Last week at the Detroit Auto Show we got a first peek at the brand-new Infiniti Q50. For those of you with a short memory, the incoming Q50 is the replacement for the outgoing Infiniti G37 – the premium Japanese manufacturer’s best-selling vehicle by a mile. However, according to the president of Infiniti worldwide, Johan De Nysschen, the luxury sedan is still missing from some very important market segments.
That’s where Mercedes-Benz comes in.
According to Mr. De Nysschen’s estimation, giving customers a choice between powertrains is an important factor that’s been missing from the brand’s previous luxury sedans. Apparently, this is one of the first things that he observed when he was hired by Infiniti in 2012. He admits that “We [Infiniti] simply lack a vehicle in those segments. We can’t compete with the world’s most powerful luxury auto companies on a part-time basis.”
Over the course of the next two years Infiniti intends to expand beyond the Q50’s default six-cylinder 3.7L engine (which is actually inherited from the old G37) to offer a turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0L, along with a clean diesel engine exclusive to Europe.
Thanks to a technology partnership that was announced late in 2011 between Daimler and Nissan, both the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine and the clean diesel one will be borrowed directly from the newest Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This is an excellent deal for Nissan because the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is definitely one of the leaders in the premium sedan segment and a stellar example of good engineering; borrowing anything from such a successful vehicle can only be good news for Nissan’s luxury brand. And it works out perfectly, because while Mercedes-Benz is behind the engineering and design of the engine, Nissan’s own Tennessee-based factory is responsible for the actual manufacture.
As far as specifications, we don’t know very much yet and can only offer speculation. However, remember that the motivation behind offering a smaller engine is to give customers the ability to choose fuel economy without sacrificing performance. This means that even though the new engine will be smaller, the goal is to keep acceleration and fun-factor at a maximum. Rumor throughout the automotive press would have us believe that the 2013 Infiniti Q50’s future Benz-sourced 2.0L engine will run above 200hp but below 250hp.
For our State-side readers wondering about the clean diesel engine, don’t discount it just yet. De Nysschen knows the importance of offering customers a diesel engine, saying “you must have diesel available to be a serious member of the premium market.” Over the past six years diesel has become increasingly popular across Europe and Asia – for example, in India over 70% of the general population’s vehicles run on diesel, as opposed to only 20% 6 years ago. However, whether or not the trend will continue into America remains to be seen; De Nysschen says that Infiniti is “reflecting on the US market,” so a diesel offering isn’t totally out of the picture. It’s just not on the table right now.
Regardless, it is good to see Infiniti taking some initiative with their newest luxury sedan. We were all a little bit worried when Infiniti pointlessly changed their naming structure from “G” to “Q” – it felt more like a New Year’s resolution than a serious marketing move – but seeing De Nysschen’s market-awareness is a huge encouragement. Who knows, in a few years Infiniti could be the name that comes to mind when people think “luxury Japanese car” instead of Lexus, but we’re not jumping on the bandwagon just yet.