Q50 a big jump, but will take Infiniti only so far
JUDGING the success of Infiniti’s new Q50 depends very much on perspective. Do you, for instance, generally see the forest? Or are you, as the adage goes, fixated on just the one tree?
It’s an important distinction because, on the one hand, viewed simply as the successor to the popular and ever-competent G37, the new Q is a quantifiable leap forward. It’s roomier, liberally festooned with high-tech gadgetry and will also, if you’re willing to let all those gadgets work in unison, almost drive itself. It rides better, sips fuel more efficiently and even offers a hybrid edition, which, surprise of surprises, is the best of the entire lineup.
It’s also noticeably swoopier, the G-car getting noticeably long in the tooth stylistically. The new Q is still very much recognizable as a Japanese sedan but it’s definitely not boring or dated, a syndrome that plagues some of its competitors.
It should also prove monumentally safe, considering the number of safety nannies on board, deliberately designed to annoy us all into better driving.
Viewed, then, in the narrow confines of the Q50 as a replacement for the G37, the (base $37,500) Q50 is exactly the car Infiniti needed.
Perused from a loftier height, however, things get a little murkier. Infiniti, by even Nissan’s own measure, is not a success. The company has gained bold headlines of late for predicting it will climb from its relatively minuscule 170,000 cars to a more statistically significant 500,000 in the next four years. That’s a whopping 300-per-cent increase.
The company has also announced a completely new nomenclature for its vehicle lineup, namely all its sedans and coupes will carry a “Q” badge while anything remotely SUV-like will carry a QX moniker.
And that, for those of us looking for the revolution that will see a three-fold increase in sales, has been about it. Oh, there’s been a bunch of noise about Infiniti’s association with the Red Bull Racing Formula One team, and they did indeed hire the rough, tough and hard-to-bluff Johan de Nysschen from Audi of America. But, other than that, there’s been precious little to indicate that a sea change is about to occur in the luxury segment.
It’s from this perspective that I believe Infiniti needed to push the Q50’s envelope further. Much further. Tripling sales necessitates a bold vision, mondo marketing dollars and designs so captivating that the consuming public simply can’t ignore them. Think Audi R8, Chrysler’s original 300 or BMW’s remake of the Range Rover.
Mild restyling, no matter how accomplished (and the new Q50 certainly is attractive), simply doesn’t cut the mustard. The even bolder alternative is to invent an all-new category, as Chrysler did with its Magic Wagons, Subaru started with the Outback and Mercedes managed with the CLS. Either alternative comes with risks, but as fervent capitalists are so fond of telling us, there are no rewards without those bold risks.
And that perhaps is the Q50’s only fault. It takes no risks. It pushes no boundaries. Hell, it uses the same engine as the car it succeeds.
As a direct replacement for the G37, it may be, as I have mentioned, a standout evolution of the current brand. But as proof that a revolution has arrived at Infiniti dealers? Not so much.