Infiniti Jumps Into Performance Segment With S-Badged Models
The Q50 S and the Q60 S will spearhead this turn to performance; QX50 S could follow soonby Kirby Garlitos, on
The Infiniti Eau Rouge performance line may not have come to fruition, but Infiniti isn’t about to throw in the towel on performance models just yet. On the contrary, the Japanese automaker is indeed pushing forward with a range of performance models, but instead of using the name of the famous section inside the Spa Francorchamps race track, it’s settling on a far simpler nomenclature by using an “S” badge on all of its performance models.
The automaker has already used the performance badge on the Q60 with the 400-horsepower Q60 S and the BMW M3-fighting Q50 S. Soon enough, the S badge will make its way into other models, most notably the QX50 SUV, a model the company is counting on to take the fight to some of the segment’s established performance SUVs.
Infiniti’s approach isn’t just about slapping an “S” emblem on its performance models. There’s a method to creating the lineup that ties into a plan of also creating some differentiation between the S-badged models. Infiniti president Roland Krueger made the distinction to Auto Express, describing it by attributing certain characteristics to a specific color. For instance, silver S-badged models are geared towards visual and performance modifications. On the other hand, blue S-badged models will feature the company’s direct response hybrid technology with red models making up the rest of the lineup.
Using color to denote a specific S-badged variant sounds a little quirky, but it’s also a subtle indicator that the company believes is an ideal first step towards creating a full-fledged performance lineup. Krueger didn’t say if this is going to lead to a separate performance division akin to BMW’s M division and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division, opting only to say that the company is going to take it one step a time.
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Why it matters
If Nissan wants Infiniti to fulfill its potential as a premium brand, this is a necessary step to make, simply because the other brands in this segment have put a premium on performance models. Without one, Infiniti would be at a severe disadvantage. It’s as simple as that.
While I still would’ve preferred using the “Eau Rouge” name for its ties to motor racing, I’m not going to dismiss the decision to simply go with a simple “S” identifier. It’s not entirely unique, but it does create a distinction between the regular Infiniti models and the ones that are geared towards performance. At the end of the day, it’s about how the cars are packaged more than how they’re named. That’s what matters, and if Infiniti can build on what it has done with the Q50 S and the Q60 S and build more extreme models in the future, the name’s not going to be as big of a deal.
This leads us to what Inifiniti’s plans are for the S performance division. At this point, only three models have been identified as getting the treatment. A quick peek at the company’s model lineup shows that there’s not a lot to work with, at least compared to BMW and Mercedes. This is what Roland Krueger identified as not getting too overboard with the S division. The need to establish these models first and foremost takes precedence over trying to go over-the-top from the very beginning. Once Infiniti is confident enough that the S performance division is worth pushing forward, that’s when it’s going to take the next step.
Besides, it’s not like Infiniti doesn’t have the performance resources to make it happen. Both Renaultsport and NISMO are at the company’s disposal and the performance credentials of both divisions should provide Infiniti with the resources to improve the S division when the time comes. For now, it’s all about establishing the division in the market. I can’t argue against that strategy.
Read our full review on the Infiniti Q60 here.