COLLEAGUES can be cruel. I was recently mocked for driving an Infiniti by a former Wheels staffer who now works for the print version of what nerds call “vapourware”.
It’s a magazine that doesn’t seem to exist. I spend a lot of time in newsagents, hoping to be recognised by readers, and yet I’ve never seen his publication, so it was ironic that he made fun of my car’s branding, along the lines of it being amusing that something sold in such finite numbers is called an Infiniti.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s cruel humour, but as he was referring to the fact that the only Q50 he’d ever seen on the road had turned out to be a press car, with me in it, it was hard to argue. I’m still not sure whether to defend my Infiniti or not in these situations, but I have had more “what the hell are you driving now?” conversations since acquiring this vehicle than I can count.
I’ve also had cause to chauffeur a number of people around in the Q50 and I can report that they all tend to use the same, slightly limp complimentary term in relation to the experience – “nice”. People, non-car people in particular, think it’s “nicer” than the average Nissan and “nice” inside, and even that it looks “nice”.
But I find myself questioning whether it’s nice enough to be considered a premium player worthy of sitting beside an established ersatz German brand, like Lexus or Volvo, let alone the Big Three themselves.
Even the mighty Toyota corporation struggles with the problem of perceived luxury, but it’s fair to say the latest Lexuses get closer to it, in terms of feel, fit and finish, than the Infiniti does. Perhaps it’s because Nissan’s brand has been developed to impress Americans rather than Australians, who are possibly a little snobbier about cars because we didn’t grow up driving crappy Chryslers, Dodges and Cadillacs.
So who is the Infiniti aimed at? Clearly not me or my colleague. I’m picturing possibly the kind of older outliers who used to buy Saabs, who like to be different for the sake of being different, who want class and comfort and efficiency from their vehicle rather than excitement, and who don’t want to pay too much for it.
And the truth is, I think they’d be very happy with the Q50, because it does all the basics well; it rides pleasantly, it’s comfortable and quiet on long journeys, has a reasonable back seat, feels a tiny bit more special than other Japanese cars. And it is, above all else, quite nice.
The people who will mock you for buying one, however, are anything but.
Date acquired: April 2015 Price as tested: $52,400 This month: 1213km @ 10.5L/100km Overall: 2293km @ 11.3L/100km
The idle-stop system on the Infiniti is commendably smooth and probably saves whole millilitres of fuel, every day. I was determined to find out what difference it would make to my fuel economy to drive a whole tank with it on, and another with it off. But I just couldn’t manage it. Turns out that even the best idle-stop systems enrage me, and I just can’t bring myself to leave the bloody thing on. At least it’s easy to turn off.