In case the name is unfamiliar, Infiniti is Nissan’s luxury brand,
rather like Lexus is to Toyota. However, while most Lexus models look conservative and
understated, Infiniti’s designers go for a more assertive personality.
Take the new flagship, the FX Vettel Edition. That’s Vettel
as in the three-time Formula 1 champion. Infiniti is one of the sponsors of
Vettel’s Red Bull Racing team, and invited the German F1 driver to put his
stamp on one of its range. He chose the FX50. With 385bhp it’s a very quick car
already, but changes to the exhaust let loose an extra 29bhp. Lighter, 21-inch
wheels are fitted, the suspension is lowered by 20mm, and there are styling
changes inside and out, including plenty of F1-inspired carbon fibre.
It’s a seriously quick car and handles with surprisingly
agility for a car the porky side of two tonnes. Unsurprisingly, the ride is
firm but it’s not as teeth-grindingly stiff as I’d expected.
However, you have to be a serious Vettel fan to part with
£100,800 when the regular FX50 costs £58,280. That’s £1466 for each extra
I’ll down a bottle of Aqua Kem if I ever see a Vettel
Edition on a campsite, but the FX30d makes a much more plausible tow car.
Prices start from £46,865, so you need to be very well off rather than stinking
rich to afford one. With a kerbweight of 2175kg and a legal towing limit of
2200kg there’s little the FX30d can’t tow, and with 405lb ft of torque
it won’t have any trouble hauling a big twin-axle caravan up to speed.
However, 31.4mpg is poor for a diesel SUV, even one as quick
as this, and it’s hard to understand how a car of this size can be so cramped
in the back.
I preferred the M35h, Infiniti’s petrol-electric hybrid
executive saloon. The car has an appealing split personality. It’s in the
Guinness Book of Records as the fastest accelerating production hybrid, but
driven gently it can purr along in near silence running on electric power
Plenty of hybrids shut off their petrol engine at low
speeds, but the M35h is the first car I’ve driven which switched off its engine
at 60mph on a dual carriageway.
The cabin is an improvement over the FX’s, with less obvious
evidence of switches and knobs from the Nissan parts bin. The rear seats are more accommodating, although the 350-litre boot is small.
Unlike some hybrids, the M35h is homologated for towing,
with a respectable 1500kg limit. With so much power and the instant torque of
the electric motor, I can’t see it having any difficulty pulling a caravan of
If you want to avoid the obvious prestige brands, Infiniti
is worth a look. With more economical models featuring four-cylinder diesel engines
coming next year, Infiniti won’t be such an unfamiliar name for long.