SAN DIEGO, California—You may not realize it, but the Q60 nameplate has been around ever since Infiniti changed its nomenclature to an all-“Q” and -“QX” library back in 2014. Thing is, the first Q60 was completely an exercise in brand engineering, as it was pretty much an exact replica of the outgoing G37 Coupe.
Then, at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Infiniti came forth with what the actual new Q60 was going to look like, and it was good. Very good. Good to the point where you thought “no way that’s going to make production. It’s just way too nice!”
But lo and behold, the production version is here, and, my gosh, it’s spectacular, and I mean in any of its three forms. In Canada, we only get AWD, but we do have a choice of three engines: a 2.0-litre inline-four turbo (208 hp and 259 lb-ft); a 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo (300 hp and 295 lb-ft); and the car we tested, the 400-hp 350 lb-ft-of-torque Red Sport model.
In Infiniti’s defence, the G37 was a very good-looking car in its own right – proper long-hood cab-rearward grand touring profile, throaty dual exhaust, big wheels – and so they had to make sure that they kept that vibe going with this new model.
Really, in an era where the Q60’s competition in the form of the Audi S5 and BMW 4 Series are actually fairly tame-looking, they had a stylistic avenue in which to strike. So strike they did.
The rear three-quarters view is probably the most glamorous; the spiraling on the twin exhaust outlets, BMW M4-esque cuts out of the corners of the rear bumper, narrow taillights fitted with LED bulbs and the way the trunklid spoiler is molded out of the trunk itself makes for a smooth, athletic and muscular look.
It’s also from this angle that you get the full effect of the character lines molded into the doors and rear fenders and the distinctive kink (just don’t call it “Hofmeister”) built into the rear side window frame. This is a car that looks ready for action.
The front end is dominated by a grille that’s been enlarged over what’s offered by the Q60’s Q50 sedan sibling, a touch designers say is a way of demonstrating just how much power is underhood, as it suggests more cooling air needs to be sent that way.
On the QX70 crossover, which also gets a gaping version of the grille, it looks a little too much; here, however, it just looks right. The only reason I choose the rear three-quarter view as my preferred angle is the faux chrome “grilles” behind each front wheel.
They simply look too Pep Boys, too tacked-on, and the car is so good-looking otherwise, they just seem so unnecessary. An example of trying to channel the BMW 4 Series Coupe, which also has these? Perhaps—but why? They don’t look so great there, either.
Bottom line, however, is that Infiniti has managed to keep the G’s proper long-bonneted sports car profile while at the same time adding touches of flair to make it so the Q60 is the best-looking car in the segment, and that includes toppling the current segment leader, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe.
Cheap side grilles or no, you won’t find anything that can be confused with a cheap aftermarket add-on inside the Q60.
A host of colour options are available, from the more mundane cream-and-black leather to far more out-there stuff such as two-tone red-and-black leather with silver carbon inserts. Those are nicely complimented by the fit and finish on the optional Bose CentrePoint sound system, which actually provides proper metal grilles for the speakers themselves, of which there are 13.
That’s quite a few, considering the Q60’s snug coupe environs, and it makes for proper symphony hall audio. The head unit used to control it all is a dual-screen affair; the upper screen displays your navigation and is controlled by a console-mounted wheel, while the lower screen is a responsive iDevice-esque touch affair that controls, well, pretty much everything else.
From your drive settings to your apps, phone and audio settings, it’s all here. Luckily, the climate control is done via proper buttons; I’ve always found touchscreen affairs to be inaccurate when it comes to climate.
As far as drive modes go: they do exist, but really the “Personal” setting is the one that we stuck with during the test, and that most buyers will likely stick with, too. When it comes to the transmission, steering, throttle, and available traction control settings, there are over 300 possible combinations of settings that should work in any circumstance. The steering settings are the big exclamation point, here; both the steering weight and responsiveness can be adjusted, which is unlike anything I’ve seen before in this segment or any other.
The real takeaway from the interior, however, is just how perfect the driver’s seating position is. The seats provide just the right amount of support and comfort, plus the numerous adjustable settings meant that both myself and my drive partner – two very different body shapes – could find perfect seating positions. Even the headroom wasn’t an issue for me, though my six-foot-three frame can usually be a bit of a hindrance in low-slung performance cars like this.
Instead, what I was left with was a wheel that fell perfectly into my hands, just the right amount of back support, and the ability to sit upright enough to clearly see over that proud bonnet without risking a new hairdo every time I stepped in. And that’s with a sunroof, which is a standard option.
Speaking of steering: much has been made of the Q50’s Direct Adaptive Steering system (DAS). It’s essentially a steer-by-wire system, meaning a computer senses your steering wheel input and communicates to the front axle what it needs to do. It’s faster than your usual hydraulic set-up, and is a big part of what allows so much modification as we discussed earlier.
Thing is, it also lends an air of disconnectedness in the Q50, as you’re disconnected from the wheels via a clutch.
The Q60 gets this, too, but Infiniti was quick to assure us that it’s been tuned differently, to provide more immediate response, but not necessarily more feel. It comes as standard on the V6 Q60 models, but remains optional on four-cylinder-equipped cars.
The real question, however, is does it rob the car of the kind of interaction between driver and machine that many sports car buyers crave? We’ll see in a minute, but we really should start this off by discussing that engine.
While we’ve seen that kind of power in the Q50, that car still used the older VQ engine architecture. The Q60 gets an all-new “VR” V6 (get it?), that makes use of new direct fuel injection, lighter cylinder blocks, better heat management, and advanced timing control to make for a more free-revving and efficient engine.
A bit techy? OK, fine. How about this: when you mash the pedal – especially in a more aggressive drive mode – the car springs forth with real gusto more befitting of a large V8 than a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6. I’m honest when I say the Mustang GT I’d sampled not two weeks before I tried the Q60 would feel a mite nervous at the drag strip, such is the forward push of Infiniti’s latest.
The readiness of the seven-speed automatic transmission to swap cogs – whether automatically or via wheel-mounted paddles that, unfortunately, don’t get the same sexy two-tone half-moon look that the Q50 gets; strange, that – with gumption and almost no delay in the power delivery completes the package.
Of course, this being an Infiniti, the sound through those twin tailpipes as you really get on it is a good one; vocal, yet not so in-yer-face as the older model which used baffles that made the exhaust a little louder, but more fake-sounding, too.
So what of the handling, then? Well, putting the steering aside for a moment, there are a select few other technologies that are worth mentioning.
Chief among these is what Infiniti is calling Dynamic Digital Suspension, essentially a buzzword for active suspension that takes into account the car’s body roll, pitch, and bounce and modifies the shocks accordingly. Of course, anything the computer wants to do can be overridden by the driver the same way the steering can. Either way, the answer is a car that reacts in as agile a manner as it looks. Everything is tight as a drum, as it should be for a car with a performance bent such as this.
So the engine hits the mark. So does the chassis. Which brings us to the last piece of the puzzle, and one that could make or break the Q60 as a contender in the performance coupe segment. Only it doesn’t, really.
For starters, I’ll say this: the steering has been improved over the Q50 Red Sport. It feels more agile, more direct, and more apt for quick left-right-left transitions. That is to say: it doesn’t affect the agility of the Q60 whatsoever.
You’re still going to get a little more actual steering feel from a BMW or Mercedes, however; such is the nature of a digital system that you will never get that same physical “one with the road” feeling. Which, really, we may have to accept; as electric systems began replacing hydraulic systems on a grand scale, the same complaints were heard, until those who were complaining realized that it was of no use.
Whether an industry-wide move to steer-by-wire is in the cards or not, the fact remains that Infiniti’s system works as advertised, in that it leads to responsive steering without asking you to go extra on the elbow grease. It gets top marks for that, and if you’re willing to get past the sensation of no sensation, you’ll be treated to an otherwise engaging drive.
Or, just go ahead and opt to forego the DAS system altogether, as we got a chance to sample a rack without it and it was more to our tastes. It’s just too bad you can’t get a V6 without the DAS in Canada; no DAS? Four-cylinder turbo it is.
The four-cylinder model starts at $45,990; $52,990 gets you the 300-hp variant (likely the big seller); with the Red Sport rounding things out with a $60,990 cost of entry.
Hard to let the one bad apple spoil the barrel, however. Especially since that one apple isn’t really all that bad. The good stuff more than makes up for it; fantastic looks that shroud an equally fantastic engine and chassis, an interior with all the luxury appointments of the top German brands, and enough tech to fill a Radio Shack.
It’s all there and more with the Q60, and we’re quite looking forward to putting Infiniti’s latest performance number up against the current luxury sports coupe establishment.
Disclosure—This writer’s travel and accommodations were provided by the automaker for the purposes of this first-drive review.