The Infiniti journey: from Primera to posh

Published: 30 December 2010

I love seeing cars I’ve never heard of for the first time. There’s a tangible sense of intrigue and mystery, and in a job where everyone presumes you know everything about every car, a welcome bit of fallibility.

America is always a fruitful hunting ground for European car anoraks. There are legions of anonymous Japanese barges and hundreds of bland boxes from the Big Three just waiting the be discovered.

Hans G Pulman

I was recently in the US driving the new Lambo for the January 2011 issue of CAR, when I spotted this, an Infiniti G20, which for all intents and purposes is a Nissan Primera.

We followed it for a few blocks, and I doubt that in the history of the world has a G20 ever been so doggedly pursued by a Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Spyder Performante.

It shows just how far Infiniti has come, and how wise the company was to not launch in Europe until it wasn’t just building re-badged Nissans.

Infiniti: the journey from Primera to standalone products

A good majority of the American car-buying public seems willing to give new manufacturers a chance, but I'm not so sure that Brits would take Infiniti seriously if it tried to flog this sort of hand-me-down in Europe. Nissan's upmarket wing would surely have been forever handicapped if it tried to flog us a posh version of a car we all associate with mini-cabbing.

As for Infiniti now? The cars are mostly an enticing alternative to BMWs, but with the current range of large-capacity engines Infiniti sells to a small market that thinks less with its head than its heart, meaning these customers don’t care so much about fuel consumption.

Infiniti: the future

To expand beyond this underdog, niche status, Infiniti desperately needs a 2.0-litre diesel, a decent small petrol engine, and new bedfellow Mercedes’ BlueEfficiency technology.

With any luck all of that will start to arrive in the next two years, just as the brand has established a high-end (albeit tiny) foothold on which to build.

So perhaps one day a new-fangled G20 could become as common as the 320d. Let's just hope it's more cutting-edge than the old G20 I spotted on a sunny day in LA.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy