Beauty, brawn, and brains – in that order.
– Rancho Santa Fe, California
Sex sells. So I certainly can’t fault you for immediately taking interest in this 2017 Infiniti Q60 Coupe, especially when painted in the Red Sport 400 model’s exclusive shade of Dynamic Sandstone Red. It’s absolutely stunning. Good thing, too – in the very small luxury coupe segment, it’s more about style than substance. For better or worse, so is the new Q60.
The 2017 Q60 is the third chapter in Infiniti’s attractive small-coupe lineage, starting with the G35 in 2002 and followed by the G37 in 2007. It rides on Q50 sedan bones, but the Q60 is lower, wider, sleeker, and more assertive in its styling. Every single Q60 model – from the base 2.0T to the most loaded Red Sport 400 – benefits from 19-inch wheels, giving the car a great stance on the road. What’s more, the striking presence of the Q60 keeps all of Infiniti’s design themes intact – the human-eye headlights, crescent-cut C pillars, and double-arch grille – incorporating them on what is, without question, the best-looking product in the current Infiniti showroom.
This is, without question, the best-looking product in the current Infiniti showroom.
Three different powertrain options are available, all of which carry over from the Q50 sedan. On the base end there’s a turbocharged inline-four with 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, but the real highlight of the range is the VR30DDTT biturbo V6, available with either 300 hp and 295 lb-ft, or with 400 hp and 350 lb-ft in Red Sport guise. All engines are paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission (don’t complain about the loss of the six-speed manual from the G37 – it was pretty awful), and every single version of the Q50 can be had with your choice of rear- or all-wheel drive.
It’s the Red Sport 400 that I’ll focus on for this story; Infiniti’s 208- and 300-hp Q60 variants were not available for testing during my time in California. VR30DDTT is a horrible name for what’s actually a honey of an engine. Far less harsh and coarse-sounding than Infiniti’s VQ-series V6 (but still too quiet most of the time), it feels every bit of its 400 ponies as you mash the throttle from a standstill, the traction control struggling to keep the 245/40R19-series Bridgestone Potenza summer tires from slipping. Infiniti says the AWD-equipped, 4,024-pound Q60 RS 400 will run to 60 miles per hour in five seconds flat. Not bad.
The seven-speed automatic transmission occasionally struggles to keep up with driver inputs, especially when operated via the paddle shifters. Even in the Q60’s most aggressive Sport+ drive setting, the 7AT is a touch laggy. I suppose that’s fine for highway cruising in Standard mode, where the transmission isn’t required to be snappy, but during aggressive driving, I’m left wanting for quicker gear changes.
Direct Adaptive Steer has undergone a number of revisions, but honestly, the best thing about the system is that you don’t have to get it.
There are a total of six drive modes: Eco, Snow, Standard, Sport, Sport+, and on some models, Personal, which lets you manually configure different aspects of the steering, powertrain, and suspension settings – just like other automakers’ “Individual” modes. Eco feels like it’s holding the Red Sport 400 back, and the steps between Standard, Sport, and Sport+ aren’t huge, with only minor differences in driving experience.
But before I go on, let me address what is indeed the elephant in the room: Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steer system. The steer-by-wire technology has undergone a number of revisions since it was first introduced in the Q50, but honestly, the best thing about DAS is that you don’t have to get it. It’s a $1,000 option on the 3.0T models; you’re better off pocketing that extra cash. The biggest thing working against DAS is its overwhelming feeling of artificiality, the fact that the steering wheel truly seems disconnected from the driving experience. But beyond that, it exhibits a few off-putting behaviors. While driving at low speed with the car in Sport mode, for example, the steering feels hugely overboosted and twitchy, though it seems to settle down and smooth out as you pick up speed. DAS is at its best under aggressive, high-speed driving – stuff you won’t actually be doing most of the time. In normal driving, and no matter the drive mode, DAS fails to deliver a real connection between the driver and the road.
The 3.0T models’ standard steering is about on par with the rest of the luxury/sport coupe class, offering a light action with progressive weight buildup. Where DAS often feels twitchy and overly eager to respond, the standard steering offers natural movements and reactions. It’s no shining beacon of steering involvement, to be sure, but it’s the far better setup. Oh, and if you get the 2.0T engine, you actually get a hydraulic steering system. I’m eager to test that one – it’ll be kind of hilarious if the base car ends up being the one with the best steering feel.
Infiniti’s new InTouch infotainment display is a conundrum: both good and bad at the same time.
Infiniti’s new Dynamic Digital Suspension that only comes on 3.0T models, is commendable. This new DDS technology continuously monitors things like body roll, bounce rate, and pitch, and uses electronically adjustable dampers to automatically keep the ride quality flat and smooth, while also taking into consideration drive mode and driving style. The result is a Q60 that’s soft and comfortable on the highway, but stiffens up on back roads. It feels great on smooth California paving, but I worry that it’ll be a bit too harsh over broken pavement back home in Detroit – kind of like the Q50.
Speaking of that Q50, the Q60 is similar in that the overall experience just leaves a bit to be desired. The Q60 incorporates a number of sporty coupe elements, but it doesn’t get me going quite like the (less-powerful) Mercedes-AMG C43 or Audi S5. What’s more, the Q60 is loud, and not in the good way – I want robust engine and exhaust sound, but what I actually get is wind and tire noise. The Q60 doesn’t quite drive like a luxury car, but it doesn’t really feel like a properly sporty car, either.
The interior does a better job at striking a luxury/sport balance, with a number of improvements that make the cabin a more interesting and comfortable environment than in the Q50 sedan. Subtle design differences – including a double-arch dash over the gauge cluster and a restyled steering wheel – are more pleasing to the eye and better to use. Same goes for the seats, which are not only more supple and comfortable, but boast a more inviting design, especially in the white leather seen here. The contrasting black leather with white stitching looks and feels premium, and while I like the appearance of the silver accent trim, I wish it was better to touch – get rid of the clear plastic that covers what looks like interestingly textured metal underneath.
This car is a real beauty queen, and one that’s sure to garner the attention of people who wouldn’t necessarily have considered a Q60 or G37 previously.
Infiniti’s new InTouch infotainment display is a conundrum: both good and bad at the same time. Like in the Q50, it uses a dual-screen layout, but while the lower touchscreen feels like it was designed in 2016, the upper, recessed screen seems to come from the previous decade. The top screen only really shows low-resolution map data most of the time, so it just feels unnecessary, since the lower screen can show prettier maps. What’s more, the tall shifter often obstructs a driver’s natural reach to the lower screen. Infiniti would be wise to ditch the dual-screen setup, move the more modern touchscreen higher up on the center stack, and enjoy the resulting compliments about a simplistic, modern control panel.
You’ll need $38,950 to get into a Q50 with the 2.0T engine and rear-wheel drive, putting it a few thousand below its key rivals, the BMW 430i and Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe. The 300-hp 3.0T starts at $44,300, and the Red Sport comes in at $51,300. All-wheel drive adds $2,000 to every model, and fully loaded, a Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD tops out just over $62,000. On paper, the Red Sport Q60 offers a better looking, more powerful alternative to a similarly priced BMW 440i, and its design is far more expressive than the milquetoast Audi A5. The Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe will no doubt be the stiffest competition, though the Q60 will likely undercut it on price.
The Q60 isn’t the sportiest or most premium entry in the small luxury coupe segment, despite its powerful engine and very refined interior. But it’s a real beauty queen, and one that’s sure to garner the attention of people who wouldn’t necessarily have considered a Q60 or G37 previously. And in this ever-shrinking segment of the automotive space, that’s probably enough.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com