Infiniti Q70L and QX80: Outsize luxury

As the identity crisis of Nissan's luxury subsidiary, Infiniti, stumbles into its 26th year, the company seems to have finally created a cohesive vision. The latest proof came on 17 April at the New York auto show.

Infiniti revealed a stretched and face-lifted 2015 edition of its Q70 mid-size luxury sedan and anointed it, in not so many words, the new face of the brand. What Infiniti's cars have largely lacked until now is presence, and the new long-wheelbase version of the refreshed Q70 positively dominates its space.

The company's effort to establish a discernible identity is muddled somewhat by nomenclature. In the old Infiniti order, the Q70 was called M50. More critical than any name, however, is the machine that has to wear it, and the Q70, particularly in long-wheelbase form, looks like a competitor.

All 2015 Q70s get a new grille with LED headlights, along with a new rear treatment using horizontal chrome strips to visually widen and lower the car. These changes, along with the stretched wheelbase of the Q70L model, cultivate a new degree of imposing presence.

The long-wheelbase version of the car will account for just over 20% of global Q70 sales for 2015 according to Keith St Clair, director of product planning for Infiniti America, but the company would like to see it overtake the standard wheelbase version. "This is a better statement of Q70," he said of the L.

St Clair allowed that the Q70L could become the de facto version of the car in the US, with the standard-length version used as a special edition sport model. The L will certainly be an easier sell in China, where chauffeur cars dominate the luxury market. With Infiniti's global headquarters in Hong Kong, the company is especially attuned to Chinese consumer demands.

The Q70L is 5.9in longer than the regular car, with all that length used to enhance rear seat legroom. Infiniti calls the back seat experience "SUV-like." After a floor trial, we can confirm this was no hollow boast.

For 2015, all Q70s get stiffer rear springs and revised shock absorbers for  an improved ride. Because the Q70 was designed with the L in mind from the beginning, the car does not suffer the over-extended appearance some cars in its segment suffer.  Indeed, viewed from the side, the front and rear doors of the L are the same length, giving the car visual balance in profile. 

Engines (3.7-litre, 330hp gasoline V6 and 5.7-litre, 420hp gasoline V8) and other hardware are carried over unchanged. The company hasn't set prices for the 2015 cars yet and is still mulling the strategy it will use to position the L compared to the regular Q70, St Clair added.

Infiniti also showed a special edition of its QX80 ("X" stands for "SUV" in Infiniti-speak) full-size luxury truck. The pinnacle of QX80 excess hits all the latest touchpoints of luxury-car design, including open-pore wood trim, semi-aniline leather upholstery, a suede headliner and other premium bits intended to create the ambience of a private jet.

Outside, black chrome for the grille and wheels distinguish it from more pedestrian QX80s. All 2015 models, however, receive LED headlights and a new front fascia with a cleaner installation of the headlight washers and sonar parking sensors.

And so it is that Infiniti is voicing a clear view of its identity at the highest reaches of its portfolio. It remains to be seen whether it can trickle down.