Posted Wednesday, Aug. 07, 2013
Rant alert: Once upon a time, cars had real, instantly identifiable names that conveyed passion, swiftness and excitement. Mustang, Impala and Barracuda still retain magical associations. Today’s clinical alphanumeric appellations conjure up all the ardor of a laboratory parts bin.
So, when Infiniti announced its intention late last year to rename its entire lineup starting with the letter Q, reaction was a puzzled ho-hum. After all, it’s one thing to cull a beloved Cougar from the herd, another entirely to banish a boring letter like “G” from the glossary.
In this case, add “M,” “EX,” “FX” and “JX” to the extinction list. From 2014 on, Infiniti will use the “Q” badge for all sedans, coupes and convertibles, while “QX” will signify SUVs and crossovers. Numbers will follow the letters to indicate a vehicle’s place in the hierarchy.
For example, the Q50 replaces the G37 sedan, while the Q60 assumes the mantle of both the G37 coupe and convertible. The flagship M becomes the Q70. The EX will be the QX50, the JX becomes the Q60, the FX will debut as the QX70 while the QX morphs into the QX80.
What could possibly be simpler?
Ranting aside, Infiniti’s reputation surely won’t suffer, as evidenced by the 2014 Q50. At the recently announced entry price of $36,700, it’s a bit more expensive than the entry-level BMW 320i but delivers Infiniti’s time-tested 3.7-liter V6 engine with 328 horses, as compared to the BMW’s 2.0-liter inline 4 with 180 hp. For the fuel-frugal, a hybrid is available that cranks out 354 hp. Options like all-wheel drive will raise the ante to nearly $40K, and the sport trim package bumps things north of $43K.
But when compared to other sport sedans, the bang-for-buck quotient is impressive, as are the swoopy good looks, derived from the company’s deservedly praised “Essence” concept vehicle. The name may have changed, but the refreshed graceful body enhancements maintain the essential Infiniti identity, and that’s all to the good.
Increased interior space, high-quality cabin materials (including optional maple wood trim) bring opulence to the three available interior color choices of graphite, stone and wheat. Enhanced seating adds more comfort, and a noise-canceling system called Active Noise Control uses the door’s audio speakers to minimize the outside din. The center stack includes two touch screens with customizable displays, while environmental and audio systems are easily controlled with non-high tech buttons and switches.
Sticklers surely will decry the deletion of a stick in favor of a standard seven-speed automatic transmission (but, hey, paddle shifters are on the column for the frisky). Direct Adaptive Steering, an optional drive-by-wire electrical steering system, will also raise purist hackles. But most Q50 buyers would be hard-pressed to notice the difference from hydraulic anyway, and they will probably appreciate the road-damping smoothness. After all, on our battered North Texas roads, a pothole by any other name is still a pothole — which brings us back to the topic of names.
Namely, is the Q50 simply a refreshed and reconfigured G37? Well, yeah, but so what? The point is that everything has been tweaked to make an already great car even better: That’s what matters.
To paraphrase Billy Shakespeare: “A G37 by any other name, still drives as sweet.”
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