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“Considering Lexus is to Toyota what Infiniti is to Nissan, for the ardent Japanese manufacturer fan, wanting a premium feel, I’m fairly certain either will do, but if you’re after a true luxury experience though, there’s just no beating the Germans.”
Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.
Back in the day this was a simple yet undeniably true fact. If your shiny Chevy won on the racetrack on Sunday, you could be sure, come Monday morning, you’d have a line of quizzy customers circling around the block of your Chevrolet dealership. Well, maybe not around the block.
Nowadays though it’s not quite as easy to shift stock off the showroom floor. Oh no, today the buying public’s interests far exceed that of pure performance as demonstrated on the racetrack and with motorsport becoming less and less relevant to today’s average road car, Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday is not the easy sell it used to be.
Which brings us to Formula 1 and Infiniti. Infiniti is the title sponsor of the Red Bull Racing team – not a manufacturer I might note – which is strange for some people to wrap their heads around because traditionally you’d expect a car maker to be a racing team manufacturer with an energy drink sponsor and not the other way around.
So why the partnership with Red Bull and Formula 1? Well, Infiniti is hoping to use the pinnacle of motorsport as a launchpad to break into the luxury sedan and SUV market dominated by the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
The partnership is simple and has three elements. 1) There’s the sponsorship deal. That needs no explaining. Infiniti’s branding gets plastered to the Red Bull’s F1 car and is seen by millions. 2) There’s a technical exchange. Red Bull get’s access to the Nissan/Infiniti parts and R&D departments and vice versa. And, 3) Infiniti get’s a couple of high-profile brand ambassadors. In the past, Herr Vettel’s endorsements would’ve been lucrative. Red Bull’s current drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat, less so.
Alright, enough about motor racing. Tell me more about the car here
It’s the QX70 and is Infiniti’s answer to the likes of the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE (previously known as the ML Class).
The QX70 certainly looks like no other SUV on the road with it’s cab-backwards arrangement and long sleek bonnet. Very coupe-ish. A low swooping roofline and huge 20-inch wheels combine to give it an aggressive stance on the road and that curvaceous bonnet and chrome grille with huge Infiniti badge displayed front and centre, clearly announces itself in rearview mirrors.
The QX70 in reality provides an alternate choice for those shopping for an SUV Coupe, popularised more recently by the X6 and forthcoming Merc GLE Coupe. It’s interesting to note, that the QX70 predates the X6 by 6 years, laying claim to the SUV Coupe way back in 2003. Considering Infiniti has only been available in South Africa since 2012, it’s not hard to see why the X6 has stolen its thunder.
That sloping roofline does rob the QX70 of rear interior space, and I only just managed to get my 6-foot frame in the rear with the driver’s seat set to my own comfortable position. The boot also suffers somewhat and will only swallow 410-litres of cargo with the rear seats up, which isn’t much more than a regular hatchback. Fold the rear seats down though and cargo space increases to roughly 1 300-litres.
Inside drivers are well catered for with a superbly comfortable 10-way power adjustable seat with passengers receiving 8-way power adjustment. Both are heated and ventilated meaning your bum stays warm in winter and cool in summer. A nice feature is a power adjustable steering column which can be adjusted for both height and reach, meaning finding the optimum driving position is a cinch.
Fit and finish? To be honest, the QX70 is let down by a dated, decidedly old school interior with a previous generation Nissan air of quality, which is a real letdown in this price bracket. If you’ve driven a Navara or 370Z recently the QX70 will feel very familiar with much of the tech and switchgear lifted straight from the Nissan parts bins. Hopefully, an all-new model will feature an interior somewhere along the lines of the new Q50 sedan, whose interior looks superb in comparison.
Amplifying its age, is the fact that there is a plethora of buttons on the dashboard, the steering binnacle, in front the driver’s right knee, everywhere really. With the modern trend of minimalism, created by relegating almost every function to some sort of touchscreen interface, the QX70 definitely has some catching up to do.
Standard specification is impressive though and includes cruise control, follow-me-home lighting system, an analogue Infiniti clock, dual zone adaptive climate control, rear air conditioning vents, electric glass sunroof and a power tailgate.
A High-resolution touch screen display and 30 Gig HDD Navigation system combined with a Bose® Premium Sound System with 11 speakers make for impressive specification list.
Memory function for the driver’s seat, steering column and door mirror preference can all be saved and linked to the intelligent I-Key.
So, what is like to drive?
Power comes from a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, and again, those familiar with the Nissan range will remember this engine, the V9X, from the Navara. It’s good for 175kW and 550Nm, meaning there’s plenty of grunt to move the QX’s 2.6-tonne weight around.
On the road, the it does a very good job of belying its size and weight and with 550Nm to play with it’s actually quite quick. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a traditional 7-speed automatic gearbox, no dual clutch arrangement here I’m afraid. It has an intelligent all-wheel drive system too, meaning that if the system senses slip on either rear wheels and loses traction, power can be sent to the front wheels when necessary. No low-range means this SUV is best suited to tar roads and the odd farm track or grassy field.
For more driver engagement, you can take control of gearshifts yourself via the meaty paddles behind the steering wheel (lifted from the 370Z). But with masses of torque, the gearbox is quite happy to be left to its own devices, shifting up and down ratios responsively to road conditions. It performs adequately, but again, at this price range and compared to rival German SUVs it feels a generation or two behind.
Hustle the QX70 and it responds well, helped in part by 2 degrees of rear wheel steering and a stiffly sprung suspension setup. Placing it on the road is not the easiest feat considering its size, but that low roofline contributing nicely to a low centre of gravity and big, wide wheels, means the QX70 is quite wieldy. However on rutted and potholed roads it does thump and fidget its way along with some of that crashing through and into the cabin. Overall, it’s a fairly quiet and refined ride.
Okay, let’s wrap this up
Criticisms aside you do get some standard kit on the QX70 which would be expensive paid for options on other similar vehicles. Intelligent Cruise Control with Low-Speed Following, Forward Collision Warning and Intelligent Brake Assist. Lane Departure Warning and Lane Departure Prevention which work in combination to keep you safely in your lane on the road, are all standard on the QX70 GT Premium model.
There’s more too, a rear view camera with front and rear parking sensors, as well as Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming and sunroof, are all ticked off as standard fare.
At R734 000.00 for the entry level 3.7 GT model (and R935 000.00 for the range-topping 5.0 S Premium which boasts a 287kW/500Nm V8) is the QX70 a comparable rival to the likes of the X6? No, it isn’t. With a disappointing interior and questionable ride quality, the QX70 is more comparable to the Lexus RX range.
Considering Lexus is to Toyota what Infiniti is to Nissan, for the ardent Japanese manufacturer fan, wanting a premium feel, I’m fairly certain either will to a good job of fulfilling your needs. If you’re after a true luxury experience though, there’s just no beating the Germans.