It’s the latest development in the car line that used to be known as the M, following the company’s switch to exclusive use of the prefix Q for cars, and QX for SUVs. How well it’ll do with buyers depends on a few factors, not the least of which is opening up a very small segment that many drivers don’t know exists.
Disclosure: Travel to New York City, accommodation, meals, and a pre-set route were provided to the author by the automaker.
The long-wheelbase (LWB) certainly isn’t new, of course, but most of them offer premium amenities for those in the rear seats, and their starting prices are close to or into six figures. Long versions of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, and Lexus LS all collectively run from $96,490 to $182,300, and that’s before you start adding options.
The 2015 Q70L’s pricing hadn’t been announced at press time. The 2014 regular-wheelbase Q70 starts at $60,100; how much more it costs to move up to this larger, more-powerful version could make or break this car. It’s comfortable and luxurious, but it’s not up there with those top-line models. That’s primarily because the folks in the rear seat basically get only the extra legroom, unlike in the pricier cars, where you can get everything from your own climate and stereo controls, to power seats that turn into loungers.
In the Q70L, all of the good stuff is reserved for those up front, while those in the rear only get the basics of heated seats, reading lamps, and a power outlet. There are no sunshades, no moving seats, no foot rests or stereo buttons. The car’s true closest competitor is Hyundai’s Equus, which is roughly the same size, even though it’s not specifically advertised as LWB. The 2014 model starts at $64,799, but those in the Hyundai’s rear seat still get power-reclining chairs and their own controls.
So, why bother?
The answer is China, where Infiniti is making considerable effort to break in (it recently moved its global headquarters to Hong Kong). It’s a status symbol for the better-off to have an upscale car with a chauffeur, and several automakers make LWB models that we never see here, including Buick and Volvo, along with stretched versions of such cars as Mercedes’ C-Class and Audi’s A6. The Q70L was designed for that market, but when head office asked if anyone else wanted it, Infiniti Canada said yes.
Of course, there’s more to the Q70L than just the extra 150 mm between the front and rear wheels. The 3.7-litre V6 used in the Q70 is available in other markets, including the U.S., but in Canada the Q70L comes exclusively with a 5.6-litre V8 that makes 416 horsepower and 414 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission, and with all-wheel drive.
It’s a considerable step up in power from the V6’s 330 horses and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, and with a somewhat smaller gap than I would have expected in fuel economy: 15.0 L/100 km city and 10.2 highway for the V8, versus 13.2/9.6 for the V6. (Keep in mind that those are 2015 fuel figures, which now use the more realistic—and thirstier—five-cycle test.)
Hybrid to high street
Infiniti had all three models of the Q’s lineup on the event, and while I didn’t have a chance to drive the regular-wheelbase Q70, I started my day in the Q70 Hybrid. It shares the Q70’s dimensions but uses a 3.5-litre V6 mated to an electric motor, which adds up to a combined 360 horsepower. I’ve always liked Infiniti’s hybrids, including this one. Their transition between gas and electricity isn’t always as smooth as in some competitors, but they’re a great combination of power and comfortable ride, and the Q70 Hybrid’s electric power steering is dialled in very nicely for tight, sharp handling.
That back-to-back comparison worked against the Q70L when I moved into it out of the hybrid. The longer car’s steering feels heavy and vague, and bumps in the road easily make their way into the cabin, both with noise and feel. The hybrid had a far smoother ride, which I initially thought might have been due to its heft, but when I later checked the specs, I found that the long-wheelbase outweighs its superior stablemate by 70 kilos.
This is not to say that the Q70L is a bad car overall. It’s sleekly styled, and I love the “hooded” headlights and curvy taillights. The interior is equally curvaceous, with excellent-quality materials (you can even get wood trim that softly sparkles with silver dust) and comfortable seats. I have a couple of quibbles, including very little small-item storage—you have to make up that sleek look somehow, I know, and open cubbies don’t do it—and a very wide door armrest that makes it difficult to reach down for the seat adjustment controls.
Smaller market, bigger back seat
The two rear chairs are sculpted and supportive, and that extra rear legroom adds to the comfort. While most Canadians aren’t going to ride back there while their chauffeur takes the wheel, but that extra space might convince some to select this sedan over a crossover.
The Q70L’s market is naturally going to be a smaller one, which is why Infiniti is bringing in just one variant of it, and how it will do remains to be seen. It has a solid base with its excellent engine, but it needs more tweaking in its ride and handling to really set it apart. Whether you’re up front or in the rear, luxury has to be there all the way through.