True democracy erodes the meaning of class, and there is no truer democracy than the democracy of the automotive marketplace.
Witness what has happened in the luxury-car segment, once the exclusive province of the genuinely well-to-do.
"Luxury," as it applies to vehicle content and performance, has lost its meaning. The proof, should anyone need more of it, is in the 2003 Infiniti G35 sedan.
The G35 is an "entry-level luxury" car, which increasingly is a distinction without a difference. The auto industry uses the term to designate price range -- roughly, $25,000 to $35,000. But the truth is that there is very little in a "full luxury" car that can't be found in an "entry-level luxury" model at a substantially lower price.
That means a person could be as happy in an Infiniti G35 as in a BMW 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Cadillac DeVille DTS, Lexus LS 430 or Rolls-Royce Corniche.
Automotive purists might disagree, citing differences such as engine displacement, vehicle size and design, and materials. But purity is a figment of the imagination in a world of compromise, and for more than a decade the global automotive industry has been shaping a compromise between consumers' demands and what consumers are willing to pay.
In that tricky endeavor, the auto companies have used technology to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Thus, we have in the Infiniti G35 a sports sedan that offers outstanding road performance and creature comforts, as well as impressive exterior and interior styling, at a very reasonable price.
That kind of car might not appeal to people who view automobiles as symbols of class or personal achievement. But it promises to be an irresistible lure for those who drive for the joy of driving and who love cars as symbols of individual mobility and freedom.
Taking to the highway in the Infiniti G35 is a celebration of that freedom, even more so because the car is accessible. Test-driving a BMW 745i for a week or so is a real hoot. But I know that the likelihood of my ever owning one, at a transaction cost of about $76,000, is slim.
That isn't the case with the Infiniti G35 sedan, which moves with as much gusto as more costly models, largely thanks to its 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Power delivery is smooth and steady. Handling is excellent. I went looking for curves in this rear-wheel-drive runner and I found lots of them, much to my delight.
The G35 is a very tight car, too. That is surprising, because it has a cabin large enough to seat five people. Yet, in motion, it feels substantially smaller. It moves with the precision of a well-aimed dart.
If amenities are the hallmarks of luxury, there is nothing whatsoever "near-luxury" about the G35 sedan. The car has everything, including an optional pop-up navigation system and premium Bose audio system if you want them.
Infiniti might have the answer to class strife here. Instead of supplying revolutionaries with guns, give 'em G35s.