The throwback NA V8 is great, but is it enough?
– Detroit, Michigan
The Infiniti Q70 is six years old in 2016 – even if it was badged “M” for half of that span – and a lot has changed since its debut, especially at this end of the market. Long-nosed luxury cars hiding large-displacement engines have mostly been replaced with turbocharged updates, while interior technologies and software have leapt forward even further. (Remember what your smartphone looked like in 2011?)
Because I’m an old, crotchety car guy trapped in a middle-aged, convivial car guy’s body, my first drive of the Q70 in years had me smiling at the slightly old-school formula. What’s not to like about a 5.6-liter V8 breathing good old uncompressed American air, after all? Ultimately I’m not sure the package stacks up well against the current competitive crop, though.
- This is a sweet engine. I like the 5.6 in something as outsized as the Infiniti QX80 SUV (where it makes less power), so it’s no wonder it feels so athletic in a sedan that weighs 1,600 pounds less. The V8 pulls really hard when the revs rise above 3,000 rpm; that’s right when the exhaust note moves from “barely-there” to “menacing,” as well. Output figures of 420 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque are not class-leading, per se, but everything else in the class with a V8 either uses a turbocharger (BMW 550i) or is a performance variant (Lexus GS F).
- There’s an element of chance here, but the Q70 seats fit me perfectly in terms of luxury buckets. The chairs have wide, but still supportive bolsters, that keep me in place without pinching, pushing, or making me feel like a juice cleanse is in order.
- Infiniti does interesting interior detailing, even though the overall fit-and-finish is far from top of the pack. I love the very subtle lace-like design behind the instrument cluster, and the far-less-subtle metallic trim on the center console and stack is unlike the embellishments from any other brand.
- Overall handling is not bad when I push this big sedan, but, being honest, it’s not as nice as I remember from the last time I drove an M56. Admittedly that was also a rear-drive car – the all-wheel-drive system in this tester seems to stiffen up the handling and deaden the rear end. Steering feel is a little wooly, too, though that’s really the case with every executive sedan in the segment. You can have fun in this machine, but at the end of the day the handling character just doesn’t live up to the promise of the engine.
- You know what’s cool about turbos? They help give maniacs like you and I both more power and better fuel economy. The BMW 550i has a turbo’d 4.4-liter V8 that is up 25 horsepower and 63 pound-feet of torque on the Q70, and the German achieves better highway and combined mileage ratings. The supercharged 3.0-liter six in the Audi A6 doesn’t make nearly so much power, but its torque is available much earlier in the rev band, so it feels just as quick, and it’s more efficient. Much as I love them, there are reasons that big V8s have been roundly ditched.
- So much about the luxury car experience has to do with an impressive cabin, and subtle touches aside, the Q70’s age holds it back in this regard. Everything from the multifunction steering wheel, to the fiddly controls for the instrument display, to the other fiddly controls for the navi and stereo, all feel decidedly outdated. The outgoing Mercedes E-Class feels more modern than this.
Photos: Seyth Miersma / Motor1.com