Dear Sirs: I am a high-mileage driver, travelling between 50,000 and 60,000 kilometres per year. I require something reliable that will hold my mountain bike inside (to protect it in winter). In addition, I would like, but don't require, some creature comforts and good gas mileage. My current vehicle is an Infiniti JX35. The J is nice but the electronic nanny is bothersome. Additionally, I feel it's a bit too flashy in front of my customers. This last point puts most other premium brands on my no-drive list. Is there a non-premium-brand, high-end SUV/CUV/minivan you'd recommend? – Mark in Kitchener, Ont.
Vaughan: There will be gnashing of teeth in Hong Kong, Infiniti's new world headquarters, when they learn that one of their existing customers wants out of Infiniti.
Cato: Yes, but look at the reason why. Mark's JX sport-ute is too "flashy" and the gizmos are apparently too much of a good thing. What's a luxury brand to do? Make homely cars with yesterday's technology?
That's not what's coming out of Infiniti's world HQ on China's south coast. After two decades of uninspired results, this latest Infiniti gang knows this is their last, best chance to remake Nissan's luxury brand. We'll see a long list of new models and old models with new names. That is, the 2013 JX35 is now the 2014 QX60. Get this: by the end of 2017, Infiniti wants global sales to hit 500,000 – from about 172,000 last year.
Vaughan: All true, but if Infiniti can't hold on to its existing customers, it will never put up those numbers. Nevertheless, apart from the weird name, (shouldn't it be spelled Infinity?) it builds some superior cars and crossovers.
And I certainly don't think they're "too flashy." I like the designs. I even like Infiniti's "electronic nanny," which is a brilliant package of driver warning and intervention safety technology. But there's no point arguing with Markey because – guess what? – he can get all this stuff in a plain old Nissan. In particular, the Pathfinder could be exactly what he wants.
Cato: Now you're talking. I think Mark would fall in love with a nicely furnished 2014 Pathfinder SV with four-wheel-drive. At $35,248, it's about $9,000 less than the 2014 JX35. On top of that, Nissan is offering a $2,000 factory incentive to spice things up. I'm betting Mark would love to get almost the same rig for $11,000 less.
Look, the Pathfinder is a less-flashy version of the JX. But the essence of both is the same. The ride quality is excellent, there are three rows of seating, fuel economy is at the top of the class and there's no lack of power: 260-horsepower V-6. Room for a bike? If it fits in the JX, now the QX60, it will fit in the Pathfinder.
Vaughan: Only a gearhead like you, Cato, can keep track of all those alphabet-soup names. So here's two more – RDX and MDX. These are the CUVs – crossover utilities – from Honda. Well, Acura, actually, though Acuras are just tarted-up Hondas. These are capable AWD machines. The MDX is the larger one and redesigned for 2014, but the smaller RDX is likely the one Mark wants.
Cato: The RDX is a puzzle for me. Truly. This is a good, reliable crossover wagon. I'm talking about the 2013 version, not the jittery 2012. Acura had the good sense to can the turbo four-banger and the harsh ride in the re-engineered 2013 RDX. The 3.5-litre V-6, 273-hp, is a tidy bit of engineering, too. Best of all, if you can find a 2013 – and Mark should be able to do so – Acura has a $4,000 incentive in play. That takes the $41,050 down to something far more attractive.
Mark should also give a little love to Acura for not being an overly flashy upscale brand. Acura sits somewhere between the top luxury brands and solid mainstream ones. A 'tweener.
While I'm on a roll, how about the $44,950 RX 350 from Lexus. Not overly flashy, and suitable for Mark. It'll last him 10 years. He'll be sick of it before it breaks.
Vaughan: Roger that on Lexus. But why don't people ever think of Cadillac? That Caddy SRX is a luxury crossover at a price well below the German stuff – $46,595 to start. It has that direct-injection 3.6-litre V-6, a terrific AWD system and great safety scores. Maybe "too flashy" for Kitchener, but it deserves a look.
Cato: A few people are noticing. SRX sales were up 88 per cent last month and they're up 26 per cent on the year. Flashy? The Cadillac brand isn't overly flashy, although the SRX's design is rich. I'd like Mark to give it a look, at least.
Vaughan: I choose the path of least resistance. Stick with Infiniti/Nissan, Mark – but get the one that's called Pathfinder.
Cato: I understand your thinking, but on principle I must disagree. It's the RDX for Mark. Case closed.
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.
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