electric motor, fed by a small lithium-ion battery back (hidden under the rear cargo floor), which adds 20 hp and 29 lb-ft of torque to the mix. Added up, Infiniti rates the total system power at 250 hp and 243 lb-ft - numbers that fall just short of its combustion sibling (the 3.5-liter V6 in the QX60 is rated at 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque). The only gearbox is a continuously variable transmission that drives either the front or all four wheels, depending on what the buyer specs.
The 2014 QX60 Hybrid AWD starts at $46,500 (the green model commands a $3,000 premium over the gas-only model). A long list of factory options such as Roof Rails ($495), Theater package ($1,700), Deluxe Technology package ($6,050), illuminated kick plates ($440) and a Hybrid Premium package ($4,600) bumped our as-tested price to a healthy $60,780, including $995 for destination.
Tue, 22 Apr 2014
QX70 was the only application for the 5.0L, making it a tough sell in the boardroom.
It was always easy to chuckle a bit at Infiniti's branding of its FX crossover as a "bionic cheetah" - until you drove the thing. It was something of a revelation when it came on the market in late 2002 - certainly visually, but also in terms of performance, particularly in V8 guise. The Porsche Cayenne burst on the scene at the same time, and between the two of them, they vividly illustrated that the idea of a performance utility vehicle wasn't the oxymoron it first appeared to be.
These pages are full of projects that automakers have tried to get moving but never quite managed to. And Infiniti has had its fair share, particularly when it comes to high-performance models. It's tried to drum up excitement with the Infiniti Performance Line and with its partnerships with Red Bull Racing and its star driver, but models like the G37 IPL and FX Sebastian Vettel edition never amounted to a real challenge to the likes of Mercedes-AMG and BMW's M division. There was talk of a sedan version of the Nissan GT-R to wear an Infiniti badge, but those rumors amounted to even less. The Q50 Eau Rouge, however, could finally be the ticket.
The concept debuted at the Detroit Auto Show a few months ago without an engine (or at least not one we were made aware of) but with all manner of carbon-fiber aerodynamic components. It then rolled in to Geneva with the beating heart of the GT-R - a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 tuned to 560 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque - and arrived in Beijing earlier this week in an even more evolved form. And according to the chatter coming out of China (whose financial hub of Hong Kong, incidentally, serves as Infiniti's home base), it's all but certain to be approved for production.
"At this stage it would take more to stop the car getting made than to start things," says Auto Express, citing an unnamed source. The finished product would look much like the versions we've seen until now, and while it would be available in an array of colors, that metallic blood red could emerge as Infinit's signature performance color.
Infiniti revealed an ever-so-slightly refreshed QX80 alongside its Q70 luxury sedan this morning in New York. The biggest news for the brand's fullsize SUV is the addition of a range-topping trim level, unimaginatively dubbed the QX80 Limited.
The Big 80 sports a couple of styling tweaks in an effort to bring its appearance more in line with the brand's current design language. The "double-arch" grille with mesh inserts we first viewed on the Q50 now adorns the front fascia, and the head and taillights have gone full-LED. Still, it'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.
There aren't many updates inside or to the drivetrain, either. Like the Q70, Infiniti has added a couple of new tech features, such as its Predictive Forward Collision Warning system and High Beam Assist. Although it's getting a bit long in the tooth, the interior remains nice, with lots of wood and leather all around. The SUV continues to use a 5.6-liter V8, which produces 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission.
Infiniti released its refreshed Q70 (the car formerly known as "M") in New York this morning. The luxury sedan is brings with it, quite literally, a big change: it's now the only vehicle in its segment to offer both long- and short-wheelbase options here in the US (other automakers do this in China). Currently, the two-wheelbase sedan strategy is exclusive to the ranks of fullsize players like the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, etc.
Infiniti has elongated the standard Q70's wheelbase from 114.2 inches to 120.1 inches, in doing so lengthening the car 7.3 inches overall. For the sake of comparison, a standard wheelbase Audi A8 runs 117.8 inches, so the Q70 is no slouch. The extension mostly benefits rear-seat occupants, who are treated to an extra 5.6 inches of legroom. We think the enlargement improves the car's aesthetic, as well.
In addition to the long-wheelbase option, there are a few other tweaks in store for 2015. New head and taillights are the biggest changes, with full LEDs in the back and LED accents in front. Aspects currently seen on the smaller Q50 are evident, as well, such as the "double-arch" grille that comes with mesh-finish inserts. The fascia also includes a new front bumper with integrated foglights. Interior changes seem to be fairly minimal, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The outgoing Q70 had a spacious (if dated), luxurious cabin with all kinds of high-quality materials.
After all the work done for the Q50, Infiniti has finally given some attention to its flagship sedan, the Q70 (or, for those that refuse to use the brand's latest nomenclature, the M). While the refreshed sedan sports a few visual tweaks, the big bit of news is that it's the first vehicle in its segment to offer both long- and a short-wheelbase options (keep in mind, both BMW and Audi offer LWBs in China, but not in the US).
Infiniti has stretched the standard car's 114.2-inch wheelbase to 120.1 inches, lengthening the car 7.3 inches overall. Nearly the entire wheelbase increase is dedicated to rear-seat legroom, with a substantial increase of 5.6 inches overall. As for the effect the stretching had on the Q70's looks, well, we actually think it might look better with the longer wheelbase.
It's a nice change of proportions that is complemented by the fresh looks of the facelifted Q70. New head and taillights are the biggest changes, with full LEDs in the back and LED accents in front. There's certainly a bit of Q50 in the front, thanks to both the headlights and the new "double-arch" grille, complete with mesh-finish inserts. In the cabin, material quality looks to remain impressive, with Infiniti's cool silver-dust wood trim being shown off in the press images. Outside of that, interior changes are kept to a minimum.
Alongside the updated Q70, Infiniti has refreshed its fullsize SUV, the QX80, for the 2014 New York Auto Show. Like its freshened sedan, the QX80 is full of incremental styling tweaks typical of a mid-cycle update like this. Also like the Q70, there's a new member of the QX80 family for the 2015 model year.
But first, the overarching changes for the QX80 range. As we said, this is pretty standard fare, with new headlights and taillights and a restyled grille designed to fit the full-sizer in with the most recent Infiniti design language. Full LED headlights, turn signals and fog lights should provide a bit more illumination, while the mesh inserts on the "double-arch" grille remind us of the Q50. Still, this is a rather bulbous, inelegant piece of design in our eyes. Out back, the shape of the taillights has been tweaked, and they now sport LED illumination. The new rear bumper is larger, as well.
In the cabin, upgrades are similarly sparse. There are a few new tech items, like automatic high beams and predictive forward collision warning. Overall, though, this is the same wood-and-leather-lined cabin Infiniti has been selling for the past few years.
The small crossover is the superstar segment of the global automotive industry at the moment. With the love that Nissan has for the form with vehicles like the Juke and the Rogue, it should come as no surprise that Infiniti is going to hop into the market as well. However, its luxury CUV is likely going to remain exclusive to China for the time being.
The first hint of the Chinese Infiniti crossover leaked as dark silhouette looking a lot like the Juke, during a brand press conference said to be held in Beijing. It suggested that the model would use the Nissan platform but incorporate unique styling.
Leftlane News speculated that it could be among the company's debuts at the upcoming Beijing Motor Show, but that appears not to be the case. Infiniti spokesperson Kyle Bazemore has confirmed to Autoblog that a "small premium crossover" is under development for China. However, "Details of the vehicle will be announced at a later date. It will not debut at Beijing Motor Show," he said. Also, don't get too excited about the prospects of driving an Infiniti small CUV, because Bazemore says the company has no plans to offer this model elsewhere.
Infiniti's high-performance Q50 Eau Rouge concept might be one of the biggest teases in the current automotive world. It was first shown at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show as a body without an engine. Then, the sports sedan arrived at the Geneva Motor Show with a modified version of the turbocharged V6 from the GT-R under the hood, tuned to 560 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, and with all-wheel drive. However, it was still just a concept. Finally, the Japanese luxury automaker is showing us what the Eau Rouge can do on the road - briefly.
The company brought reigning Formula One champ Sebastian Vettel along to get behind the wheel, for this all-too-short video from the Millbrook Proving Ground in the UK. There's more good news too. While Infiniti isn't saying that it's definitely going to build the Eau Rouge, it is "pressing ahead with the evaluation." More info about these tests will be released at the 2014 Beijing Auto Show at the end of April. Scroll down to watch Vettel drive the Q50 Eau Rouge and read a little more about it.