CC Newsstand/Capsule: Infiniti Axes The Q70 (M)

After three generations, the Infiniti Q70 – formerly known as the M – is no more. Nissan’s luxury brand has quietly withdrawn the model from the US market and there’s no clear indication yet what will replace it. For the 2020 model yet, that leaves just the related Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe in Infiniti’s passenger car line-up.

Infiniti’s neglect of its flagship sedan largely correlates with the car’s declining sales. When this generation was introduced all the way back in 2011, Infiniti shifted around 10,000 units in the US market. Since then, sales have declined except for a modest spike when Infiniti introduced the long-wheelbase Q70L. Last year, Infiniti sold 4,479. Even more disappointing for Nissan, the second-generation M sold much better – in 2006, Infiniti sold over 25,000 examples of the M35 and M45.

To give you an even better idea of how disappointing the Q70’s sales have been, in the third quarter of this year it was outsold by every rival bar the Jaguar XF and Acura RLX. That includes the Lexus GS, which has been dogged by persistent rumors that it, too, won’t be replaced. It was also outsold by the Cadillac CT6, which may be withdrawn from the US (the plant in which it’s built has been saved from closure but GM hasn’t confirmed production will continue) and the Lincoln Continental, which may end production soon.

It’s an ignoble end to Infiniti’s flagship. When it was first introduced in 2003, the M45 slotted in beneath the moribund Q45. A heavily Americanized version of the JDM Cedric/Gloria, complete with the Q45’s 4.5 V8 and a new dashboard, the M45 was an attractive yet obscure Q-ship.

The second generation was a ground-up redesign, using the same FM platform as the smaller G35 and Nissan 350Z. The G35, along with the svelte FX crossover, had thoroughly rejuvenated Infiniti’s image. The brand became somewhat of a Japanese BMW, being sportier than relatively staid rival Lexus. The M45 and its new, V6-powered M35 sibling were now available with all-wheel-drive and were slightly sensible bigger siblings to the hot-selling G35.

With the third generation, Infiniti used a refined version of the same FM platform but shook up the car’s powertrain line-up. The new 3.7 V6 became the base engine, necessitating a rename to M37. The old 3.5 V6 was mated to an electric motor to create Infiniti’s first hybrid, the M35h, which had 0-60 times that matched some V8 rivals (including Infiniti’s own M56!) and fuel economy that put V6 rivals to shame. At the top of the heap sat the aforementioned M56, using the 5.6 V8 from Nissan’s trucks.

Styling was revolutionized. With its muscular, loping fenders and long hood, the new M was almost feline in appearance. The rather stubby tail ruined the illusion somewhat but it was a much more daring design than the relatively conservative second-generation model.

The newfound boldness carried over to the interior. Though it kept the same basic theme as the second M, dominated by a bulging center stack, there were more curves and intricately stitched door panels resembling wings. The look was polarizing, sure, but the material quality was superb.

And then… nothing. The infotainment that paled in comparison to the also new-for-2011 F10 BMW 5-Series was never updated. The interior kept its early-2000s vintage shifter and its switchgear shared with cheaper Nissans. The powertrains never changed.

There was a handsome facelift for 2015 but, beyond improved front and rear-end styling, the changes across the board were minimal – some tweaks to the suspension tuning and the shuffling of option packages.

There were two new variants available after 2015. European buyers had access to a Mercedes-Benz-sourced 2.1 turbodiesel four, joining the existing Renault-sourced 3.0 turbodiesel V6. North American buyers could now buy the Q70L, with a 5.9-inch longer wheelbase. Though stretched luxury mid-sizers are common in China, the Q70L’s introduction to the North American market was highly unusual. Infiniti had no full-size luxury sedan, however, so the Q70L was the next best thing. It did seem to give the line a modest bump in sales, too.

At least initially, Nissan seemed to really try with the M/Q70. With three different engines, available features like four-wheel active steering, and a choice of rear- or all-wheel-drive, the M/Q70 offered buyers plenty of options and a distinctive identify of its own. Critics were initially quite complimentary of Infiniti’s flagship sedan, though some noted the powertrains lacked refinement compared to rivals and the ride quality was never quite as settled and compliant as the segment’s best. The Germans were and remain the ones to beat in this segment, both in terms of sales and critical reception, and the A6, E-Class and 5-Series were all replaced during the Q70’s run. That left the Infiniti a stagnant stalwart, facing tough competition not just from the Germans but from newer, fresher products like the Cadillac CT6 and Genesis G80.

That’s not to say the Q70 was a bad car or that it didn’t have anything to offer. The hybrid’s balance of performance and economy was enticing. A Q70L 5.6 AWD offered something nobody else did in the segment in North America (a longer wheelbase) and something fewer and fewer rivals have (a V8).

With Infiniti’s axing of the Q70 in North America following its discontinuation in markets like Europe and Australia, the executioner may soon come for its overseas variants. In the Japanese market, for example, it’s sold as the Fuga, while a unique long-wheelbase hybrid model is offered as the Cima.

The Fuga and Cima were also sold in Japan as the Mitsubishi Proudia and Dignity, respectively, though both were already discontinued in 2016.

There’s no word on what, if anything, will replace the Q70, though Infiniti is said to have an electric sedan in the works inspired by the Qs Inspiration concept.

What was a compelling mid-size luxury sedan in 2011 isn’t really worth considering in 2019, at least not without the lure of massive incentives. As a used buy, however, the Q70 tantalizes. I’ve shortlisted it for my next car…

Unfortunately, the Q70 was another product Infiniti left to wither on the vine (see also: EX/QX50, QX70). It’s a shame to see how Infiniti has treated what was once a viable rival to the Germans.

Related Reading:

CC Editorial: Infiniti – What They’re Doing Right, What They’re Doing Wrong