The year 1989 was a milestone for Nissan. They launched a new luxury line called Infiniti. The first Infiniti was a large ultra-luxury sedan called the Q45. The Q45 had a 300 horsepower, 4.5 liter V8. It also had a four-speed automatic with an available sport mode and standard overdrive. Another highlight was its four-wheel adaptive suspension. It drove like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The one downfall was that it looked like a hunk of steak! Toyota responded by starting the Lexus luxury line. In an October 1989 Motor Trend comparison, the Lexus LS 400 won by a good margin to the Q45.
In 1991, Nissan received its first award from the EPA. The Future Electric Vehicle concept car was also unveiled. The desperately underpowered Infiniti M30 comes into production. The 162 horsepower from its 3.0 liter V6 couldn’t overcome its obesity of 3,333 pounds. The convertible version was even slower and heavier. It was an underpowered and unliked competitor to the Lexus SC.
In 1992, the first Nissan Altima rolled off the assembly line in Smyrma, Tennessee. It was fun to drive, had tons of standard features, and was an amazing competitor to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The sales of the compact car, the Sentra topped 2 million! Also the “four-door-coupe” Infiniti J30 was introduced. Its alien lines were something to behold. But, it was fun to drive.
Throughout the 1990’s, sales were dragging Infiniti down to rock-bottom. Then, the 1997 QX4 was the knight in shining armor saving Infiniti from almost certain death and destruction. The QX4 was based on the Nissan Pathfinder. It had more premium accomidations than the Pathfinder. Because it was truck-based, the QX4 directly competed with the Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX.
In early 2000, Infiniti replaced the J30 with the I30. The I30 shared a platform and engine with the Nissan Maxima. In 2002, Infiniti decided that the 201 horsepower, 3.0 liter V6 in the I30 was not powerful enough. The Maxima had just gotten an engine upgrade to Nissan’s new VQ series engine, which upped the power ante to 228 horsepower. Now the I30 was the I35. The I35 had the 3.5 liter V6 standard, with a five-speed automatic borrowed from the XTerra SUV. My grandma Betty owns an I35, and loves it!
2003 was a groundbreaking year for Infiniti. Infiniti was seeing the light. They redesigned the Q45, but it didn’t sell well. But, what truly saved Infiniti was the G35. It was Nissan Skyline based. It’s 303 horsepower, 3.5 liter V6 and quick-shifting five-speed automatic transmission brought buyers to the dealer like a dog chases a cat. Infiniti could not keep the G35 in stock! The next year, the FX35/45 had the same success as the G35. It had many G35 components and was very fun to drive, had station wagon-like versitility, and all-weather capability. Plus, it could tow up to 2,000 pounds with the optional 325 horsepower, 4.5 liter V8 from the Q45. This made it a competitor to the BMW X5 and Lexus RX 330.
In 2004, Nissan launched it’s biggest vehicle yet: the Armada SUV. With seating capacity for eight, towing capability up to 8,500 pounds, and four-wheel-drive, the Armada competed with the likes of the: Ford Expidition, Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon. Infiniti also launched the QX56. It had the same 317 horsepower, 5.6 liter V8 and five-speed auto. But, it had many more bells and whistles. That meant tha it got less mpg than the Armada, which got 15 mpg. The QX56 got 13.
Throughout the early 200o’s, Nissan and Infiniti really didn’t change much. The highlights were the redesign of the Pathfinder, XTerra and Frontier.
In 2007, Infiniti redesigned the G35 sedan. The engine got three more horsepower, and there was more interior space. THe following year, the G35 Coupe followed. Infiniti decided that the G35 wasn’t powerful enough. Barely six months into its new redesign, the G35 became the G37. It had a much more lethal 3.7 liter V6 with 330 horsepower. A seven-speed auto became standard. Also, the EX35 small SUV came into production. It had the seven-speed auto and 3.5 liter V6 from the G.
Earlier this year, Nissan/Infiniti CEO Carlos Ghosn unveiled the new M sedan. The previous M35/45 was slow, and didn’t drive well. The new M37/56 has a 3.7 liter V6 borrowed from the G37. It also has the seven-speed auto. The M56 has a 420 horsepower, 5.6 liter V8 with direct injection, variable valve timing and an aluminum engine block.
In June 2009, the new Nissan Altima and Maxima were unveiled, along with the Rouge and Murano SUV’s.
Recently, Nissan came out with a convertible version of the Murano, called the Murano CrossCabriolet. Infiniti also came out with a hybrid version of the M, called the M35h. It has the 3.5 liter engine from the EX35 SUV, with a lithium-ion battery pack. It also has a dual-clutch transmission.
As of now, Nissan and Infiniti are enjoying good sales, amazing leadership from Carlos Ghosn, and lots of positive feedback.