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
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.
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.
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.
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.