What begs us to ask this most blasphemous of questions? In one word, Infiniti.
You see, Infiniti is a brand that has built its recent reputation and success on offering luxurious vehicles with a performance edge. Unsurprisingly, all of these vehicles are based on rear-wheel drive platforms — a fact that lends them even more credibility among automotive enthusiasts.
So you can imagine our surprise when we found out a couple of months ago that Infiniti is planning an onslaught of vehicles based on front-wheel drive platforms. In case you’re not familiar with Infiniti’s latest product plans, the brand will have a new three-row crossover, a sub-compact hatch to supposedly fight the BMW 1-series, as well as an electric car that shares the platform with the Nissan Leaf. All of these will be front-wheel drive and the crossover will offer all-wheel drive as an option.
Other than that, what surprised us were statements from Infinti executives about the decision to back off the rear-wheel drive only stance. According to Nissan VP of product planning Larry Dominique, “Customers really don’t care that much about the platform beneath the car. They care about the car.” Dominique continues by saying that “there is a performance perception with rear-wheel [drive]. But we’re comfortable that we don’t need rear-wheel [drive] to deliver the performance we need.”
At the end of the day, Infiniti’s decision made us wonder whether Cadillac will eventually make the same
decision mistake and offer a lineup comprised of RWD and FWD vehicles. In Caddy’s case, it seems that the brand is well on its way of doing just that — since the SRX rides on a modified Theta architecture driven by the front wheels while the upcoming Lambda-based crossover will also be based on a front-wheel drive design.
So what do you think? Is RWD still relevant? Is it still needed? Is there a relationship between drivetrain and brand? Or are consumers simply ignorant and don’t care? Sound off in the comments below.