Infiniti is no longer beyond our reach
- Credit: Infiniti
A new name for luxury comes to our region with the Infiniti. Motoring editor Andy Russell drives its best-selling crossover.
Let's get one thing clear from the start – Infiniti is a marque in its own right rather than just a model.
Nearly every person, after the luxury crossover had caught their attention – not difficult when it is so imposing, then asked who made it.
Inifiniti is the luxury division of Nissan, just as Lexus is to Toyota, but you can excuse people for not knowing much about the Japanese brand because, having launched at selected sites in the UK in 2009 – 20 years after it had been founded – it is now only just reaching East Anglia.
That said, Formula 1 fans will know the name and logo from the racing cars and overalls of four times world champion Sebastian Vettel at Infiniti Red Bull Racing.
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And that also gives an idea of the league Infiniti aims to be in – mixing it with the big boys in the luxury car market as well as on the track.
It's a name that is going to be heard a lot more in our part of the world with Desira now opening a regional Infiniti centre in Norwich and that has given me the chance to drive the brand for the first time. And first impressions are good.
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I chose Infiniti's best-selling FX luxury sports crossover which has now been rebranded as the QX70 and, at the same time, seen prices cut by a few thousands of pounds so overcoming a criticism and making Infiniti a more appealing purchase.
The QX70 really looks the part as a luxury sports crossover with a huge, long bonnet, bulbous front wings and a slippery, sloping back end giving it real road presence and individual character – you can't mistake this for anything but an Infiniti and that helps get it noticed.
A big car needs a big engine and while there are 320PS 3.7-litre V6 and 390PS 5.0-litre V8 petrol engines, the 238PS 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel is the one to go one for unless you have extraordinarily deep pockets. All are mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox with manual paddle shifts and intelligent all-wheel drive.
On paper the diesel isn't quick compared to some rivals so the stonking performance came as a bit of a surprise and that's down to its strong low-down pulling power – even more than the big V8 petrol model – so it surges forward, especially in sport mode. On the economy front expect 30-33mpg overall but 38-39mpg on a long run came as a pleasant surprise.
The QX70 looks dynamic and it lives up to the promise when you drive it. It feels much more agile than you would expect of a vehicle this size – although the steering is a bit light at speed – with bags of grip and a flat stance through corners. You are always aware of its width on narrow country roads when the lane departure warning system bonging away drove me nuts until I discovered how to switch it off.
The price of fine handling is a firm ride, even without the active damping in sport setting, and it can feel floaty over series of crests and dips. There's also noticeable roar from the fat tyres especially with the S model's 21in wheels.
Inside it delivers on the luxury front with shapely quilted leather seats nipping in all the right places, plush soft-touch materials and an upmarket ambience.
Front passengers have plenty of space and electric adjustment for their seats but, given the QX70 is a big car, there isn't as much legroom in the back as you expect although it is adequate for all but the tallest passengers. The back door openings are also quite narrow at the bottom which, combined with the high ground clearance, make getting in and out tricky if you are short.
The fascia has a clear, logical layout – no mean achievement with so many buttons and switches – but you're glad of the parking aids as the big front wings make it difficult to place the corners and rear visibility is restricted.
The 410-litre boot has a large, high floor but is shallow which limits capacity with the rigid tonneau cover in place. Talking of which, it's the most awkward cover I have ever come across and once I had finally got it out I could not get it in again – judging by the marks on the plastic trim I was not alone in having a problem. The reclining rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold flat.
The QX70 comes in GT and S trims, both with sporty Premium versions. The standard versions come loaded with creature comforts, technology and safety aids – the Premium versions want for nothing.
The Infiniti is an acquired taste with its bold styling but it's not going to be a volume seller and that gives it an air of exclusivity which will be part of the attraction.
Desira Group is the new Infiniti dealership for East Anglia. It shares the Nissan site in Vulcan Road North, Norwich.