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The Infiniti Q60 Red Sport is a perfect case study in that design alone doesn’t sell a car.
Here we have an undoubtedly gorgeous vehicle in every regard, let down by its twitchy driving dynamics, sub-par infotainment system, and poorly executed cabin features.
We want to love the Q60 Red Sport, we really do. We love underdogs here at CarAdvice, and Infiniti is the automotive definition of the word, a brand taking on the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi with nothing but sheer determination and a focus on being different.
Yet, with its latest halo model, Nissan’s luxury brand does nothing to evoke the sort of emotional appeal one seeks before parting with around $100,000 ($88,900 plus on road costs).
Well perhaps that’s being a little too hard. The visual appeal from the outside is very emotive and arguably best in class from a pure design perspective. It outdoes the relatively mundane Audi and BMW equivalents but – for us at least – doesn’t yet possess the same level of sophistication offered by Mercedes-Benz’s hugely successful C-Class.
On the inside, the cabin feels like a nice place to be in terms of seat comfort, both front and rear. The front seats are supportive and the plastic and leather material feel good enough to be in this class. The two rear seats are best left for kids or smaller adults but it’s an effective form of short term transport for all, if required.
Other than that, the intrinsic feel of the cabin is a little underwhelming. The buttons, the gear lever and vehicle mode selector knob simply do not belong in a car this expensive. There are too many Nissan parts here, including the key, which is a constant and stark reminder of the vehicle’s origins.
You can argue that Infiniti buyers simply won’t care, but that’s not the point here. This is a car that is going up against the best Germany has to offer without the badge credibility to back it up, so it needs to be best in class, and that’s not the case when it comes to the cabin.
The 3.0-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder powertrain sees the Japanese luxury brand compete on performance with the likes of the BMW 440i, Mercedes-AMG C43 and Audi S5. You can even throw in the Lexus RC350, if you’ve misplaced your glasses.
On paper, the Q60’s output of 298kW of power and 475Nm of torque sent to the rear-wheels seem a genuine competitor to the previously mentioned German vehicles, but then you have to look a little deeper.
The seven-speed automatic transmission is not up to the standard of dual-clutch systems offered in its European rivals, the steering wheel is figuratively, and literally, not connected to the front wheels, and thanks to a combination of its Dunlop tyres and relatively average electronic stability control management, it struggles for grip under acceleration and never inspires a sense of confidence behind the wheel around the twisty stuff.
Infiniti touts this car as a very new-age and modern choice for those who love their technologically-laden vehicles. If you read the brochure you will see it comes with dynamic digital suspension and direct adaptive steering (steer-by-wire) systems. Both sound great in theory, but go for a spirited drive and you will quickly forget all criticism of electronically-assisted power steering and beg for its return.
There’s something about the front wheels not actually being connected to the steering system that feels odd. To be fair, when we first experienced the original implementation of this with the Q50 many, many years ago, we didn’t mind it as much, but on this car, and especially at speed, it feels very uneasy.
At first, we felt a little giddy driving this thing through a series of twisty roads because the inputs going into the steering wheel didn’t seem to match the outputs from the front tyres. Too sensitive, then not sensitive enough, it couldn’t make up its mind. Even after we got used to that, it’s still not what we would call an ideal setup. Infiniti says with the version two of the system, it has made it more natural than previously, but we would argue otherwise.
There is zero communication from the front wheels coming through the steering wheel, so one simply has to rely on other senses to work out what the front end is doing. It could be understeering, but you’d only know by the direction of travel and the tyre noise, not by the steering itself.
Speaking of tyres, the Dunlops on our Q60 test car were hopelessly woeful. For a halo model, meant to showcase the brand’s abilities, it really needs to be wearing Pirelli P Zeros, Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, Continental ContiSports or basically anything that possesses the grip required from a car like this.
The ride is relatively well sorted and arguably comfortable. It’s not super firm or floaty, we did notice however, that it wasn’t a big fan of potholes mid-corner, with sudden impacts jolting the car.
The thing about this Infiniti though, is the engine is actually decent. Apart from the lacklustre exhaust note, we would say the power unit is on par with what you’d find in the Merc or BMW in regard to power delivery and turbo lag. With a 1784kg kerb weight, we weren’t expecting all that much in terms of sheer acceleration, but we were pleasantly surprised… when we had grip.
The back of the Q60 tends to slide around, a lot. A simple jab of the accelerator will see the rear end come loose immediately. We feel that is partially a cause of the car’s overall characteristic but also partially the sub-par tyres.
It’s not even a fun oversteer experience you might get from the dynamically competent BMW 4 Series; it’s more a case of sudden snap oversteer and it makes sense why the Nanny controls are so over the top in cutting power and reigning things in the minute you start to have a proper go.
This is not a sports car a true enthusiast would love to drive at speed. Yes, it’s fast and yes it corners well enough once you understand its balance and setup, but it feels foreign and hyper-sensitive. It requires a lot of behavioural change from the driver to extract sufficient performance. There is no man and machine harmony going on here, it’s more a case of man and computer trying, and mostly failing, to communicate. It has all the right parts on paper, but it simply doesn’t work together.
Don’t get us wrong, we are not scared of change, we love the idea of a digital car and especially one that helps usher in a new era of motoring. There are many things to love about full digitisation for steering, suspension and motion, but the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport falls short of delivering a solid digital-car experience in many regards.
It has steer-by-wire, but yet doesn’t have a digital speedometer. It has electronically controlled suspension, yet it still uses a super old-fashioned foot-operated park brake instead of an electric one. It has carbon-fibre inlays throughout the interior, yet there are so many obvious Nissan parts in the cabin, including that awfully large gearshift lever that feels so out of place in a luxury car. The leather wrapped steering wheel feels very sub-par, as does the indicator stalk and headlight switchgear. There is also no head-up display.
The navigation system’s map display literally feels, operates and looks like it’s a decade old. Pop the SD memory card that houses the map data and it proudly says 'Nissan'. The rear-view camera system’s resolution is surprisingly poor considering how amazing the dual infotainment screens look.
But even they feel very inconsistent with too many inputs to operate simple commands. The software that drives the screen is not comparable with offerings from Mazda or Honda, let alone the likes of BMW’s iDrive, Mercedes’ COMAND or Audi Connect. To top it off there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, either.
But there is some light at the end of the tunnel, because the Q60 is feature-packed. It comes with a great deal of standard kit that remain options on the Germans, plus it’s noticeably cheaper.
Frankly though, what you save on the initial outlay, you will probably lose on resale and besides, why spend $100,000 to save money? If you want a performance car in this price bracket, our advice is to stick with the German offerings and negotiate hard on price. Or hell, try the Lexus RC, for even that is a better package overall.
If you must have a Q60, we would argue that considering the best asset of this model is its exterior looks, you would be better of sticking with the cheaper 2.0-litre GT that starts at just $62,900 and does not suffer the dynamic shortfalls of its more expensive brother.
Click on the Gallery tab for more images by Toby Leung.