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Posts filed under ‘Infiniti’

Proto-Four-Door Coupe?
The Infiniti J30

July 2, 2013 by Matt

Infiniti J30 Black

The more things change…

At the time it was introduced for the 1993 model year, the major complaint directed at the Infiniti J30 was its puny rear seat volume. One glance at the car reveals its manufacturer obviously prioritized style over function, what with its delicately tapered haunches and miniscule trunk.

Nowadays the “four-door coupe” styling trend, sparked by the introduction of the first-generation Mercedes CLS, is going strong. We’ve seen a whole slew of imitators from the Audi A7 to the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe and even the Volkswagen CC, and although their barely-usable rear seat space is mentioned, it’s hardly a deal-breaker the way it seemed to be for the unloved J30.

Infiniti J30 Black

So why didn’t the J30 catch on? Did luxury car buyers overwhelmingly prioritize interior space over style in the mid-’90s in a way they no longer do? Was the buying public so soured on Infiniti’s awful marketing campaign for the brand flagship Q45 (notoriously not even showing images of the car) that the bad vibes overtook its smaller stablemate as well?

Or perhaps the car wasn’t radical enough? For all its swoopy styling, the J30 retains the overall proportions of a traditional 4-door in the way the later CLS doesn’t, not to mention the fact that the Mercedes car has a great whacking V8 under the hood to prove it’s got the moves to back up its looks. The J30, by contrast, was fitted with a 210-hp variant of Nissan’s VG 3.0l V6 engine—a pleasant enough engine, and routing power to the rear wheels no less, but nothing to write home about.

Infiniti J30 Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

So, combine styling that was just a touch too conservative, merely adequate power and dynamic ability as well as the still-uncertain prestige of a luxury brand still finding its footing in the marketplace, and the reasons behind the J30’s failure to gain a foothold in its target market become clearer.

Still, the fact remains that it is RWD, does have quite a nice engine and is very pretty to behold—those three qualities explain my enduring soft spot for the J30. And I do think Infiniti should receive more credit for creating the first luxury sedan with a styling/function priority tradeoff closely in line with that of the more recent crop of fashion-forward four-doors.

Image credits:,,

4 Comments on Proto-Four-Door Coupe?
The Infiniti J30

FWD Champions: The P10 Infiniti G20

June 21, 2012 by Matt

Infiniti G20 P10 Silver

Early Infiniti cars have been given short shrift by automotive enthusiasts. I’ve written articles on the underrated first generations of the Q45 and M45, and today’s car—the first gen “P10” Infiniti G20—also falls into the overlooked-yet-excellent category, in spite of the fact that its front wheels do the pulling.

A rebadged version of the Japanese-market-only Nissan Primera, the ’91-’96 G20 is blessed with fundamental goodness in two key areas: its engine and front suspension. The engine is the same brilliant 2.0l, 140-hp SR20DE 4-cyl fitted to Nissan’s contemporary Sentra SE-R, a rev-happy, robust, smooth and torquey powerplant, one of the all-time greats. Regarding the front suspension, Popular Science wrote in a period review:

It uses a variation of the Nissan 300ZX multi-link front suspension, adapted for the first time to accept a front-wheel-drive power train. It is a complex but compact system, and it works like magic with the conventional strut-and-link rear setup to provide a combination of accurate steering, wheel control, and ride quality. In short, it’s tremendous fun to drive quickly.

Infiniti G20 P10 Interior Inside Cockpit Dashboard Dash Console

Coupled with a commendably low curb weight of just over 2850 lbs, the G20 delivered 0-60 times in the mid-8 second range—not smoking fast by any stretch, but respectable for the era—along with grin-inducing, tossable handling enabled by the suspension design noted above. All told, the car’s tautness and verve gives it a very European feel for something originating from Japan.

Infiniti G20 P10 Red Auburn

In spite of its engine and chassis brilliance, one glance at the utterly, completely bland and featureless styling renders moot the question of why the P10 G20 is frequently overlooked. Even for the early ’90s, a period that saw dozens of vanilla-ish cars flood the market, the first-gen G20’s design is particularly inert. Especially considering it was then-brand-new Infiniti’s first crack at an entry-level car, they might have been better served to have drawn a shape with a bit more splash. But for those who prioritize mechanical and dynamic excellence over the appearance of it, the first-gen G20 is worth checking out.

Editor’s note: A big thanks to Mark for providing a photo of his P10 G20’s interior for the article. Thanks Mark!

This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting FWD cars I think highly of, in spite of my overwhelming RWD bias. Read the other installments here:

5 Comments on FWD Champions: The P10 Infiniti G20

Infiniti Emerg-E Concept:
Mid-Engined Bandwagon

March 29, 2012 by Matt

Infiniti Emerg-E EmergE Concept Show Car Silver

It’s ironic the new Infiniti Emerg-E is called a concept car. After all, a concept is supposed to showcase new engineering solutions or styling directions for an automaker, and the Emerg-E offers absolutely nothing original on either front.

Infiniti Emerg-E EmergE Concept Show Car Silver

First, the design. For an easy Emerg-E recipe, take one part Jaguar C-X75 concept car, a dash of Lexus LF-LC grille, and a soupcon of new Acura NSX proportions. Maybe tweak a line or two here or there, slap an Infiniti badge on the nose, and voilà: Your Emerg-E. It’s actually quite amazing the Japanese automaker didn’t anticipate design critics in the industry immediately perceiving the similarities, especially since the three cars listed have all been released fairly recently, and are thus fresh in everyone’s memory. The whole affair reinforces a perception Infiniti have created for themselves over their twenty-plus years of existence: That of a car company in a perpetual state of catching up, of nipping at the heels of their competition, cribbing their ideas where necessary but unable to put forth anything truly original on their own. Design-wise, Infiniti’s new concept does absolutely nothing to dispel that notion, and I’m surprised more automotive news outlet aren’t calling them on it besides little comments here and there, such as, “[T]he nose looks a bit long, and incongruously, it seems to offer a riff on the spindle grille that Lexus is rolling out portfolio-wide” from Autoblog article linked to above. C’mon, guys. This kind of photocopied styling is going to continue until a design gets truly and deservedly panned. I hope I’m not alone in this.

Infiniti Emerg-E EmergE Concept Show Car Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

Under the skin, the copycatting continues. An oh-so-trendy pair of 200 hp electric motors deliver power to the rear wheels, batteries recharged by a 1.2l gasoline engine, much like the system in the Chevy Volt. I suppose Infiniti really didn’t have any original ideas here either, since every new shiny vehicular object on a rotating pedestal has been powered by a collection of electric motors for several years now.

I want to like Infiniti; I really do. They were kind of awesome once, with their “Japanese BMW” ambitions, but somewhere along the line they lost a creative spark. And if they’re ever really going to experience a breakthrough in the marketplace, they’re going to have to recover it and put forth something truly groundbreaking and visionary. The Emerg-E concept isn’t it.

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Mid-Engined Bandwagon

What Might Have Been: The Infiniti Q45

January 12, 2012 by Matt

Infiniti Q45 Q-45 White Early

The early first-generation (’90-’96) Infiniti Q45 is an absolutely fascinating, compelling car. It’s just a shame its automaker didn’t have the resolve to commit to the concept.

The year was 1990. Toyota and Nissan, following Honda’s lead with their Acura luxury sub-brand, had just created upper-crust divisions of their own, Lexus and Infiniti, respectively. For their part, Lexus had done obsessively meticulous market research and development to perfectly optimize their flagship LS400 for the American market, and were rewarded with an eminently successful car. Infiniti, on the other hand, seemed more to shoot from the hip, offering a car that was perhaps less harmoniously in-tune with American luxury tastes, but was a beautifully refreshing take on the range-topping luxury sedan concept.

So what made the Q45 distinctive? Its design, for one—the car was drawn without the snooty waterfall grille that typified its rivals’ looks. Instead, we were treated to a smooth, clean aero look that, if perhaps a bit dated nowadays, is still as striking as it was two decades ago. Next, the car was uncommonly performance-focused, fitted with quick-ratio steering, firm suspension and seating, a muscular 278-hp 4.5l V8 engine and, with the Q45a trim line, active suspension that could raise or lower the car’s ride height in real time based on speed and actively combat body roll in corners. Car publications praised the Q45’s performance and capability compared to the LS400, Mercedes S-class and even the E32 BMW 7 series, but they wondered openly whether the car’s target demographic needed or wanted its speed, handling prowess or daring styling choices.

Infiniti Q45 Q-45 Silver Grey Gray Gunmetal Early

Their concerns were valid. As it happened, the well-heeled customers in the Q45’s market segment were much more accepting of a car like the LS400, which accommodated their tastes, rather than the Infiniti, which was more challenging but ultimately had the potential to be more satisfying from a driver’s standpoint. The automaker’s initial marketing campaign didn’t help, either, choosing to echo the Q45’s mold-breaking nature by featuring advertisements without a single image of the car, attempting to create a sense of anticipation, but ultimately completely losing the occupants of the car’s target niche.

So what was Infiniti’s response to the Q45’s initial setbacks? A determined show of confidence in their flagship’s ethos, a doubling-down on the qualities that alienated some buyers but would, over time, shift attention in the Q45’s direction as it maintained its distinctives compared to the LS400? In a word, nope. After a few short years, Infiniti veered hard back to the squishy center, softening the car’s suspension, tacking a grille on the nose, and injecting a dose of lard into the car’s responses in a somewhat pathetic attempt to ape the qualities that had made the LS400 a success. But there was a problem: The LS400 was already available and established, and the desperate game of catch-up carried on for more than a handful of years—12, in fact, through three generations, from the initial toning-down of the Q45 in ’94 through its eventual mercy killing in ’06. Through it all, the car got ever blobbier, ever more Caprice-like until, in the end, it was just kind of a nasty lozenge of a luxury car, a shadow of what it had been when it burst onto the scene in ’90: A taut, potent Japanese BMW. It’s a shame Infiniti hadn’t had the conviction to preserve the Q45’s initial identity.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting key decisions I wish automakers had made differently, for divers reasons. Read the other installments here:

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Underrated Lookers: The Y34 Infiniti M45

August 15, 2011 by Matt

2003 Y34 Infiniti M45

During the course of any model year, the automotive press and community investigate the merits of hundreds of different cars. Given the amount of sheetmetal that passes in front of the eyes of the typical automotive journalist, it’s inevitable that the styling of a few otherwise worthy-looking cars would be simply passed over as a matter of expediency. Today we take a look at an example of one such aesthetic diamond in the rough: The ’03-’04 Infiniti M45.

2003 Y34 Infiniti M45

Assigned the factory model code Y34 and only present in the US market for 2 years, the ’03-’04 M45 was hastily adapted from the Japanese-market-only Nissan Gloria, then nearing the end of its model run, in order to plug a BMW 5-series and Lexus GS-sized gap in the Infiniti model range. Its styling, then, was a bit long in the tooth from the get-go, in addition to being ill-tailored for the American market. So the cards were stacked against it, and the automotive press was cool in their appraisal of its looks; Edmunds wrote:

The M45 offers the sort of sheetmetal that would never get accused of walking on the wild side; viewed head-on, it calls to mind the infinitely unobtrusive Ford Crown Victoria, with a front end that’s broad and low. Wide rectangular high-intensity discharge xenon headlamps light the way, flanking a prominent, chunky grille. In back, rear overhang is significant.

Whatever the merits of the above critique, I think the car is a timeless classic. It will be said that in order to truly appreciate its lines, it helps to view it in the flesh. Last school year, a silver Y34 was always in the line of cars when I dropped my son off in the morning, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Overall, the quality that stands out is proportion. Contrasting with more modern vehicles (even the current iteration of the M45) whose distribution of visual masses is more or less identical from car to car, differentiated only through details like splashes of chrome or sheetmetal flourishes, the Y34 M45 achieves its distinctiveness not through bling, but through relative sizing of key components like the greenhouse, beltline and overhangs. The upshot is that as automotive detail fashions (twin exhaust tips, clear taillights, etc) come and go, the emphasis on proportion gives the car a more tailored, classic feel, meaning the Y34 looks fresh even 8 years after its introduction. And even from a distance, when all you see are the proportions, you’ll never mistake it for anything else on the road, so it achieves a kind of distinctiveness in spite of itself. I love it; I’d drive one.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring cars whose design I find appealing, in contrast to mainstream opinion. Read the other installments here:

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