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Infiniti M and FX 2012 Review

Despite being older, the FX was easier to like and should be more popular here.

The vehicle in question is more than just a new car. The M sedan launches a brand: Infiniti. It's the premium arm of Japanese maker Nissan, in much the same way Lexus is the luxury division of Toyota. It arrives here as part of a global strategy to expand beyond the US.

It defines itself as a challenger brand for those who don't follow the luxury crowd. Carlos Ghosn, the charismatic leader of the Renault-Nissan group, says: “Infiniti is not about being all things to all people, but everything to some people.”

With a 500,000 sales target dangling like a noose over his appointment, de Nysschen focuses on the fundamentals. “I don't live or die by the number.” He says it's more important to focus on the product, organisation, retail network and pleasing the customer and if you get all those things right...the sales absolutely will follow.

VALUE

The large SUV Infiniti FX is priced from $83,900, while the large sedan Infiniti M is slightly more expensive priced from $85,900. The M goes up against the BMW 5 Series/Mercedes E-Class/Audi A6 and brings four-wheel steering, active noise cancelling and, happily, a hay fever-free cabin to the brand's tech showcase.

If Infiniti is to claim a significant share, it will need to move quickly to its next generation of products and fill out its range. As a value proposition and break from the norm, it will attract a few. Like Audi, Infiniti must offer better value to lure people away from the established luxury leaders. “We will price directly against the competition but in terms of overall equipment, the content of our package will be a bit richer,” he says.

“We will use that additional value to offset for the customer what is still to be done in building the brand awareness, presence and recognition.” But he believes that Infiniti can avoid falling into a “value trap” of always undercutting your rivals -- something that in China, especially, undermines brand status. Two more models are due this year. The G37 coupe and hard-top convertible are now halfway through a model cycle that starts afresh next year with the arrival of a sedan pitched at junior executives.

DESIGN AND GADGETS

The Infiniti execs charged with taking the company global have jetted into the Gold Coast hinterland to explain how a brand that finished seventh in the US luxury charts last year will climb into the top tier alongside the Germans. When a car presentation turns to unusual cabin gadgets, alarm bells ring. If the somersaulting cup-holder is cutting edge, then the engineering priorities were surely wrong.

If a fingerprint reader is essential, the car must be sorely deficient somewhere else. I'm being distracted by tinsel and it's the oldest trick in the book. But I'm listening intently to an explanation of a plasma cluster and can't get enough of the grape polyphenol filter. I can just about follow it through my constant sniffs. They sound -- the gadgets, not my sniffs -- like gimmicks but a chance they'll work means I'm interested.

TECHNOLOGY

In Australia, Infiniti's 48th market, it begins with two products, the M large sedan mentioned above and the FX large SUV (see panel). A hybrid driveline is available in the top-spec M or two V6s, petrol and diesel. Its V6s are shared with the M and the diesel, sampled at the event, hauled four plus luggage with ease and refinement.

Meanwhile the brand's commitment to alternative drivelines was flagged by a striking sportscar concept called Emerg-e at Geneva earlier this year. It's powered by batteries recharged on the run by an internal combustion engine. It will be reinforced by an all-electric midsize sedan study to be shown in Paris later this month. Both are candidates for production and both leverage the resources of the Renault-Nissan group, which has spent billions trying to get pole position on electric vehicles.

DRIVING

After a short drive in the hybrid M35h, I can vouch for the air-conditioning. But its claims to be the quickest hybrid remained untested and it's difficult not to be aware of its US market origins, with evidence in features such as a foot-operated park brake. Ride and refinement were strong, but from behind the wheel it felt remote.

For a “challenger brand”, leading with such a traditional luxury car is itself a challenge. The FX’s dare-to-be-different design works more successfully and although it has similar stateside traits to the M, it was more interesting from behind the wheel.

VERDICT

Despite being older, the FX was easier to like and should be more popular here.

Infiniti M

Price: from $85,900
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel; 3.7-litre V6 petrol; hybrid 3.5- litre V8 petrol plus electric motor
Outputs: 175kW and 550N (M30d); 235kW and 360Nm (M37); 268kW combined (M35h)
Transmission: seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive

Infiniti FX

Price: from $83,900
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel; 3.7-litre V6 petrol; 5.0-litre V8 petrol
Outputs: 175kW and 550Nm (FX30d); 235kW and 360Nm (FX37); 287kW and
Transmission: seven-speed auto, all-wheel drive

Pricing guides

$25,150
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$17,300
Highest Price
$33,000

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT 3.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $17,300 – 24,090 2012 Infiniti FX37 2012 GT Pricing and Specs
S 3.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $18,900 – 26,290 2012 Infiniti FX37 2012 S Pricing and Specs
S Premium 3.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $24,900 – 33,000 2012 Infiniti FX37 2012 S Premium Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$20,800

Lowest price, based on 3 car listings in the last 6 months

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