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Infiniti 2012 Review

Pricing will be the key to Infiniti's success in Australia - despite the company refusing to announce prices until closer to the official launch in August.

Audi, BMW and Lexus all have very capable vehicles and Infiniti will have to play on price as well as looks and performance The brand will launch with three platforms and a total of eight cars, all based on Nissan's 370Z architecture. But that range will progressively expand to seven models by 2015 when Infiniti expects to give German rivals Audi and BMW a serious hangover.

Ironically, that will be partly due to the arrival of Daimler-sourced four-cylinder powerplants.

FX crossovers

The BMW X5 leads the luxury SUV market - and the squared-off Beemer is right in the FX's headlights.

Infiniti will launch the all-wheel drive model with all the flavours needed to satisfy demand, from a punchy 3.7-litre V6 petrol model to a 3.0-litre turbodiesel and a hi-po 5.0-litre V8 that (just) out-accelerates the Porsche Cayenne V8 S's 0-100km/h time of 5.9 seconds, though it can't match it on fuel efficiency.

Infiniti says the FX50S will be more than $100,000 but adds that standard equipment levels will better those of its rivals, from the seven-speed automatic transmission to the 11-speaker Bose sound system.

The V6s represent a more realistic real-world drive but Infiniti Australia general manager Kevin Snell predicts the FX50S will be the most popular of the trio at launch as early adopters chase the kudos of owning the top-end model.

I'd buy the diesel. Its 0-100km/h time of 8.3 seconds doesn't reflect the effortless mid-range surge that is on tap once the vehicle is underway. The long bonnet and solid rear roof pillars means up-close visibility isn't a strong suit in the cars, which is why they're fitted with an array of cameras to help when parking, while the 50 also has four-wheel steering to help with cornering at carpark and freeway speeds.

The driving position is closer to a luxury sedan than an SUV and the interior is as luxurious as a penthouse suite. That premium feel continues with the dynamics, with the steering precision not far off a Beemer and with more feedback than Audi's SUVs.

Rear legroom is limited if the front-seat occupants are 180cm or more and there's not a huge amount of boot space - two suitcases will fill up the back.

M sedans

The M37 petrol engine and M30d diesel donk are the same as those found in the FX range.

The headline act for the mid-sized rival to the 5 Series, Audi A6 and Lexus GS350 is the hybrid M35h. It uses a 3.5-litre V6 with 225kW and 350Nm combined with a 50kW/270Nm electric motor. The combination has led to Guinness World Records certifying the car as the fastest-accelerating production hybrid car with a 0-100km/h time of 5.5 seconds.

Fuel use is said to be 7.0-litres/100km and there's the now-expected three driving modes. The most efficient Eco mode increases the resistance of the accelerator pedal to discourage putting too much boot in. I'm not a fan but it is effective. The Infiniti sedan isn't far off the pace in terms of interior fit and finish either. The approach is busier than Audi's benchmark interiors but the execution is hard to fault.

The switchgear has a solid feel and the satnav system is easy to drive and read while the voice instructions are timely and not confusing. G coupe and convertible The two-door G models are the oldest cars Infiniti Australia will bring in at launch and that's one of the reasons the company is holding off on the sedan variant of the small prestige car until the model model arrives late next year.

Carsguide drove the M37 convertible that will be a direct competitor with BMW's 335i hardtop and reckons it will have the biggest task of any of the Infiniti range. The seamless six-cylinder engine in the 3 Series Beemer has more mid-range urge than the Japanese-built Infiniti and rear visibility is also marginally better.

On the flip side, the default kit in the Infiniti is more extensive than that in the BMW and Infiniti says that will resonate with buyers who resent having to select - and pay a premium for - options boxes for what they consider should be standard creature comforts in a prestige vehicle. If we had a price the comparison would be much easier, but Infiniti won't talk hard numbers given it is still five months from putting cars in showrooms.

The look is more lithe than the BMW though and that should earn it a following among those who want to stand out from the crowd.

VERDICT

If the price is right Infiniti will wedge its way into the prestige market. It has the looks and performance to appeal and the company's research shows there is a market for cars that don't have the sharp crease lines that typify the major players in this space.

And it's not looking to conquer the world -- just 10 per cent of it. Based on the execution so far, that's not an unrealistic expectation.

MODELS:

FX30d/M30d - 175kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel

FX37/M37/G37 - 235kW/360Nm 3.7-litre V6 petrol

FX50S - 287kW/500Nm 5.0-litre V8

M35h - 275kW/620Nm V6 petrol-electric hybrid

Pricing Guides

$29,920
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$22,440
Highest Price
$37,400

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $22,770 – 28,050 2012 Infiniti FX30d 2012 GT Pricing and Specs
S 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $22,440 – 27,720 2012 Infiniti FX30d 2012 S Pricing and Specs
S PREMIUM 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $31,020 – 37,400 2012 Infiniti FX30d 2012 S PREMIUM Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$20,900

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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