Four-Sea­sons Wrap-Up

Automobile - - Contents - By Aaron Gold

Yes, the In­finiti QX30 has Ger­man ge­net­ics, but it also has Ja­panese charm, as we found out dur­ing the past 12 months.

IN­DELI­BLE IM­PRES­SION

ASK­ING US WHY we chose to add an In­finiti QX30 S to our Four Sea­sons fleet is a lot like ask­ing some­one why they got a tat­too when they were drunk. Al­though the de­tails are fuzzy now, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Un­like the tat­too, how­ever, we’ll never re­gret adding the In­finiti to our long-term test sta­ble.

The QX30 was an in­trigu­ing and some­what con­tro­ver­sial ve­hi­cle when it first de­buted, and it piqued our in­ter­est im­me­di­ately. More of a big hatch­back than a (sub)com­pact cross­over, it’s also a close rel­a­tive of the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class—a Ger­man-Ja­panese mashup that led to more than a few scratched heads. Al­though they share plenty of ge­netic traits, one thing was ev­i­dent from the out­set: The In­finiti won the beauty con­test.

In­deed, the QX30’s ex­te­rior styling found plenty of fans from the day it rolled into our park­ing garage. As­so­ciate ed­i­tor Con­ner Golden preached the In­finiti’s gospel early.

“For­get com­pact cross­over, this thing is the size of a Fo­cus, and it’s grat­i­fy­ing to drive a com­pact lux­ury hatch­back,” he wrote in the first log­book en­try. “We don’t get cars like this on our shores very often—or at least we didn’t used to—so it still feels in­trin­si­cally spe­cial. In­finiti has come a long way with its de­sign lan­guage, and I think the QX30 is one of its best. I like the pro­por­tions and the star-spoke wheel de­sign.”

Se­nior ed­i­tor Nel­son Ire­son chimed in, “I love the look of this car. That’s all the more im­pres­sive be­cause it’s a cross­over—and I hate crossovers.”

Aug­ment­ing the QX30’s slick and sharp looks was its un­usual Liq­uid Cop­per hue, which at­tracted at­ten­tion wher­ever we went. “Peo­ple stop and look at the car and ad­mire the way the paint seems to change with nat­u­ral sunlight,” wrote graphic de­signer Michael Cruz-Gar­cia. Golden added, “The Liq­uid Cop­per paint is one of the most in­ter­est­ing and po­lar­iz­ing hues I’ve seen. Some say pink, I say rose gold. I like it.”

The praise con­tin­ued for the QX30’s in­te­rior lay­out. “Given the com­bi­na­tion of In­finiti and Benz bits, it could have been a dis­as­ter,” wrote ed­i­tor-in-chief Mike Floyd. “But they took the best of both and mixed it into a co­he­sive whole.” Cruz-Gar­cia ex­pressed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments. “The mix of smooth fin­ished met­als with high-qual­ity plas­tics adds a touch of lux­ury that re­flects the in­te­rior of a Mercedes,” he wrote. “Sturdy and com­fort­able leather seats put you at ease when driv­ing long dis­tances.” Other staffers felt it was a good idea that In­finiti in­stalled its own in­fo­tain­ment setup in­stead of the Mercedes CO­MAND sys­tem, and In­finiti’s stan­dard AroundView 360-de­gree mon­i­tor was cited as a top-notch fea­ture.

How­ever, both Floyd and Cruz-Gar­cia took is­sue with the cabin’s over­all space, one of the tra­di­tional sell­ing points of a cross­over. “De­spite the pro­nounce­ments that this is some sort of cross­over, it’s a hatch­back, plain and sim­ple,” Floyd said. “It’s smaller in­side than your av­er­age com­pact sedan, and its swoopy lines are a ma­jor draw­back for rearseat pas­sen­gers in the form of a claus­tro­pho­bic feel.” Cruz-Gar­cia agreed:

“The back seats can use a bit more room to ac­com­mo­date three peo­ple com­fort­ably. There re­ally isn’t any room once a child seat is added in there.” In ad­di­tion to the rear-seat pas­sen­ger is­sues, cargo ca­pac­ity is small for the seg­ment at 19.2 cu­bic feet with the sec­ond-row seats up and just 34.0 with the 60/40 setup down.

Out on Los An­ge­les streets (the In­finiti also made for­ays into Ari­zona and Ne­vada dur­ing its stay) we found the QX30’s ride and han­dling sat­is­fy­ing, thanks in large part to its MacPher­son front, mul­ti­link rear sus­pen­sion setup and 19-inch tire and wheel pack­age. “The more I drive the QX30, the more I like it,” Floyd said. “It’s nim­ble and drives like a car, which it ba­si­cally is, with a well-bal­anced, on­cen­ter steer­ing feel.”

Ire­son, as usual, waxed poetic: “Wielded with im­pa­tient sever­ity, the QX30 dances with nim­ble grace through the lethar­gic, tex­ting hordes of L.A. traf­fic.” On­line ed­i­tor Ed Ta­haney was of two minds about it, how­ever: “The QX30 feels pretty good on the high­way, but it’s a bit of a slug around town.”

Al­though we’re sure In­finiti would pre­fer we ig­nore the QX30’s Ger­man lineage, we couldn’t help but delve deeper into the dif­fer­ences (and sim­i­lar­i­ties) be­tween the two cars. That said, most of us saw the part­ner­ship as a good thing on bal­ance.

“While driv­ing it around, I’d think, ‘Wow! This is the best-driv­ing In­finiti they make,’ be­fore re­al­iz­ing that I’m en­joy­ing the fruits of the Mercedes-In­finiti part­ner­ship,”

“WIELDED WITH IM­PA­TIENT SEVER­ITY, THE

QX30 DANCES WITH GRACE THROUGH THE

LETHAR­GIC, TEX­TING HORDES

OF L.A. TRAF­FIC.”

Golden said. “I wasn’t the big­gest fan of the GLA, but with the In­finiti badge, I think it works. It’s much more in line with the Ja­panese lux­ury brand than with Benz, and it fits In­finiti’s lineup per­fectly.”

In or­der to get a bet­ter feel for how closely re­lated the two re­ally are, we de­voted an en­tire on­line piece to a com­par­i­son be­tween the QX and the Benz. While the QX30 de­ploys the same 2.0-liter tur­bocharged I-4 as the Mercedes, with the same 208 horse­power and 258 lb-ft of torque, the big­gest dif­fer­ence we no­ticed was with each car’s trans­mis­sion tun­ing. Both use the same seven-speed dual-clutch gear­box, but sev­eral staffers took is­sue with how In­finiti set up its ver­sion of the hard­ware—at least on the 2017 model we tested.

“The trans­mis­sion makes low-speed driv­ing, and es­pe­cially traf­fic, mis­er­able,” as­so­ciate ed­i­tor Billy Re­hbock said. Floyd ad­vised to “make sure you’re in Sport mode, as the gear­box is slow on pickup in reg­u­lar Eco mode.” CruzGar­cia echoed the team’s sen­ti­ments. “The trans­mis­sion isn’t the smoothest in the first cou­ple of gears,” he said.

An­other com­plaint: The start/stop fea­ture. “Man, I hate start/stop,” Floyd said. “I wish there were a way to shut it off per­ma­nently.” Even those who didn’t share the ed­i­torin-chief’s de­gree of dis­like saw a prob­lem. “It al­ways turns off right as I’m about to start mov­ing, caus­ing a slight de­lay while the en­gine turns back on,” noted re­cently de­parted (to a new ca­reer) se­nior ed­i­tor Kir­ill Ou­garov. Ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor Mac Mor­ri­son con­demned start/stop in gen­eral, not­ing, “I’ve given up try­ing to un­der­stand the logic of so many of th­ese start/stop sys­tems and when they choose to turn a car off. Some­times they do it at ev­ery stop, some­times they seem to for­get to do it, and some­times, even when I hit the switch to de­ac­ti­vate the func­tion, I still find it kick­ing in ev­ery once in a while for no ap­par­ent rhyme or rea­son.”

Enough about what we liked and didn’t: How did the QX30 hold up dur­ing its stay? Al­though its tem­per­a­ture gauge would oc­ca­sion­ally climb when we worked the car hard, draw­ing some no­tice among our edi­tors, it never hit

the red. (We noted sim­i­lar be­hav­ior in other QX30s and GLAs we drove.) Our over­all recorded av­er­age fuel econ­omy was de­cent by small cross­over stan­dards—22.5 mpg—but that was far be­low the 27-mpg EPA com­bined num­ber. (Even with our lead-foot ten­den­cies, that’s quite a bit off.) The 14.8-gal­lon fuel tank made it hard to go more than 300 miles be­tween fill-ups.

A slight mis­read­ing of the owner’s man­ual led us to South Bay In­finiti at 5,395 miles for our first (and, it turned out, only) ser­vice ap­point­ment. In fact, the QX30 is meant to cover 10,000 miles be­tween oil changes (yes, even be­fore the first one), or pos­si­bly longer—like many new cars, it can cal­cu­late oil change in­ter­vals based on how the car is driven. Rather than cor­rect us, the deal­er­ship hap­pily changed the oil, ro­tated the tires, topped off the flu­ids, and billed us $93.97. Af­ter that we kept our eye on the main­te­nance min­der, which did not re­quest ser­vice for the rest of the QX30’s stay. Les­son learned: Read the man­ual. Care­fully.

Two days later, we got an alert from the In­finiti’s tire pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, and a trip to Amer­i­can Tire De­pot found a nail in one of the rear paws. The flat re­pair was free, but re­bal­anc­ing the tire cost us a cool $15. And that was it—our only un­sched­uled re­pair.

At the end of Four Sea­sons, the QX30 left our fleet well liked, if not loved. “It wouldn’t be a bad car to live with by any means,” Re­hbock said. Oth­ers went as far as to call the com­pact In­finiti the mar­que’s best car. “All in all, it’s a car that sells it­self, even if I’m not the tar­get buyer,” Ire­son said. To be sure, this In­finiti is far, far bet­ter than a drunken tat­too—un­less of course that tat­too is of, say, a QX30. AM

The car’s styling drew praise from our staff, andthe pink-tinged Liq­uid Cop­per paint turned heads and earned com­mentswher­ever we went.

The In­finiti QX30 is a Ger­manJa­panese mashup, but in terms of build qual­ity, it leans to the East. Aside from rou­tine main­te­nance, we never needed to re­turn to the deal­er­ship.

This hatch­back shares its pow­er­train with Mercedes’ GLA, but the Benz’s trans­mis­sion tun­ing is bet­ter, with the QX30 up­shift­ing too clunkily at low speeds. Our fix: Drive in Sport mode.

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