Special Coverage

logoNew York Int’l Auto Show

The Infiniti EX Concept to be shown at next week’s New York auto show portends a production small cross/utility vehicle due from the brand late this year in the U.S.

The new vehicle is expected to go up against the BMW X3 and Acura RDX, as well as Land Rover’s new LR2.

Nissan North America Inc. will show the concept CUV, as well as the production Infiniti G37 coupe, at the show.

Nissan easily should be able to easily make an impact because the entry luxury CUV segment is in its infancy, says Global Insight Analyst Rebecca Lindland. Infiniti offers just one CUV now, the midsize FX.

“It’s an interesting segment because it appeals to a fairly narrow but wealthy part of the consumer market. And there aren’t a lot of choices there for the upwardly mobile young professional,” she says.

While acknowledging the entry luxury CUV segment is “limited,” and sales numbers for the X3 and RDX haven’t been huge, Lindland says such models serve a purpose by introducing consumers to the brands.

A vehicle such as Infiniti’s expected offering “does provide a bridge,’” she says, meaning satisfied consumers would be likely to move up to a larger model in the lineup.

Nissan says two “world-first” technologies will be on available on the production CUV: “Around View Monitor” and lane departure prevention.”

The former uses cameras mounted in the front, rear and on the sides of the vehicle that work to eliminate blind spots during parking maneuvers.

The new lane departure technology builds on Infiniti’s existing lane departure warning system by utilizing the auto maker’s vehicle dynamic control system, the combination of which helps keep drivers in their lanes if they begin to drift.

Guarded about saying too much before the EX debuts, Nissan says the vehicle boasts a “coupe-inspired design,” as well as a chameleon-like liquid crystal glass roof that can go from transparent to semi-transparent.

Meanwhile, the new ’08 G37 is the next generation of Infiniti’s G35 coupe, but as the name suggests, with a more powerful engine.

Nissan ups the displacement on its VQ series V-6 engine to 3.7L from 3.5L in the outgoing model. This is made possible through the auto maker’s valve management technology, “Variable Valve Event and Lift” technology, which debuts on the new VQ.

Horsepower now is an estimated 330, up from 280 hp in the previous G35 coupe and 306 hp in the current G35 sedan. Torque is rated at 270 lb.-ft. (366 Nm), the same as the outgoing coupe and slightly more than the sedan’s 268 lb.-ft. (363 Nm).

Three trim levels – G37, Journey and Sport – are available, with the first two having a 5-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and the Sport model featuring a standard 6-speed manual. Also available on the new G37 is an advanced 4-wheel active steering system, which contributes to braking and handling that will rank “among the best” in the segment, Nissan claims.

Like its sedan sibling, the G37 now has a double-wishbone suspension. The previous G35 coupe had a multilink front configuration. The rear suspension remains a multilink setup.

The styling of the car, while not a huge departure from the previous G35 coupe, boasts some changes, most notably a wave-style hood, the auto maker says, as well as Infiniti’s double-arch grille and L-shaped headlights. High-intensity-discharge projector beam bi-xenon headlights are standard on all trims.

The interior features new materials and finishes and includes available touch-screen navigation system with XM NavTraffic real-time traffic service and a 9.3 gigabyte Music Box hard drive.

An 11-speaker Bose audio system is available for Journey and Sport models.

The G37, due in U.S. showrooms in August, has the same 112.2-in. (285-cm) wheelbase as the sedan, but is 4 ins. (10 cm) shorter at 183.1 ins. (465 cm). The coupe is also 2 ins. (5 cm) wider and 2.3 ins. (6 cm) shorter in height than the 4-door model.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com