Nissan Infiniti

If anyone can launch a luxury car now, Nissan can. The Infiniti is coming, and with it the Total Ownership Experience
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Indy Lifestyle Online

A whole new car brand. That's a massive undertaking, especially when the brand is pitched far upmarket and a global recession is poised to strike.

Lexus did something very similar two decades ago, just before interest rates briefly rocketed to an all-time high. That's hardly the problem this time, but money is still short. It's interesting, then, that the first stronghold of Nissan's new-to-Europe Infiniti marque (it began in the United States around the same time as Lexus) has been Russia. There, the top FX50 model, a hefty, V8-engined SUV dripping with well-wrought bling, is the star seller. To what type of customer it is better not to imagine.

So why would you take the plunge towards Infiniti? Not for reasons of technology or greenness, that's for sure (the GT saloon emits 247g CO2/km). There aren't even any diesels in the range yet, although the FX SUV and the smaller EX one will gain a Renault-designed, 3.0-litre V6 diesel in 2010. Instead you might buy an Infiniti for the fact that it is better-equipped than a similarly priced BMW.

You might also buy one because you like the idea of the Total Ownership Experience, also known as The Reward of Individualiti. Stay with me here. No Infiniti Centre (of which there will be 14 in the UK, the first opening next year) will share space with a Nissan dealer. You can make use of Infiniti iContact and its team of business-savvy consultants while you're driving, or arrange sales and servicing with Infiniti Ambassadors, perhaps using the time-saving Infiniti VIP Service.

A website helps you choose the specification of your new Infiniti, with 3D views and every combination of colour and trim, and also lets you see what an Infiniti Centre is like. Which is? Full of "Spiritual Precision". And purple. If you don't like purple hues and trendy lounge music, you'll be in trouble. In the end, though, the car is the important part. What, then, is this G37?

It has a 3.7-litre V6 engine with 320bhp on tap, and currently that's the only choice. (Clearly, Infiniti is not chasing big sales numbers.) Its underpinnings are based on an updated version of those which work so well in the Nissan 350Z, itself now replaced by the 370Z. And the myriad ways Infiniti's engineers have rendered Euro-suitable a car designed in Japan, originally for the US market, makes interesting reading.

Styling is not one of them. The G37 looks like a five-year-old design (it isn't), and its front grille – all Infinitis wear something similar – is weak. The coupé is the more pleasing (a convertible joins it next year); think of it as a softer-edged 350Z with four seats and a formal suit.

Inside, there's a convincingly "premium" feel, which you would expect for the saloon price of about £32,000, albeit not as strong as that found in the SUVs whose cabin design is refreshingly original. US buyers are more tolerant of cheap fittings, so the Euro-G37 gets satin-finish door handles, smarter switches with graphics instead of words, and much attention to soundproofing. The G37 GT has a seven-speed automatic gearbox, the S version uses a six-speed manual and has rear suspension able to steer itself a little.

These are quick, tuneful cars with the sort of precise, natural-feeling steering that's increasingly rare. Much fun can be had threading them through fast bends, especially the S, whose rear wheels' microfine steering can even damp the spike of extra side force felt on those wheels when you turn briskly, by momentarily counter-steering. The sporting edge goes a little too far with the way the G37 saloons can turn choppy over bumps, though. The coupés, surprisingly, are better here.

Should you buy a G37 when they come on-stream next June? If you want to be different and don't want a Lexus iS, maybe yes. The cars are as yet a touch flawed but they are fun, and their self-repairing paint is a piece of genius. And how could you resist, as an Individualitus, the Rewards on offer?

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