To Infiniti and beyond

Excuse me going on about the Infiniti 50, says our motoring correspondent Dr Tony Rimmer, but it does give more and more than you might expect for your money

Infiniti 1Any medical business trying to break into an established market needs to have a solid and competitive business plan.

It has to offer something above and beyond established services from rival organisations. Reput­ations are then built over time on a proven track record.

The process sounds simple, but is fraught with potential setbacks and, in some cases, can fail completely.

It is no different in the car market and the most profitable sector is also the most cut-throat: the premium executive segment. The well-known players, mostly European makes, jostle for position on a constant basis and take any potential external competition very seriously.

The Japanese makers have been trying to get a slice of this lucrative market for some years now. However, the one you are likely to think of first – Toyota’s premium brand Lexus – has only just scratched the surface.

Less well-known but also launched in the same year, 1989, is Nissan’s premium brand, Infiniti. Our doctor colleagues in America are well aware of it, but it is only now that Nissan is pushing for a greater market share in the more challenging European arena.

Targeting the big-hitters

So what model does Infiniti offer that would appeal to discerning private medical practitioners such as us? Well, with the Q50, the brand has gone straight for the jugular and aimed at the mid-sized premium saloons such as the Audi A4, Mercedes C-class and the market leading BMW 3-series.

Infiniti 2The biggest seller will be the £28,000 2.2litre diesel-engined version which borrows its powerplant from Mercedes.

But my test car was the hybrid petrol/electric flagship model, which also benefits from four-wheel drive and costs £42,000. There is also a £34,125 four-cylinder 2.0litre petrol turbo model.

As ever, in this premium sector, styling and external looks are hugely important to attract buyers and there is no doubt that Infiniti have done a good job here.

The external styling is smart and sophisticated, if slightly anonymous. Non-car people will recognise an executive car, but will be hard-pushed to identify the make.

Infiniti really needs to work on a distinctive brand DNA. Its German rivals are instantly recognisable.

Step inside and those medics who like high tech are going to love the large dual-screen central touch-sensitive control monitors.

A superb satnav display sits above a general control panel that can operate everything from the stereo to the dynamic driving options.

Interior quality is right up there with BMW and all passengers will feel pampered. There is plenty of room too. The rear legroom is equal to the Audi A4 and better than the Mercedes C-class.

Steer by wire

So the Infiniti does well for showroom appeal, but what about road manners? Well, the Q50 is the first car in the world to be sold with Direct Adaptive Steering using electronic steer-by-wire technology.

That means that there is no physical connection between the steering wheel and the steering rack. This is to eliminate distracting vibrations from road surfaces and get rid of mechanical losses in the system giving faster response.

Infiniti panelIt is a great idea and I am sure there is a great future in potential ‘tuning’ of steering control, but in reality it can be a bit off-putting.

By removing road feel, there is a lack of connection that separates man and machine to a degree that feels too artificial for the keen driver. The same cannot be said for the performance of the Hybrid model.

A 300bhp 3.5litre V6 petrol engine combined with a 60bhp electric motor makes this a real sports saloon. The four-wheel drive, like Audi’s Quattro system, means that traction is never challenged and this Infiniti is swift enough to embarrass many sports cars.

Handling is reasonable although not thrilling, but the ride is excellent. This is a car for the motorway rather than ‘A’ roads.

Economy for such a powerful car is impressive and the hybrid system delivers 41.5mpg with 139g/km CO2 emissions. The 170bhp 2.2litre diesel gives 63mpg with 115g/km CO2 emisions. The 211bhp 2.0litre turbo petrol model returns 43.5mpg

Value for money

So what does Infiniti offer as a new player in this highly competitive market? Well, like Lexus, you get a lot of car for your money.

To buy a European rival with similar equipment to the standard features on the Q50 would cost you several thousand pounds more.

Value for money is the key and any successful private medical practitioner will know just how important this can be.

New and more exciting Infiniti models are on the way, so my advice is to resist brand snobbery and keep an eye on this important Japanese brand over the next few years.

Dr Rimmer (above) is a GP practising in Guildford, Surrey