WHAT kind of arsehole would you have to be? Seriously, that’s the question you can’t stop asking when someone slams into your parked car – be it beautiful and brand new like my Infiniti Q50 or even wheezing and decrepit – hears the horrible crunch, shatter and scrape of impact, and simply drives off.
No apology, no note, no goddamn human decency. Not since someone egged an Aventador outside my house have I so severely questioned the worth of humanity.
I don’t think it was someone in my street who did the deed to the right-rear corner of my brand spankers Infiniti, shattering the brake light and leaving some ugly scratches, mainly because no one in my street drives a big, dick-headed SUV, and looking at the height at which the damage occurred I’m completely illogically going to blame someone who owns a BMW X5.
The problem is that we can’t work out exactly when it happened. I suspect it was at the stupidly crowded local supermarket car park, where we would have approached the car front-on afterwards and thus missed out on crunching through the broken plastic.
No matter, I just hope whoever it was has been hit by a bus. Or a comet. Or struck down with incurable bowel explosiveness.
Other than being slightly cursed, what are we to make of this Q50? Well, it sure makes you feel unique. I’d never previously seen one on the road (in Australia at least; there are plenty in the US). And yet, such is the magical illogic of coincidence, I’ve clocked two others in the month I’ve had it, one even painted the same colour, which I’d describe as Purple Rain. It looks black most of the time, but in the right light, or when it’s wet, there are purple sparkles.
Paint aside, its styling is best described as inoffensive, or Japanese, which is basically the same thing. The fact that the Infiniti badge – one that has generated at least feigned curiosity from car-disinterested friends – closely resembles the branding on a Great Wall is an unfortunate coincidence.
Tail-light replacement was bad enough, but fixing the Q50’s bumper scrapes will really hit the back pocket.
A happy soul in the bustling Infiniti garage where I got mine fixed – a swift and painless experience – informed me that my vehicle is expected to compete with Audi’s A4, BMW’s 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. And that business is so booming the brand will soon open a new dealership in the far-western Sydney suburb of Castle Hill. Where not a lot of Euro brands, or dealers, lurk.
It’s easy to see the market that Infiniti is aiming for, particularly with its sharp pricing and high spec levels – my Q50 has every gadget under the sun, and at least two buttons to operate each of them – but difficult to describe it as a raging success. Infiniti launched locally in 2012 and I would personally like to hear from each person who has bought one, so we can form a bit of an exclusive club.
It’s easy to see why the Q50 is the brand’s biggest seller. It offers a lot of quality and nice primo touches, like an eight-way powered driver’s seat that moves in an out every time you start it, just in case you’re of a portly stature. And something called InTouch Apps, which sounds very modern. And a Plasmacluster air purifier and Grape Polyphenol Filter. Because nobody wants Grape Polyphenols getting up their nose.
The 155kW 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine drives the rear wheels, as it should, and is alluring enough without being overly erotic, and the car’s fuel economy adds to its value offering. My car is the base GT spec and costs $50,990, plus $1500 for that premium purple paint.
The Q50 seems a bit like the first episode of one of those slightly obscure TV series on Netflix. It’s kind of cool, yet very American, and I’m not sure if I like it or not. Yet.
If it can avoid heartless arseholes for a while, we might have a chance to bond.
What a load of DOS
There’s something late-’90s Microsoft about the multi-screened Operating System for the Q50, which offers layers within layers of adjustment for everything from steering feel to overall sportiness. It’s all very flashy and yet slightly overwhelming. And there’s a mouse-like knob wheel that you can operate it with if you want, but I’ve never even touched it because there are so many other ways to do things. “Simplistic” and “intuitive” are not words that come to mind. But at least there’s not a helpful paper clip in sight.
The price of incompetence
So what does a car-park bingle cost you? Well, only about 20 minutes hanging around the pleasantly appointed Infiniti garage – and a cool $429.47 – because that’s what it took to replace the brake light that was shattered. I’m still saving up to have the paint scratches and the small dent fixed, however, which will amount to another $1500 or so, thanks to the unkind person who left me to face the bill for their incompetence.
COLLEAGUES can be cruel. I was recently mocked for driving an Infiniti by a former Wheels staffer who now works for the print version of what nerds call “vapourware”. It’s a magazine that doesn’t seem to exist. I spend a lot of time in newsagents, hoping to be recognised by readers, and yet I’ve never seen his publication, so it was ironic that he made fun of my car’s branding, along the lines of it being amusing that something sold in such finite numbers is called an Infiniti.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s cruel humour, but as he was referring to the fact that the only Infiniti Q50 he’d ever seen on the road had turned out to be a press car, with me in it, it was hard to argue. I’m still not sure whether to defend my Infiniti or not in these situations, but I have had more “what the hell are you driving now?” conversations since acquiring this vehicle than I can count.
I’ve also had cause to chauffeur a number of people around in the Q50 and I can report that they all tend to use the same, slightly limp complimentary term in relation to the experience – “nice”. People, non-car people in particular, think it’s “nicer” than the average Nissan and “nice” inside, and even that it looks “nice”.
But I find myself questioning whether it’s nice enough to be considered a premium player worthy of sitting beside an established ersatz German brand, like Lexus or Volvo, let alone the Big Three themselves.
Even the mighty Toyota corporation struggles with the problem of perceived luxury, but it’s fair to say the latest Lexuses get closer to it, in terms of feel, fit and finish, than the Infiniti does. Perhaps it’s because Nissan’s brand has been developed to impress Americans rather than Australians, who are possibly a little snobbier about cars because we didn’t grow up driving crappy Chryslers, Dodges and Cadillacs.
So who is the Infiniti aimed at? Clearly not me or my colleague. I’m picturing possibly the kind of older outliers who used to buy Saabs, who like to be different for the sake of being different, who want class and comfort and efficiency from their vehicle rather than excitement, and who don’t want to pay too much for it.
And the truth is, I think they’d be very happy with the Q50, because it does all the basics well; it rides pleasantly, it’s comfortable and quiet on long journeys, has a reasonable back seat, feels a tiny bit more special than other Japanese cars. And it is, above all else, quite nice.
The people who will mock you for buying one, however, are anything but.