Happy 30th Anniversary Infiniti
It might be hard to believe: 30 years have passed since the Infiniti brand premiered as the luxury marque of Nissan, with the debut of the Q45 flagship sedan and M30 coupe at the 1989 Detroit Auto Show. At the time these cars offered groundbreaking ideas, and the Q45 garnered attention for its powerful V8 and unique style with no grille. (They also got some attention because their first TV ads featured rocks and streams — but no cars.) Since that time, the Infiniti brand has been responsible for introducing a wide variety of features and technologies to the automotive world, all leading to the updated Infiniti 2020 model lineup.
Model Lineup for 2020
Infiniti took a group of automotive journalists to Spaceport America in New Mexico — billed as “the world’s first commercial-built spaceport” — to fully experience the entire lineup of 2020 Infiniti models. This included the Q50, Q60, QX50, QX60 and QX80. The QX30 and Q70 will no longer be offered. Although no major changes have been made to vehicles in the current lineup, there have been some significant updates worth mentioning. And with Spaceport functioning as a backdrop and futuristic sign of things to come, Infiniti also took the opportunity to provide the assembled journos a peek at the company’s future plans. More on those later.
New Infotainment System
The most significant update to the 2020 Infiniti lineup is on the inside, in the form of an all-new infotainment system. The Infiniti InTouch system uses twin HD displays and includes features such as Android Auto / Apple CarPlay, as well as a Wi-Fi hotspot that can provide connectivity for up to seven devices. The system also uses an improved navigation system with 3D maps as well as Street View and Destinations by Google. This system is a nice improvement over the previous version with excellent Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration; however, the tuning knob has been removed — a step backward in our opinion.
When Infiniti began 30 years ago, the idea of a premium SUV or crossover was completely out of realm. Now the Q50 sport sedan is the only 4-door sedan left in the Infiniti lineup. Four trim levels are available for the 2020 Infiniti Q50: Pure, Luxe, Sport and Red Sport. For the 2020 model year, the Q50 drops the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine; all Q50 trims will be powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 300 horsepower except for the Red Sport, which gets a bump to 400 horsepower. The updated Q50 is also equipped with the new InTouch infotainment system as well as the addition of two lighted USB ports — one type A, one type C.
The sportier Q60 remains the only sport coupe in the Infiniti lineup. With similar styling to the Q50, the Q60 mirrors the updates of its sedan sibling, including the InTouch infotainment system. Both Q50 and Q60 share the same powertrains and come standard with rear-wheel drive, but all trims are available with full-time all-wheel drive as well.
Driving in Dirt
To showcase the performance and handling capabilities of Infiniti’s car offerings, the company set us up to drive the high-performance Red Sport editions in both rear- and all-wheel drive configurations on a high-speed autocross course — that happened to be on dirt. With all electronic nannies turned off, we were able to get a feel of what this car is capable of at its limits. Great fun.
It became immediately obvious how well-balanced both cars are. The rear-wheel-drive coupe was very predictable, even when surface grip was constantly changing. Throttle response and steering inputs are spot on, making it possible to navigate quick turns with authority. The bolstered sport seats perform effectively, keep bodies in position while the car pitched back and forth around the autocross course.
When switching to all-wheel drive sedans, we were better able to maneuver sweeping turns by allowing the rear end of the car to drift out, putting down full throttle as soon as the Q50 was pointed in the right direction. With 400 horsepower on tap, there was no shortage of oomph to keep the car on track. The uneven surface to the autocross course really showcased how well Infiniti’s all-wheel drive system works, and how well behaved this car can be, even when road surfaces are less than ideal.
In a more real-world scenario, we had the opportunity to test the emergency maneuverability of the Q50. Heading toward a barrier at highway speeds, drivers were able to swerve away from the blocking object and into the next lane almost instantly with no loss of grip, easily correcting to continue our path around the barrier. Even though the Q50 has the tech to stop itself before hitting the barrier, it is nice to know that an alert driver can make proper corrections as necessary.
Infiniti’s 5-passenger crossover was redesigned for the 2019 model year with updated styling inside and out. Based on a new front-engine, front-wheel-drive platform, the new QX50 received more interior space and more efficient packaging than the previous generation, which was based on a rear-wheel-drive platform. Also new for this updated QX50 is the innovative 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine — the first production-ready engine that adjusts compression ratio to optimize both power and efficiency. Combined with a continuously variable transmission, the VC-Turbo is rated at 268 horsepower with 280 lb-ft of torque.
Understandably, there have been no major changes to the QX50 following the full redesign last year, although there are two new trim levels offered at the top of the lineup — Autograph and Sensory. Infiniti has also made more advanced safety features standard for all trims, including lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear automatic braking and rear cross-traffic alert. As mentioned earlier, the QX50 also gets the updated InTouch infotainment system.
Infiniti’s family-friendly 3-row luxury crossover received revised exterior styling for the 2018 model year that reflects Infiniti’s contemporary design language, including a new signature grille, headlights, turn signals and new wheel designs. The QX60 is Infiniti’s best-selling model by far, so to avoid messing with success, this premium crossover remains primarily unchanged for the 2020 model year.
Available with front- or all-wheel drive, the QX60 is powered by Infiniti’s 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 295 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. For 2019 Infiniti added forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, predictive forward collision warning and blind-spot warning as standard equipment for all trim levels of the QX60.
As the flagship of Infiniti’s SUV lineup, the QX80 offers a luxurious interior with impressive capability and versatility. Sporting a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 engine, the QX80 can haul as much as 8,500 pounds and offers seating for seven. The interior is appropriately equipped with leather seat trim, a high-end Bose audio system, tri-zone climate control and a helpful Around View monitor.
For the 2020 model year, the big QX80 gets a revised center console that features the dual-screen InTouch infotainment system as well as a new 7-inch color monitor in the instrument cluster. In addition, the ProPILOT Assist system has been revised, and standard equipment now includes forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear door alert, lane departure warning and intervention, backup collision intervention and blind-spot warning. A new 17-speaker Bose Performance Series Audio system is available, and QX80 has two new exterior colors.
Although most owners are unlikely to take their QX80 off pavement, we had the opportunity to test the big SUV on an off-road course. The 4-wheel drive system works admirably — able to start from a standstill on a steep hill of loose dirt with no difficulty. With its high ground clearance, the QX80 is able to handle steep berms smoothly and comfortably. The QX80 does not have hill descent control or locking differentials like some of its competitors, but most of its owners will never be in situations that require this advanced off-road technology.
In the last 30 years Infiniti has made considerable advancements in technology as well as vehicle performance and comfort. At the special anniversary event, Nissan’s luxury marque gave attending media a taste of what’s next for the brand, including a promise of five all-new global vehicles from Infiniti in the next three years.
The first of those five vehicles will be the all-new QX55, slated to arrive next year. Very little information has been made available on this new model, but based on released images we expect it to be a more coupelike version of the QX50. Infiniti has some experience building sporty SUVs — back in 2003 the brand introduced the FX as one of the first SUVs to carry sports car-like lines. That original is likely to inspire the look of the new QX55.
Infiniti will come to market with a new dedicated platform that will offer two electrified powertrain solutions. The fully-electric models will feature two high-output electric motors — one on each axle — resulting in a high-performance e-AWD. In the purely electric vehicles, the space between the axles contains a high-capacity battery pack.
This same platform and motor layout will also be used for a gas-generated EV system — which Nissan currently calls e-Power. Instead of a battery that gets plugged in for charging, this alternative system utilizes a smaller battery pack and a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder VC-Turbo gasoline generator. The generator constantly charges the batteries, which in turn power the electric motors. The gas engine never directly powers the wheels, so even though there is a gas engine running, the vehicle would still be operating as an electric car. And instead of plugging in to charge, the vehicle would simply be filled up at a gas station. The engine / generator would use an independent mounting system to reduce engine noise, with the idea of keeping the powertrain as silent as a pure EV.
“For three decades INFINITI has built a reputation for introducing powertrains that excite and empower drivers,” said Infiniti’s General Manager of Product Strategy & Planning Eric Rigaux. “Our new gas-generated EV powertrain represents the next step into our electrified future, acting as a bridge to full electrification and setting the tone for our upcoming zero and ultra-low emission cars,” Rigaux noted.
Infiniti designers will take advantage of the unique space afforded by electric powertrains to create a new design language. Called Powerful Serenity, general idea is that future electrified vehicles could have more spacious, loungelike cabins. The recent Inspiration concepts seen on the auto show circuit over the last few years — Q Inspiration, QS Inspiration and QX Inspiration — confirm this idea and will now be the inspiration behind additional electrified models arriving in the next few years.
Past, Present, Future
There have been exciting models and impressive advancements by Infiniti in its 30-year existence. From all recent indications about the company’s future, the next 30 years could be equally exciting.