Friday, July 15, 2011

Three reasons why I would not buy a 2011 Infiniti

As I go through the current Infiniti lineup, my grievances really boil down to 3 categories:

1) The weird "podium-style" dashboard
2) The fact that each car has a near-identical Nissan counterpart, either as a US or JDM model
3) Disappointing exterior styling compared to competition

I can't comment on the ride, acceleration, braking, etc., as I have not driven any of Infiniti's current cars, but that is not the point of this post. From reading popular auto mags, most reviewers draw the same conclusion anyway: Infinitis produce decent performance, but are either on par with or slightly worse than European competitors. When was the last time you saw an Infiniti win a car comparo? I can't even remember.

Click through to see my explanation.

Reason #1: Podium-style dashboard
Current Infiniti M

Last-gen Infiniti M
The quality of Infiniti's materials is certainly up to par, but there's something very unflattering (in my opinion) about the layout of Infiniti's interiors. Every time I sit in an Infiniti, I can't help but reminisce about sitting in a Nissan Quest, or any other minivan for that matter. Look at the angle of the instrument panel under the clock in the last 2 generations of Infiniti Ms, and compare it to the last 2 generations of Nissan Quests below - it is a very unique angle specific to Nissan, and I can't imagine it is as ergonomic as, say, the traditional vertically-oriented dashboards of the E-Class, 5-Series, or A6. The angle of Infiniti's dashboards was even worse 5-7 years ago - kudos to Nissan for toning it down in recent years - but they clearly have a lot of work left to do.

Current Nissan Quest
Last-gen Nissan Quest
Infiniti's weird dashboard angle also affects just about every other model, including the G, FX, and the now-discontinued Q (see pictures below). The Q was by far the worst offender. The QX escaped the wrath, but has so many other issues to discuss later.

Infiniti G / EX interior
Infiniti FX
Discontinued Infiniti Q - the worst offender!!

Reason #2: Nissan Clones

Infiniti has a checkered past in its efforts to differentiate its clone models from their Nissan counterparts.

Nissan Skyline / Infiniti G
The Infiniti G was sold in Japan and other countries as the Nissan Primera in early years, and now as the Skyline. As a car enthusiast, this practice cheapens the prestige of the Infiniti brand. Not every US car buyer knows this (and many do not care), so Infiniti is able to sell cars. Think about it - Mercedes are sold as Mercedes everywhere, and same goes for BMW, Audi, Cadillac, etc. The 3 Japanese luxury brands (Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus) came to the US in the early 1990s to try to establish themselves as legitimate luxury competitors, but are still sold under the non-luxury brands (Honda, Nissan, and Toyota) in other countries. Would the Infiniti G37 sell as well in the US as a Nissan Skyline? Definitely not. Buyers pay more for the Infiniti brand. I will not be fooled into paying a premium price for an Infiniti that is sold as a Nissan elsewhere!

Nissan Fuga / Infiniti M
The Nissan Fuga / Infiniti M has the same problem as the G, in terms of rebadging a car in the US that is sold as a Nissan in Japan.

Nissan Patrol / Infiniti QX
Funny how the Nissan variant looks (slightly) better than QX. Simple is always better, Nissan! Also, not shown here, the previous-gen QX56 was an exact replica of the short-lived Nissan Armada, both of which were sold in the US market. In my eyes, that dynamic had a terrible effect on the cachet of the original QX56.

Infiniti I / Nissan Maxima
I know the focus of this post is current Infinitis, but I need to mention the I35, which is fortunately not in production anymore. I despise this car. It was a lightly disguised Nissan Maxima (another car whose existence I do not understand), but made more unattractive by fussy styling - interior and exterior. At least the Infiniti J30 had a distinctive look (even though it is not everyone's cup of tea).

Infiniti QX4 / Nissan Pathfinder
I also have to mention this old "gem", also fortunately no longer in production. Nissan affixed a slightly modified front-end on the Pathfinder, swapped the logos, and put 3-spoke wheels on the car, and US buyers actually paid a premium for the QX4! Unbelievable. Say what you will about the Lexus RX, at least it did not resemble anything similar in Toyota's lineup.

Reason #3: Uncompetitive Styling

Infiniti EX
When I saw the Infiniti EX in pictures for the first time, I thought they were targeting the Tiguan / GLK / Q5 / X3 market, but when I saw the car in person, it looked more like a station-wagon version of the Infiniti G. The black molding running around the entire car doesn't work well - I think they were going for the Volvo XC70 / Audi Allroad look, but the EX falls short and looks cheap. Otherwise, the car doesn't look bad - I like the FX-inspired taillights and the G-inspired front end. What a shame.

Infiniti QX
See my post about portholes - they ruin this car, and only belong on Buicks. The proportions of the car are also way off - the front end looks distorted, the sides are too slabby, and the rear end is droopy and blobby. Who in their right mind would buy this over the abundant large-SUV competition (Mercedes GL, Jeep SRT8, Escalade ESV, Lexus LX, Toyota Land Cruiser)?

Infiniti FX
Generally speaking, I think the FX is one of Infiniti's brighter spots. When it first came out, it was very unique-looking and had a distinct exhaust tone. But there are a couple pitfalls I want to point out in the latest redesign: first, the air vents on the sides are gaudy and unnecessary (again, see my air vent post - Infiniti is a repeat offender!). The headlight arrangement is also quite odd - I almost like it, but the proportions are a tad awkward. It's missing something, but I don't know what!

Infiniti M
I really dislike the rear-end of the M. It is exceedingly uncompetitive compared to European and even American competition. The trunk line resembles the Suzuki Kizashi (not flattering!). I like the character lines on the sides, but don't love them. I can't tell if the side profile resembles a Maserati Quattroporte or a last-gen Buick LaCrosse...but I'm leaning toward the latter. And we've already talked about the interior...

Infiniti G37
This leaves us with the G37. I think the styling has actually improved with each iteration - the current version is quite muscular and attractive. Plus, the exhaust note is pleasantly distinctive. However, I have to compare this to the C-Class coupe and sedan, A4/A5, CTS coupe and sedan, and 3-Series coupe and sedan, and conclude that the G37 styling is not compelling enough to win my $40k. To be fair, I do believe the G37's styling is more appealing than the IS and TSX, but that's not saying much.


  1. I just don't like Infinity as a brand. The designs are not distinctive enough to give them a second look. You put my misgiving in better words than I could.

  2. @ Warren: This post serves to address your comment in the previous post!

  3. I like this cars. Looking awesome. I don't know when they come to my home.:-)

    Russell Reed
    q-see stand alone dvr

  4. You may not like them, but Infiniti is selling more and more cars each year. I've had my latest Infiniti G35x for 3 years, love the styling, and have not had an issue. And I will continue to be a loyal customer for as long as I live.

  5. While I can understand your feelings toward the interior and exterior design of the Infiniti cars, that is quite subjective. There are plenty of Infiniti cars that are sold, which means that there are people who enjoy the styling of their car. The design language that Infiniti uses is unique because they choose to stand apart and not be another European luxury copy like Lexus. I'd also say that what you are trying to prove about the fact that the entire Infiniti lineup has a counterpart in Japan under the Nissan brand really doesn't mean anything. Why? The cars that they are identical to in Japan are also marketed as premium there. A G37 coupe there marketed as the Skyline 370GT sells for around 3.8 million yen which equates to about $48k USD, and that's just a base model. If you actually look at all of the Infiniti counterparts sold in Japan they all command a much larger cost than the more typical common Nissan. Also, every single Infiniti vehicle(save for the new JX & QX) uses the Nissan FM platform which is a premium rear-wheel drive that is exclusive to the Infiniti line-up in the US save for the Nissan 370Z. Sure you pay more for an Infiniti but you are truly getting something unique from the "everyday" Nissan. The same cannot be said for Lexus(ES350 & RX350 based off Camry) and Acura(most of lineup based off Accord). It seems that many people are opening their eyes and looking "beyond the badge" to see what each car is truly worth, but some just cannot look away from brand image.

    1. If only folks would look away from what country a car brand is from...unfortunately, image rules in the luxury world.

  6. @ That Dude Right There: The G is probably Infiniti's best looking and most competitive model right now, and my friends that own it also love the car. It is also very well made. The only (subjective!) point I'd make on the G is, if I had $35-40k to spend on an entry-luxury sedan, there are probably a number of other places I'd look first - M-B, Audi, BMW, and Cadillac. THEN I'd look at the Infiniti and Lexus. But this is a never ending debate because it's truly a matter of preference.

    @ Michael: Very very fair points you raise! Agreed - it is totally subjective. I'd say that just because Infiniti's design language is unique doesn't necessarily make it pleasing...the Pontiac Aztek was unique but we know how that turned out(!) I maintain that the air vents on the side of the QX are hideous in every sense of the word. I understand your point that the Skyline is marketed as a premium car in Japan, and to be fair, I don't think everyday car buyers know or care that Infinitis are sold as Nissans in also wouldn't definitively prevent me from buying an Infiniti (or a Lexus or Acura, for that matter). But I can't help but feel a little bit tricked by the big 3 Japanese makers, who knew in the 1980s that their brands would not be able to move upmarket, and had to set up sub-brands to stay competitive. None of the European luxury brands do this, which gives them (in my opinion) an inherent element of added prestige. As a consumer I am influenced by BOTH brand image and the qualities "beyond the badge". I frankly don't think the big 3 Japanese companies surpass the European competitors on either of these factors - although they often come close. Also keep in mind that as of late, Infiniti has significantly improved its product line from a rebadging standpoint - just a few years ago, the first-gen QX (Armada) and I (Maxima) were (arguably) as blatantly rebadged as any Lexus or Acura!

  7. I agree about the dashboard. When I drove in my coworker's FX35, I felt like I was sitting in a cave. The car also seemed hard to maneuver because visibility was terrible. Contrast that with something like the Audi A6 Avant, which is a pretty big car that has very good visibility and seems to shrink around you when you drive it.

    That feeling of the car shrinking around you while you drive is why I would get the Audi over the Infiniti. A lot of manufacturers share parts to save money. Audi cars share parts with VW cars a whole lot. It's just that the newer model VW will tend to use parts and technology from the previous generation Audi.

    Speaking of technology, I don't want to know what it'll be like to own one of those luxury cars when things eventually start going wrong.

  8. @ BrokenSpoke: Totally agree that the FX's overdesign definitely impedes visibility. If I had to pick between Nissan's corporate parts bin in an Infiniti, vs. VW's parts bin in an Audi, I'd also go with the Audi/VW. VW has a much cleaner "iPod-like" design. You are definitely right with your last comment - I would guess that most luxury buyers don't anticipate holding their car long enough to see things go's always about having the newest and best car on the road.