The Infiniti brand has been struggling to gain a toehold in the Australian market, with total sales for the year 2015 amounting to only 547 units nationally. That's not even 1% of the luxury car segment. Having been in Australia since 2012, it's clear that something has to change if the marque is to be viable moving forward. Australian Infiniti managing director, Jean-Philippe Roux reckons that will all change as the brand delivers its new model lineup for 2017, promising the range will offer competitively priced alternatives to the traditional euro-lux brands, which brings us to the Infiniti Q-60 coupe.
If the new Q-60 coupe, (due for release in Aus early 2017) is any indication, Roux may be onto something. Casting my eyes over the Q-60, first impressions are it's simply a stunning looking car. Presented as a concept in 2015, the production version of the Q-60 is very faithful to it, and somehow manages to look even better. That doesn't happen too often. The Q-60 styling manages to be both aggressive and sensual at the same time, emotionally tugging at your senses. The gaping mouth, the sinister all-LED headlight cluster, the bulging flanks, the sharply raked roofline and the unique cutout to the rear quarter window, it just works. It used to be chrome brightwork was considered, 'been there, done that', however on the Q-60 it just adds class to what is already winning combination. It's the attention to details that set it apart, such as the way the front grill ties in with the headlight cluster, beautiful. I know it's a big call, but I think it's probably the best looking coupe in its market sector, which includes the BMW 4 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A5 and its closest competitor the Lexus RC.
Penned by American Alfonso Albaisa, Design Director for Infiniti, which surprised me as there's not a single American influence to its fluid shape, so from the outside, I give it a big thumbs up. The Q-60's interior is not as cohesive, there are flashes of real class, fit and finish are to a high standard, however, ergonomically it's just all over the place. No doubt it will polarise, and you'll either love it or hate it, there as so many gizmos' and doodahs, if you're not into to tech, you might have a meltdown.
It reminded me of the trend pushed by Japanese car makers from the late 80's, put in more buttons, add more switches, give them lots of techs, that way they'll see the car is better, Nissan 280ZX and the Star Wars dash anyone? Compared to the interiors of the obvious rivals, Mercedes and Audi, it lags behind. The instrument binnacle, for example, while the regular analogue gauges look smart, it's not a patch on Audi's multifunction virtual cockpit display.
So what does work with the Q-60 interior? The steering wheel is wonderfully tactile, smartly compact despite being fitted with an airbag. Why can't other carmakers follow suit with a similar form? Most modern steering wheels are way too ungainly, the Ferrari 488 GTB being a perfect example, a real shocker. Interestingly the paddle shifters are mounted on the wheel, rather than the column, so they move with the wheel, I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. The front seats on the Q-60 also rank highly, heavily bolstered, you'll be kept firmly in place when you decide to push on. They're heated, and there's power adjustment for both, so there shouldn't be an issue for finding yourself the perfect driving position.
If you're in the market for a car like the Q-60, you're probably not going to care about rear seat accommodation, and that's just as well as they're strictly only for occasional use. Unless you're into being folded like a pretzel, adults need not apply, there's a severe restriction for both headroom, and legroom, kids under twelve, well ok.
When I say the Q-60's interior is all over the place, I'm not exaggerating, it's full of contradictions, you get a premium quality 13 speaker sound system, but a foot operated park brake! WT! I'm wondering if the guys at Infiniti realised they were phased out in the late 60's.
Interestingly there are two large multifunction displays, centrally located, one on top of the other. What would be the control interface for the infotainment, SAT NAV, and the like is the lower screen, the top screen displays results. It's not a bad setup, the displays are sharp, and the touch screens are responsive. It's a bit of a slog to use, though, as quite often you have to wade through levels of lists/menus to get to the function you're after. It is comprehensive, though, and you will adapt. Perhaps the most annoying omission as far as infotainment interface goes is there is no included Apple Car Play or Android Auto, I can't imagine Infiniti not rectifying this with a software update. You also get the usual connectivity features that you expect from a new vehicle, being, Bluetooth, 2 x USB ports, as well as a 12-Volt power outlet and RCA jack. Why an RCA jack?
You can optionally elect to have the car trimmed with a faux silver carbon fibre treatments, which surround the centre console, door trim, etc. I'm not particularly fond of it, and I wouldn't tick that option.
If it sounds like I'm bagging the Q-60 interior, I'm not, I actually like it, it's has a decidedly retro feel. Is retro what you want from a 2016 luxury sports coupe? I guess it's a matter of taste. Alright, I've talked enough about the interior, and I'm sure you want to know about the important stuff, like how does it drive?
Ok, for Aus, we're going to be offered three main variants, but no all-wheel drive, which is available to overseas markets for all drivetrains. While that may mean you lose a few tenths when accelerating hard from a standstill, it probably won't matter to enthusiasts who prefer the feel of a traditional rear wheel drive sports car. All Q-60 models come equipped with the same seven-speed automatic transmission, while not a bad transmission, it's a bit laggy, and regardless of driver mode selected it doesn't change with the authority of the competition, the car begs for a manual option. Hopefully, we'll see just that in a future update.
The entry point for the Q-60 sees it fitted with a 2.0-litre turbocharged intercooled inline four cylinder DOHC engine, producing 155kW @5500rpm and 350Nm of torque @ 1250-3500rpm. They are not headline numbers, and as you can imagine it's reflected in its performance results, with a quoted 0 to 100km/h dash taking a rather lethargic 7.3 seconds. With the car tipping the scales at nearly 1700kg, it's little wonder why. So the entry level Q-60 is more of a GT poseur than a full-on sports car, and at roughly $72,000 AUD drive away, I don't think there's enough go for the dough. Did I mention the 2.0-litres exhaust sound? It's bloody terrible, farting into a can would sound better.
The mid-level Q-60 is a better option with considerably more performance, while there's no official pricing, expect it to undercut the competition, like the BMW 435i at around $90,000 AUD. It's fitted with a 3.0litre twin-turbocharged intercooled V6 32 valve DOHC engine tuned to deliver 224 kW @ 6,400 rpm and 400Nm @ 1,600-5,200 rpm. At roughly the same weight as the two-litre, the 0 to 100km/h dash is dusted in a much more respectable 5.9 seconds.
The real excitement starts with the top of the tree, full fruit, Q-60 Red Sport 400. Firstly I have to take exception to the name, isn't it a little lame? Is it just me that notices it's using RS if you make it an acronym? Hmmm, where have we seen that before? The 400, of course, refers to horsepower which translates to a healthy 298kW @ 6,400 rpm and 475Nm of torque @ 1,600-5,200 rpm. The net result is a 0 to 100km/h dash in 4.9 seconds, now, that's more like it. It should undercut its direct competition such as the BMW 440i and should be under $110,000 AUD.
The Q-60 Red Sport 400 is genuinely fast, and it's fun to drive. While not as sharp as say, a BMW 440i, it is more involving and a better daily driver. The sound, however, while nowhere near as horrible as the 2.0litre, is a bit meh! Under hard acceleration, it's ok, though it sounds much better from inside the cabin than outside it. It's also a little disappointing it doesn't crackle and pop on the overrun, at its price point, it should be a given.
If the Q-60 you're driving is fitted with the optional digital drive by wire steering, or as Infiniti calls it, Direct Adaptive Steering, again, you'll either love it or hate it. There is no direct connection between the steering wheel and the front tires, (although there is a fail safe backup in case the electronics crap out) what this means is it gives the car the ability to filter out all the little (or big) deviations and imperfections you find while driving. It works in conjunction with another digital feature that Infiniti has dubbed, Dynamic Digital Suspension (DDS, electronically adjustable dampers with variable force). DDS, monitors the vehicle's body roll, pitch and bounce rate to deliver a stable ride by reducing unwanted steering feel and vibrations.
The Direct Adaptive Steering and DDS technologies work, no question, what may do your head in, is how those technologies change the driving experience. If you're a traditionalist (I mean old fart), the lack of road surface feedback is going to be disconcerting, you'd call that a downside. However, steering response and steering rack speed is very sharp and also accurate, less lock is required. It points well and that's the upside, there's no mistaking it has a video game feel to it, markedly better but it will remind you of Playstation. The good news is Direct Adaptive Steering is an option, one that I would select. You still get your seat of the pants feedback and the increased steering response for me is worth the trade off.
What the DDS also brings to the table is increased driver confidence, there's little body roll, and its ability to cope with rapid changes in direction defies its hefty weight.
There are five basic drive modes available, Sports, Sports Plus, Personal, Eco and Snow. Where the fun is at is Sports, and Sports Plus, which for the most of us is where you'll leave it set. The Personal mode allows you to mix and match settings, which may tickle your fancy. Want to set the suspension to standard and the engine to sport, well you can do that.
When you amp it up, in Sports Plus mode, the Q-60 Red Sport 400 will step the tail out with little provocation, it's all very manageable, and it's a real hoot. Are we talking Japanese muscle car? Well, not quite but I'll give the Q-60 an A for effort.
So what do we have in the Q-60, a car with knock-out exterior styling, a polarising interior and some Japanese-centric technology you'll either love or hate. Kudos to Infiniti for releasing the Q-60 coupe, it's left of centre, it's different and it's an entertaining drive. If you end up owning one, you're going to stand out from the crowd, and in a world where you can't tell one sports car from the next, that's a good thing.
2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400
ENGINE: 3.0-litre Twin turbocharged Intercooled V6 w/-32valves DOHC
MAX POWER: 298kW @ 6400rpm
MAX TORQUE: 475Nm @ 1600 -5200rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic transmission with Adaptive Shift, paddle shifters and rev-matching on down shift.
SUSPENSION: Front, Independent, double-wishbone with coil springs over shock absorbers, stabiliser bar. Continuously variable electronically controlled shock absorbers provide high damping force at low-frequency vibrations (flat ride) and low damping force at high-frequency vibrations (smooth ride) Rear, Independent, multi-link with coil springs over shock absorbers, stabiliser bar. Continuously variable electronically controlled shock absorbers provide high damping force at low-frequency vibrations (flat ride) and low damping force at high-frequency vibrations (smooth ride)
BRAKES: Red finish 4-piston opposed front callipers with 14.0 x 1.3-inch ventilated discs/2-piston opposed rear callipers with 13.8 x 0.8-inch ventilated discs; 4-wheel, 4-channel ABS
WHEELS: Front 19 x 9.0-inch, aluminum-alloy wheels. Rear 19 x 9.5-inch, aluminum-alloy wheels
0 to 100km/h: 4.9 seconds
TOP SPEED: 250km/h (speed limited)