What’s In a Name?
Infiniti announced at Pebble Beach last week that it will be launching a new luxury sport utility coupe. According to the brand, it “will carry the name QX55.”
Infiniti QX55 teaser (Image: Infiniti)
Except that “QX55” really isn’t a name as much as it is a label.
If you look at nearly dictionary definition for the word name, you’ll find something along the lines of “a word or phrase” that labels something. So there are women named Jennifer, beverages named Fanta, dogs named Spot, and so on.
For some reason, OEMs in the premium category provide their vehicles with alphanumeric signifiers, not names. Once upon a time, these had something to do with engine displacements, but now they’re more or less a code that you’d need Alan Turing to decipher. While one could argue that BMW’s use of “Series” with a numeral modifying it—as in 3, 5, 7, etc.—certainly gives on a notion of size, there are often other numerals and letters appended (e.g., what is a 430i or a 440i? For that matter, what is a “4”? Yes, the even numbers seem to describe coupe variants of the sedan that precedes the number, but when announcing the 4 Series BMW noted, “The BMW 4 Series has a lower center of gravity than the BMW 3 Series (Coupe: -1.6 inches, Gran Coupe: -1.2 inches, Convertible: -0.8 inches), a wider track at the front (+0.5 inches) and rear (0.9 inches), plus specially configured kinematics, giving it all the ingredients needed for even more agile handling.” It is the difference in doors—and then some.
BMW 4 Series (Image: BMW)
Then there’s Mercedes. It is using the letter G to designate its SUV range, but, again, there is mystification associated with its labeling. That is, it uses the letter E in its “EQ” lineup presumably to indicate that this is its electric (or elektrisch) offering. But its first offering, the EQC, is an SUV, so that puts the G in some question. Then there is the GLE, which is an SUV, check, but the E might make you think that it is an electric vehicle, but in its case it is simply electrified, meaning that it can be configured with a 48-volt system, which provides what they call “EQ Boost,” adding “up to 21 hp” to the output of the 3.0-liter V6 turbo (which provides 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque in the GLE 450 4MATIC—450? Where’s that number come from?)
Mercedes GLE (Image: Mercedes)
Cadillac, which has been using the alphanumeric approach for its vehicles (with the notable exceptions of the Escalade, which has been hauling in the cash for the brand for the past several years, and the concept vehicles like the gorgeous Escala), it upping the proverbial ante. That is, on the XT6 it is performing its first implementation of an additional designator, a three-digit tag on the tailgate. In this case, “400.”
Cadillac Escalade: Name (Image: Cadillac)
XT6: No (real) name. (Image: Cadillac)
The 400 is for all of the math wizards or Newtonian physics nerds, as that number is the engine torque expressed not in pound-feet but in Newton meters, rounded up. For those not familiar with the N∙m, know that it is based on the force of one Newton applied to a one-meter long moment arm. Yes, it is named after Sir Isaac, predicated on his Second Law of Motion. In the case of the output of the XT6’s 3.6-liter V6, the torque is 373 N∙m, so there is a pretty big fudge factor to get to the nice, round 400.
Lincoln had gone down the code rabbit hole with its series of MKZs and MKCs, though that harkened back to its “Mark” designator, yet how would one know that the MKZ is a midsize sedan and an MKC a compact crossover?
Lincoln Navigator (Image: Lincoln)
The brand is now correcting its ways, so that there are things like Continentals and Navigators, Aviators and Nautiluses in the lineup, which certainly makes things someone more understandable when one goes to a dealership.
Notably, if we go beyond these premium vehicles up to the point of true luxury, as in Rolls-Royce, note that it uses names to designate its vehicles: Ghost, Phantom, Cullinan, etc. Presumably its owners don’t want to talk alphanumeric.
But this brings us back to the Infiniti QX55. It joins the QX30 and the QX50, 60, and 80, as well as the Q50, 60, 70, and 70L. The ones with the X are crossovers; the one without it are cars.
Announcing the QX55, Infiniti said that it has “a roofline inspired by its iconic first-generation FX performance crossover.” The last model year for the FX was 2013, when there were the FX37 and the FX50. Seriously: does anyone remember the difference?