Everything You Know Is Wrong

While the mainstream UK motoring press likes to pretend it tells it like it is, they often don´t.

image
Dented and unloved. 2002 Nissan QX 3.0

The 1995 Nissan QX served as a butt of jokes at Car magazine who reminded us ironically that “it exists“. Autocar took a more charitable view, summing it up as a superbly built revelation on the road. Apart from this this, the QX is quite forgotten. Not by me for whom these kinds of neglected cars are some kind of mild obsession. I suppose it’s the fact the press told us not to bother that makes me want to know what it is that we must ignore. 

image
2002 Nissan QX

This is not the first time I have discussed this car. I won’t rest until I can get one in a lighter colour. This one is still hard to read.

image
2002 Nissan QX

I did all I could to bring out the shape but the poor daylighting and the dark colour kept the forms well submerged in murk.

image
Autocar´s view.

The reviewers liked to call the car’s appearance bland. It’s more like Japanese rationalism, and unusually perhaps, it doesn´t borrow from anything else. In some ways it reminds me of the Peugeot 604 which is at least remembered for its lack of success. It has the same focus on ride quality. The RAC wrote that “the rear suspension, for example, has a complex arrangement of locating links. You won’t need to know how it works, but you will be interested to learn that it endows the QX with a ride quality that embarrasses any other Japanese saloon short of a Lexus.” So, like Peugeot, they focused on the things people weren’t interested in very much.

This car didn’t even raise expectations, unlike the 604. This is what the RAC says about it overall: “The QX is a big, soft, vaguely loveable barge with all of the equipment you’d expect in this price bracket and more thrown in for good measure. If you’re going to buy a QX, it’s advisable to go the whole hog and have the flagship QX SEL 3.0 V6 available at almost unbelievably low prices.”

So, really, Car magazine did readers a disservice in not even bothering with the car. It’s not a sports car but does some important things well such as having a good ride, reliability and a high level of assembly. That means it beats Jaguar, for example on two out of three standards and probably equals it on the other. Sure, it doesn’t look like a Jaguar but then again it has more room.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

17 thoughts on “Everything You Know Is Wrong”

  1. The break in the rear door glass irritates. Making it that small allows for maximum opening window width, but looks clumsy. Stylistically, the would have done better to make the wind-down bit narrower, and had a more generous ‘quarterlight’. I’m in mind of this month’s theme.

    This is the sort of car that could well be an unexpected pleasure, but only when bought secondhand for €1,200.

  2. Received wisdom strikes. The QX was damned by its resemblance to the Primera, whereas perhaps Brit journos should have taken the car on its own merits. I believe that across the pond big Nissans were until recently regarded as a sportier Japanese option.

  3. I’ve always had a soft spot for the previous iteration, when it was still called Maxima on these shores:

    1. It seems the Japan-only ‘Cefiro’of the same vintage was more directly related to the Cue-X based on the 5 minutes I spent researching the subject:

      Both cars were replaced by the one you spotted in Dublin.

  4. The Cue-X is a text book example of an ambitious and well-received concept tainting the actual products that followed it, since they really had no chance of matching up.

  5. Richard makes an interesting point regarding editorial prejudices and the nature of Jaguar’s contemporary offering. This would have been an on-paper competitor for the X200 S-Type, a car that wasn’t really up to marque standards of ride quality and drivetrain refinement in launch spec and that’s before we mention interior ambience or horresco referens, body style. The 2002 ‘re-engineering programme under Wolfgang Reitzle made for a better car, but a better package overall than the QX? Hmmm… A comparison could make for embarrassing reading for Jaguar World subscribers – at least to moderately impartial eyes.

    The Maxima really has aged well hasn’t it? With a little more expression around the grille, this could have been a genuinely handsome machine. The QX however suffers not only from a lack of character, but also somehow looks proportionally unsatisfying to me. I think it’s the over-large bumpers. Also, one can’t help feeling Nissan went out of their way to ensure it didn’t look too upmarket, lest it step on Infiniti’s toes.

  6. Heaven help me, I’m going to have to defend the denizens of the motoring press.

    When I was a kid, I was devastatingly impressed by the keypad on the 1988-94 model’s doorhandles – this was as high-tech as it got in anything even remotely affordable. I agree it has aged well and more importantly, it has a style and personality of its own that mark it out.

    This hasn’t and doesn’t. It seems to me that as a general principle, ‘bland’ when used in reference to 1990s Japmobiles actually means something quite specific – it is intended to speak to the loss of confidence suffered by the industry generally in the wake of the economic crash. When the economy was riding high, the industry was on a roll and turning out not just their traditional reliability, but attractively-styled cars to go with it – and a unique and evolving concept-car language to boot. It’s no wonder the Europeans were terrified. (The likes of GM would have been, too, if they weren’t busy being stupid and arrogant instead.) From a period of around five years, 1987-88 to 1992-3, the most interesting, innovative and attractive design work globally was coming from Japan. The 1988 Maxima was a part of that, but so were things like the Xedos 6, Lantis, the final RX-7, the rice-bubble 121, U13 Bluebird, R32 Skyline, the final Cressida, Sprinter Marino, first Impreza, and plenty more besides.

    So I can understand the disappointment when this and similar designs came out, because I felt it too. If I saw this car with no badges and no prior knowledge, I would be really hard-pressed to identify this as a Nissan. It has a generic, second-half-of-the-1990s Japan Inc. sort of look to it, with perhaps a bit of fairly ill-defined contemporaneous GM-something in the front end, but really, it could be from any Japanese manufacturer – the rear in particular carries a hint of Mazda 626 circa 1997 and the profile struggles to articulate any identifying features. The melted effect going on with the facelift version could have single-handedly been the inspiration for the term ‘amorphous blob’. In this light, it must also be said that the advertising tagline was genuinely inexplicable.

    In Oz, these things listed (with the 3.0 V6) at around $40-45k, or to put it another way, a little less than a 318i and around half the price of a basic 523i. I imagine it was probably a similar sort of equation in the US although not quite as extreme. In that sort of context, I can see how they made sense, although a comparatively-priced Camry V6 was probably a slightly better car. At comparable money to a 5-Series, it is really hard to imagine what Nissan were thinking. Even if I wanted something Japanese in that class, the Xedos 9 has to be a more appealing and interesting prospect, surely?

  7. If I understood the difference between bland and homogenous I´d be a lot further down the road than I am. Cars like the second Avenis (which I dissected) are what I´d call bland but also stylistically confusing. In defense of this quiet car, it´s homogenous and neatly detailed. It´s a “nice dark blue suit” of a car but the looks don´t matter. It´s how it drives and the neutral, anonymous, refined servant character is what this car is about. That´s not a formular for success you might say. In counterpoint, Mercedes made a good living selling that very proposition.

    1. ‘Neutral, anonymous, refined servant character’: the 2002 car pictured resembles the 2001 third-gen Lexus LS 430 in that the body styling is screamingly unexpressive. It’s all about being invisible. That’s not without its appeal, but for those kind of running costs I’d like more of a visual receipt thanks.

    2. It’s definitely not a dark blue suit like the one worn by Raf Vallone in The Italian Job, that’s for certain…

    3. “It´s how it drives and the neutral, anonymous, refined servant character is what this car is about.”

      Counter-counterpoint: there are quite a lot of cars that can fulfill this brief, many for considerably less than the asking price of the QX. What did this offer that, say, an Omega or 605 did not? What is the compelling reason to buy one over rivals? Notwithstanding the massive discounting on offer, perhaps it might have shifted better at a more realistic price point in Europe. Buying one new as a private buyer amounted to a suicidal decision based on depreciation alone.

      Priced anywhere near Europe’s E-segment opposition it stood no chance, and not just because of the badge. Elsewhere in the world the Maxima was targeted at family-car Toyotas, Mitsubishis and Hondas, which was its true station in life. There is a separate, legitimate debate to be had about just what the additional money for a 525i or A6 got you, but part of the problem with this car is that, regardless of competence, it wasn’t reflective of Nissan’s A-game in this segment. Before they killed off Australian production in 1992, Nissan Australia was planning to build the R32 Skyline locally – the Maxima was only ever introduced to the lineup after that plan was axed. The Maxima was always a step below the Skyline in engineering sophistication – even the much-vaunted rear axle on this particular car was a step backwards in sophistication from the wishbones on the previous model and introduced because Nissan was bleeding heavily and cutting costs everywhere. The bottom line is that the Skyline was a much expensively-engineered car than the Maxima and would have been a much more credible rival to E-segment Europeans.

      Incidentally, the same applies for the final Toyota Cressida, which listed at less than AUD$45k for the top-of-the-range Grande in 1992. This was a phenomenal bargain for one of the most thoroughly-engineered production cars ever made, at a time when a Saab 9000 retailed near AUD$80,000. Due to the soaring yen, a true Cressida replacement would have cost something near the Saab’s price point, which is why Toyota didn’t bother and ‘replaced’ it (ha) with the first-generation Lexus ES300.

    4. I recall driving an 1984 Cressida circa 1988/89 and being quite taken with its comfort and lovely straight six power unit. Stradale: I’d be interested to learn why the 1992 car was so good. I’ve just looked it up and it looks really rather attractive to these eyes. If you felt like writing something about it…

  8. I’ve also refreshed my memory on that Cressida. It’s the kind of car that got little coverage in the UK because it had no “heritage” or “character”. Stylistically it’s a very strong looking car. It requires a Japanese sensibility though; I think the subtlety is mistaken for boring the way coarse is mistaken for bold.
    Some versions had really plush finishes: when red velour and burgundy plastic was still permitted. It was neatly tailored and well assembled. Worth an article, Stradale!

  9. Wasn’t the Yen massively overvalued during the 1990s? I think that did more to dent sales of big Japanese cars in Europe than anything else. Indeed, I believe that Nissan set up in Sunderland and Toyota at Burniston to mitigate that very situation.

  10. This very car was the beginning of the end for the Maxima in North America. Compared to previous Maximas it lost the IRS to a “multi-linkage” beam axle, whatever that meant. It seemed to mean droopy butt syndrome as the rear springs quickly sagged. You can read historical road tests of Maximas at Car and Driver, and see the long drop off to the dross they sell today, which managed about 900 sales in Canada two years ago versus 6,000 at the turn of the century in a 2 million market. Now it’s a yawner with a CVT, no manual, and like all Nissan cars these days beyond a couple of Infinitis, bereft of joie-de-vivre. Bottom of the market grey cars with grey polypropylene interiors, selling very well to low income buyers willing to pay outrageous APRs to Nissan’s finance arm, when nobody else will give ’em a loan. I quite often successfully manage to forget their existence entirely.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.