>> Friday, March 20, 2009
Nissan’s luxury arm dishes on its plans for the future.
BY AARON ROBINSON
The windblown puddle of mercury known as the Infiniti Essence concept car shown at this year's Geneva show tells volumes about where Nissan's luxury division is headed both stylistically and technically. The twin-turbo 3.7-liter direct injection V-6 in the Essence will debut, sans turbos, in the redesigned M sedan due in early 2010, making about 340–350 hp. The complex direct-injection technology, in which fuel is injected directly into the cylinder rather than in the intake ports as is more common, most likely will also make its way into the G37 coupe and sedan as mid-cycle upgrades before the cars are completely redesigned in about three years. Besides making more power, gasoline direct-injection technology is also needed to meet tightening emissions and fuel-economy regulations around the world.
Where’s the Q?
As yet, Nissan remains unsure whether to replace Infiniti’s former flagship, the Q45. Infiniti's U.S. office wants a $70,000–$80,000 car to seal its position as an aspirational luxury performance brand against Lexus, BMW, and Audi. The idea is being explored; recently, dealers from around the world visiting Japan went wild when shown a Q concept which was basically a four-door extrapolation of the fabulous Essence show car.
But Larry Dominique, Infiniti's vice president of product planning for the U.S., says he wants to see how the economy shapes up before he decides for certain whether to invest in the project. And he has other priorities for the division's limited resources. Mainly, he says, the division needs to keep its bread-and-butter products fresh, namely the 10Best-winning G and the M. The company also has a replacement for the QX56 sport-utility in the works, which will debut after the redesigned Nissan Armada probably later in 2010. Both trucks will be built in Japan on a traditional ladder frame shared with a new Nissan Patrol, which remains for overseas markets only.