Infiniti's hottest coupe packs 298kW and a major price advantage over its competitors. But can it kick it with Germany's best? James Wong finds out.
The 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport has finally arrived in Australia, and the Japanese brand has high hopes for it.
It's somewhat of a 'halo' model for Infiniti in Australia, combining striking design, Japanese build quality and twin-turbo V6 performance .
Starting at $88,900 before on-road costs, the flagship Infiniti coupe offers equivalent performance to established German offerings like the Audi S5, BMW 440i and Mercedes-AMG C43, while costing around $15,000 less.
Despite the price difference, the Infiniti doesn't leave a lot to be desired when it comes to standard equipment.
Features include Nappa leather upholstery – which is available in black, red and white – real carbon-fibre trim inlays, Infiniti's dual-screen infotainment system (8.0-inch upper, 7.0-inch lower) with satellite navigation and DAB digital radio, heated and electrically-adjustable front seats with memory, 19-inch alloy wheels, a world-first 13-speaker Bose audio system, a dual exhaust system, LED headlights with LED daytime-running lights, LED fog-lights, heated electric mirrors, keyless entry and push-button start.
In terms of safety, the Red Sport includes six airbags, a pop-up bonnet, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian protection, a surround camera system with moving object detection, blind-spot monitoring with intervention, adaptive cruise control and ISOFIX seat mounts in the rear. The Q60, though, hasn't been crash tested.
What really separates this model from the rest of the Q60 range along with its similarly-priced competitors, however, is what's under the bonnet.
Powering the Red Sport variant is a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine, developing a healthy 298kW of power at 6400rpm and 475Nm of torque between 1600 and 5200rpm.
Drive is sent to the rear wheels via a conventional seven-speed torque-converter automatic – no dual-clutch shifters here – with steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters for when you're feeling a little racy. Overseas markets like Europe also offer all-wheel drive and stop/start technology, however Infiniti's local arm decided to go with the US setup which doesn't include either.
The head- and tail-lights resemble human eyes, while the various creases and waves in the bodywork are, in this tester's eyes, stunning.
Infiniti has done a great job of making the Q60 head-turning without being controversial, and the design certainly turns heads.
Hopping in the driver's seat, however, the Q60's interior feels a little disjointed. On one hand you have the beautiful Nappa leather trim and carbon-fibre inlays mixed with soft-touch plastics across most of the dash and doors, however the analogue dials and infotainment system – particularly the upper screen – don't quite feel as modern or upmarket as the rest of the cabin.
There's plenty of carryover parts from Nissan products, like the window switches, navigation and camera system graphics, along with the driver's information display from higher grades of the Qashqai and X-Trail which doesn't even feature a digital speedo – come on guys it's 2017!
However, the buttons and controls are fairly easy to use and logically laid out, while also being well damped lending to that premium feel.
The electrically-adjustable steering wheel is another nice touch while also being attractive in its design, while the big and comfy front seats offer plenty of adjustment, allowing you to find the perfect driving position.
Speaking of the seats, the two rear pews are best suited for small children, as six-foot-one-ish me had my head nudged against the rear windscreen – though there's okay legroom for shorter journeys. There are padded armrests and two cupholders in the back too.
The Q60 has a decent boot too, which measures 341L. It's more than enough for a couple of suitcases or the weekly grocery shop, though you might struggle to fit a set of golf clubs in there.
But flashy coupes like the Q60 aren't about people hauling or carrying this week's IKEA shop, it's about the driving experience, and we were able to sample the Infiniti's capabilities on the windy Targa high country roads between Wangaratta and Bonnie Doon in northern Victoria.
Infiniti describes the Red Sport as more of a grand tourer than an all-out track weapon, and that becomes more apparent as we tackle some bumpy and coarse country roads.
The twin-turbo V6 as a fantastic engine; it's smooth, linear, and pulls for days. And while the exhaust note isn't as loud as some might like, the engine sings under harder acceleration.
It feels very quick too, particularly in-gear acceleration – making overtaking manoeuvres a cinch.
Infiniti's steer-by-wire system has been quite a point of contention amongst motoring journalists, mainly because it lacks feel – particularly in more sporting applications like the company's Red Sport models – however, it rids you of all the feedback from bumps and pot holes found in the city and country roads through the steering column.
Because of this, you're far more comfortable and relaxed over longer journeys, and you never feel as if you're fighting with the car to keep it in a straight line.
The selectable driving modes also provide quite a variety of adjustment in the steering and suspension, with Standard mode being noticeably softer and lighter than Sport+ – which really tightens up the steering and firms up the damping of the suspension.
In Sport+ the seven-speed automatic transmission holds gears really well too, while also offering relatively snappy upshifts and downshifts when using the steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters.
The Q60's handling impressed through the winding high country roads, with sharp turn-in and limited body roll through corners. It may not be able to hide the fact it's nearly 1.8 tonnes (1784kg unladen), but the Infiniti always feels planted and solid in the bends or on the highway.
Another highlight worth mentioning is the comfort of the seats, which are fantastic over long journeys. Even though we spent the better part of four or five hours behind the wheel and as a passenger, there were no complaints of aching backs or sore bottoms.
The cabin is also very well insulated from road noise, even over the very rough roads of Northern Victoria. Even with music playing through the 13-speaker sound system, you can have a normal conversation with the person next to you without having to shout over the tyre roar.
Under brakes the Q60 is progressive and predictable, thanks to the big 355mm front and 350mm rear discs with four-piston (front) and two-piston (rear) calipers which provide plenty of stopping power.
Fuel consumption is pretty good for an engine of this type too. Infiniti claims 8.9L/100km combined, and during our time with the car we saw an indicated 9.5L/100km which included a lot of 'spirited' driving mixed with some highway stints.
With its 80L fuel tank capacity, you could realistically drive between 500-700km on a single tank in real-world conditions, which again is pretty good for a car with the Red Sport's performance potential. It's also worth mentioning the Q60 Red Sport requires at least 95RON unleaded.
In terms of ownership, the Q60 Red Sport is covered by Infiniti's four-year, 100,000km warranty. Scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000km, with the first three visits costing $331, $570 and $331 respectively – totalling $1232.
The company is also providing premium roadside assistance for the vehicle's warranty period, which offers the service for the owner's non-Infiniti cars in the household as well – not bad if you have several vehicles in the home from different brands.
As an all-round package, the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport is a pretty solid proposition. It comes standard with just about everything you need, it's fun to drive while also being really comfortable over longer journeys.
What isn't so great about it is the execution of various features, which really make it feel a step or two behind competitors like the Audi A5 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Firstly, the dual-screen infotainment screen would be great if both screens were the same resolution and were quicker to respond to your inputs. There's no sign of smartphone technologies like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto either.
Additionally, it doesn't help that the driver's information display between the analogue speedo and tacho dials is lifted straight from higher versions of the Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail, which already looks cheap in those models let alone a $90,000 luxury coupe, and doesn't even have a digital speedo function – though it does display the set cruise control speed.
Despite the high build quality, it doesn't quite feel new or expensive enough inside, which is a shame, because the exterior is gorgeous (at least in this reviewer's opinion).
For those who aren't fussed about the central screens or some of the obvious Nissan components scattered throughout the cabin, the Q60 provides head-turning looks, impressive performance, and all-round versatility at over $15,000 less than its European competitors.
However, when you're spending nearly $100,000 on the road for a car anyway, the step up to an Audi S5 or Mercedes-AMG C43 doesn't seem that great, with the Germans offering classier cabins, up-to-date infotainment, and a more desirable badge.
Then again, it's only a couple grand more than a decked-out Lexus RC350 Sports Luxury, and offers far better performance and a nicer design inside and out.
If you want something different, the Infiniti could be the car for you, but it's still a fair way from the top.