Few peers at the price

In­finiti’s halo car has vis­ual im­pact and a gem of an en­gine — with­out the pre­mium of ri­val sports coupes

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

FIVE years ago Nis­san tried its hand at re­vi­tal­is­ing the In­finiti pres­tige brand in Aus­tralia. It was pitched as a value-for-money ri­val to the usual sus­pects — Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz — but it was more likely to be cross-shopped against a Lexus, Jaguar or Volvo.

In­finiti’s strug­gle to make in­roads into the pres­tige sec­tor largely was the re­sult of lack­ing a gen­uine go-fast and good­look­ing “halo” car.

En­ter the Q60 Red Sport. This is a vis­ually ar­rest­ing ve­hi­cle with a se­ri­ous amount of go and a chas­sis that doesn’t mind cor­ner-carv­ing. At $88,900 the Q60 is priced to di­rectly com­pete with its log­i­cal ri­val, the Lexus RC350.

This prompts the ques­tion: are prospec­tive own­ers ready to pay that money for a brand with lit­tle pub­lic recog­ni­tion? It’s one thing to drop $90,000 on a pres­tige car; it’s an­other to have the neigh­bours sniff at the badge … and the Q60 Red Sport still doesn’t match the ul­tra-fast lux­ury coupe ri­vals.

DE­SIGN

The Q60’s ex­te­rior shape is stun­ning. You don’t need to ap­pre­ci­ate the fact it takes spe­cial stamp­ing pro­cesses to crease the met­al­work to know you’re look­ing at a stylish ve­hi­cle. In­finiti is quick to point out the de­sign­ers got what they wanted and the en­gi­neers had to work out the means to oblige.

Lithe lines do lit­tle for rear seat head­room, how­ever, and taller pas­sen­gers may find the legroom is tight, too. By def­i­ni­tion, two-door sports coupes aren’t de­signed with prac­ti­cal­ity in mind — there are less ex­pen­sive and more ca­pa­ble sedan ver­sions for that — so re­stricted rear room won’t be a deal-breaker.

Stan­dard fea­tures are ex­ten­sive and in­clude leather up­hol­stery with pow­ered and heated front seats, adap­tive LED head­lamps, 13-speaker Bose au­dio, 360-de­gree camera, sun­roof, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol air­con, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, ac­tive blind-spot and lane-de­par­ture in­ter­ven­tion and 19-inch al­loys.

The car­bon-fi­bre in­lays are the real deal and the pan­els fit to­gether with the pre­ci­sion and con­sis­tency of Lego bricks.

Less im­pres­sive is the du­alscreen in­fo­tain­ment dis­play. The res­o­lu­tion dif­fers be­tween the up­per and lower sec­tions, lend­ing a less-than-pre­mium feel to an of­ten-used as­pect of the in­te­rior. Dig­i­tal ra­dio and sat­nav are stan­dard but there’s no An­droid Auto/Ap­ple Car Play to en­ter­tain the technophiles.

AROUND TOWN

Credit where credit’s due … the Q60 Red Sport is an ef­fort­less drive in the CBD. The steer­ing in the de­fault stan­dard mode isn’t scalpel-sharp on cen­tre, which helps when deal­ing with nar­row lanes and inat­ten­tive driv­ers.

Docile on a light throt­tle, the en­gine is de­cently re­ac­tive when more pres­sure is ap­plied.

Sup­port from the front sports seats is as good as any pew you’ll park the pos­te­rior in. They’re power as­sisted, heated and good enough to snooze in.

A sports coupe is typ­i­cally com­pro­mised in most ways once it’s loaded with more than two peo­ple. Stor­age space, in­clud­ing the boot, is lim­ited, the door pock­ets are slim and the cen­tre con­sole bin won’t take much more than a purse and smart­phone.

The pull-down arm­rest be­tween the rear pair of seats in­cor­po­rates two cuphold­ers, so you can stay hy­drated with your head tilted over.

ON THE ROAD

Most of the technology in the Q60 is ac­ces­si­ble and con­trib­utes to the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The ex­cep­tions are the elec­tronic “fly-by-wire” steer­ing and adap­tive dampers.

The for­mer has too much lat­i­tude be­tween the six avail­able drive modes; the lat­ter too lit­tle vari­a­tion be­tween the reg­u­lar and sports set­tings.

The tiller re­sponse is fine around town but lacks the weight­ing and fi­nesse to chase cor­ners, un­til you hit the sports plus set­ting.

At that point it de­liv­ers re­spectable weight­ing and ac­cu­racy and goes some way to meet­ing In­finiti’s claim the “driv­ing is un­af­fected by the kind of kick­backs and forced move­ments of the steer­ing wheel nor­mally found with a me­chan­i­cal steer­ing set-up”.

Gran Turismo types will be fa­mil­iar with this type of digi­tised driv­ing but it will be a for­eign sen­sa­tion for those used to elec­tro-hy­draulic rack-and-pin­ion feed­back.

The sports plus set­ting con­fig­ures the rest of the driv­e­train for track work, so there’s an oc­ca­sional kick from the seven-speed trans­mis­sion as it sheds gears. At the other end of the spec­trum, the twin­turbo V6 wails close to its red­line and may be too in­tru­sive at any­thing other than full-on driv­ing.

The per­sonal drive mode is the best op­tion, en­abling own­ers to mix and match to suit their styles.

The sus­pen­sion is too firm in its de­fault set­ting to de­liver a smooth ride over rough roads, so there’s not much point in go­ing for the sports op­tion on any­thing other than fresh-laid tar­mac. Find the sweet spot in the set­tings, though, and this is a sporty car with a gem of an en­gine that has few peers at the price.

VER­DICT

The Q60 Red Sport is the log­i­cal choice if you don’t want a Ger­man sports coupe. It’s faster than the Lexus RC350 and thus fills a small niche in the seg­ment. The ob­vi­ous next step is to de­velop a ri­val for the BMW M4, AMG C63 and Lexus RC F.

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