Nissan Motor, maker of all things Nissan and Infiniti, suffers from an embarrassment of riches. It has too many good but similar products competing in the same arena. The result is confusion — and potential dilution of the Nissan and Infiniti brands.
For Nissan/Infiniti executives, the difficulty is this: How do we credibly differentiate our often similar products? How do we justify price differentials?
For Nissan/Infiniti customers, it is this: What are the real differences among the products being offered by Nissan/Infiniti? Why are some prices higher than others? Are the extra charges really worth it?
If this corporate/consumer conundrum sounds familiar to you, there is good reason. Think General Motors, Ford and Chrysler for the 40 years from 1960 to 2000. All three companies were seriously infected by what the automobile industry called “badge engineering” — differentiating products mostly by minor cosmetic changes and overblown marketing hype, minus any fundamental engineering or technical differences.
It is a dysfunction born of trying to please every consumer in every price range, aggravated by the Tyranny of Dreams — cars engineered to run faster than most laws allow, designed to cruise “open roads” that effectively are closed by traffic congestion generated by ever-growing populations, and that offer reasonable fuel economy.
At Nissan/Infiniti, the result seems to be “Q-ism,” as evidenced by this week’s subject automobile, the 2014 Infiniti Q60 IPL 6MT coupe. But first, some deciphering is in order:
The new Q60 coupe replaces the old Infiniti G37 coupe. But the only thing that has changed is the name. That is, the new Q60 and old G37 are technically identical.
“IPL” refers to “Infiniti Performance Line,” which is a marketing bid to capture those buyers who regard themselves as “driving enthusiasts,” and whose need for speed and precise vehicle handling requires something more than what is offered in the available Q60 Coupe Journey, Q60 Coupe AWD, Q60 Coupe 6MT or Q60 Coupe IPL.
What’s the difference?
The rear-wheel-drive Q60 IPL 6MT offers a slightly more sophisticated suspension than do its non-IPL brethren. It provides a more powerful version of the 3.7-liter, V-6 gasoline engine installed in Q60 cars. The non-IPL Q60 models, for example, deliver 330 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque; the Q60 IPL gives you a maximum 348 horsepower and 276 pound-feet of torque.
“6MT” refers to six-speed manual transmission. The Q60 Coupe IPL without the “6MT” designation is equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission that can be operated manually. “AWD” in the Q60 Coupe AWD means that, yes, it comes with all-wheel drive as standard equipment.
The real difference is in price. The Q60 Coupe IPL 6MT (standard six-speed manual transmission) starts at $51,650. The IPL version with the seven-speed automatic transmission starts at $53,550. But, for my money, the non-IPL Q60 coupe with all-wheel drive offers a better drive, ride and overall better deal than its IPL siblings with a starting price of $42,500.
I’ll cause a ruckus by writing this. So be it: The expense of the IPL package, leaving prestige and ego aside, just isn’t worth it. The 348-horsepower V-6 won’t actually move you any faster than the 330-horsepower engine. And, even if it did, to what end? A speed limit is a speed limit is a speed limit. I’ve never met a traffic enforcement official who was impressed by an automobile’s horsepower. Exceed the speed limit. Get caught. Get ticketed. It’s that simple.
That being the case, I would bypass the Q60 IPL duo altogether. I’d go with the more sensibly priced and engineered Q60 Journey, which starts at $40,850. It does not have the red leather and brushed aluminum interior of the Q60 IPL 6MT Coupe. I don’t care. I don’t want a motorized bordello. I want a pleasant, fun-to-drive, fun-to-be-in automobile. That is the Q60 Journey, once known as the Infiniti G37.
Note to Nissan: Stop confusing people. Review GM’s history. Eliminate redundancy in your product lineup.