Infiniti EX: Cool coupe crossover
INFINITI EXPANDS: The newbie luxury brand on the South Africa auto market has just released the EX AWD coupe/wagon crossover to the local market.
Author: Les Stephenson
‘Softly, Softly, Catchee Monkey’... it’s a saying of indeterminate origin but Infiniti, the now 23-year-old luxury arm of the Nissan Motor Corporation, is applying its principle to the brand’s re-entry into the South African auto market.
EX image gallery
George Stegmann, the plate’s South African general manager, has elected to tread gently into Africa. There was a low-key media launch in Cape Town back in June 2012 of the initial Infiniti range which marketeeress Vinola Pillay listed at the time as starting (click for picture galleries) with...
•The G Coupe (R616 000 to R672 000) that’s “not just a sedan with two doors” with “class-leading equipment but a sporty orientation”.
•The G Cabrio (R699 000) with a three-piece folding metal roof, 19” alloy rims and Nissan’s famous “scratchproof” paint.
•The Infiniti M (R649 000 to R752 000, a rear-wheel drive, four-door performance sedan with a three-litre V6 diesel engine.
•Two SUV’s, the Infiniti EX (R595 000 to R677 000, now here) described by Pillay as “a coupe and sports estate rolled into one but with high wheel-arches” and
•The Infiniti FX (676 000 to R856 000) which first appeared in 2009 as the Infiniti Essence concept – think Porsche Cayenne.
Each, as they gently arrive, will have engine, gearbox and other variables on a moe comprehensiveprice list that I said at the time looked like a pizza menu.
Each has a seven-speed auto/manual sequential gearbox and comes variously with a V6 3.7 or V8 five-litre petrol engine or a three-litre V6 diesel. Just arrived and introduced at the weekend to the SA motoring media (aptly, at the Cradle of Mankind’s Forum Homini resort north of Johannesburg, given their claimed Earth-friendly credentials) was the EX with a choice of the 3.7 petrol engine or the three-litre diesel.
It also – cool for a car such as this – has full-time “intelligent” all-wheel drive. If there’s one thing over all other “safety features” that really counts it’s staying out of trouble in the first place, especially in bad weather, and rear-wheel drive with the front two tyres’ traction on instant call, is it.
The cars, Stegmann says, live in the C-segment SUV niche. What that means in reality is that, while they are superbly equipped, 4x4, quiet and fast with instantly recognisable (once you’ve seen one) chunky looks inherited from crossing a coupe with a wagon and adding giant wheel arches, there ain’t a helluva lot of room in the back.
Adequate, but not executive; family, not boardroom; school run, not chauffeur. And further engines, in partnership with Mercedes, are in the pipeline.
Frankly, I like the EX. Upper-crust luxury without the pretention, solidity without the stodge, or, as Stegmann describes them, “for those who prefer not to follow others”.
DEALER EXPANSION PLAN
“Our (corporate) launch,” he explained, “is a long-term investment in South Africa. We’re not aiming for high volumes but, for now, for brand awareness. Growth is planned to be long-term but we intend to be a key player in the luxury market.”
That growth involves expansion from only two Infiniti Centres (Melrose Arch in Johannesburg and in Pretoria) to Nelspruit, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein and, by the end of 2013, Durban and Cape Town.
Stegmann also believes Infiniti, being at the luxury end of the market, is more stable that the rest and deals in about 20% of the overall SA market: “We’re less susceptible to the vagaries...”
The richer of the rich, however, might want to know that four of the only 200 FX Vettel SUV’s for worldwide distribution will be delivered to South Africa; if you haven’t caught the link, Vettel drives for the Red Bull F1 team (he won in Japan on Sunday) and Infiniti is one of the team sponsors.
Also likely to reach SA, Stegmann said, is the Infiniti M35h hybrid that, though emitting only 59g/km of CO2 (and therefore very untaxable in SA) can do 100 in 5.5sec. And the G sedan will get here in the latter half of 2013, certain is the M37 luxury sedan.
COUPE ON STILTS
And coming into the Infiniti stable in due course, I was told by brand boss George Stegmann, are the LE – at present an electric concept, and the Emerg-E that nails 100km/h in four seconds thanks to its 300kW – each of which was shown as a prototype at the UK’s 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
So, to the EX “compact SUV – “performance SUV greets luxury market with elegance”, in the words of the Infiniti media release – to join the big FX SUV’s, the big M sedan, an Audi TT lookalike G Coupe and a rather nice G Cabriolet with a three-piece metal roof.
The EX looks like a coupe on stilts and rides on 18 or 19” rims, depending on model choice. Under the stubby nose is either a 175kW/55Nm three-litre V6 diesel or a 235kW/360Nm V6 petrol engine, guilty respectively of 7.9 and 6.4sec to 100km/h and claiming 7.2 and 11.3 litres/100km.
That gives the diesel a theoretical cruise range of 1100km; each has a seven-speed auto transmission with Drive Sport mode that locks out the top two gears and allows the driver to control the shift points.
There are three models: basic EX, EX GT and EX Premium whose prices range from R595 000 to R577 276 with only the diesel engine for the entry unit. Spread variously through the range are anti-lock brakes with all their associated electronic traction benefits, six air bags, collision warning (with, ultimately, auto emergency braking), Infiniti-developed bird’s-eye view parking cameras and lane maintenance control via a camera street side of the rearview mirror, and leather upholstery.
The AWD will split torque between wheels according to traction and steering control and the three spec levels vary through audio systems and satnav, Bluetooth, power front seats, multifunction steering-wheel, auto aircon, privacy glass, and power steering-wheel adjustment.
They’re all sold with a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a five-year or 100 000km maintenance plan. For more information go to Infiniti SA