Infiniti Q60 2018 red sport

2018 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport review

Rating: 7.0
$46,900 $55,770 Dealer
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The Infiniti Q60 is very pretty, and there's lots of tech hiding under the skin, but it harbours a few unwelcome surprises.
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We don't love stereotypes here at CarAdvice, but some are difficult to shake. BMW builds rear-wheel-drive sports coupes, generally with an inline-six under the bonnet – except for when it doesn't – while Audi tends to make safe, well-built cars with all-wheel drive.

The motoring industry is full of tired ideas about what brands do, but no matter how hard we tried, no-one in the office could offer a clear notion of what an Infiniti should be.

That left the company in a unique position with the Infiniti Q60. With no sense of what the car needed to do, it could have delivered a sumptuous grand tourer, an out-and-out sports car, or a levitating bus powered by magneto drives, and no-one would've been too fussed. The engineering team had a blank canvas.

The end result tries to be a lot of things, but never manages to find a niche.

It certainly doesn't want for equipment. Auto-levelling LED headlights, LED brake lights, a sunroof, keyless entry, a premium audio system with DAB+ radio, Bluetooth audio streaming and a dual-screen infotainment system are all included standard, while the interior is wrapped in leather and trimmed with stunning silver-and-white carbon-look trim.

That's a lot of gear for your $88,900 – especially when you consider how short the options list is. Buyers get a four-year/100,000km warranty with 12-month servicing intervals. The first three visits will cost $331, $570 and $331 respectively. A quick scan of the classifieds revealed brand new cars for closer to $85,000 and, if you're not afraid of ex-demos, we've seen dealers asking closer to $70,000.

Given the car isn't exactly setting the charts on fire, a firm hand with your local dealer might be rewarded with an even sharper pencil. If you don't ask, you won't receive.

It's flashy without seeming over-the-top or garish, and offers a uniquely Japanese take on the theme laid out by the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5. It's a shame the buttons, knobs, dials and switches feel so cheap. The black plastic climate-control buttons stand out against the glossy silver trim, and the scroll wheel on the centre console lacks the beautifully damped feel you get from an Audi. Small but relevant gripes in this class.

The key is borrowed from Nissan, while the rev-counter and speedo bear a striking resemblance to that of our long-term X-Trail... Except there's no digital speed readout, because they were actually nabbed from the pre-facelift model. That's a unique type of frustrating, especially given the asking price.

Also unique is the dual-screen infotainment system, though that isn't necessarily a good thing in this case. According to Mike Costello – who generally knows these things, or likes to think he does – Infiniti is marketing at free-thinking, tech-savvy professionals with the Q60.

It would make sense for the car to have a cutting-edge infotainment set-up, given it's the sort of thing those buyers are interested in, but the mismatched fonts, baffling menu layout and slow responses of the dual-screen system are enough to give anyone – let alone someone who works in tech – a migraine.

Moving past the frustrating cabin, the signs are good when it comes to driving. Power comes from a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 (code VR30DDTT) making 298kW and a healthy 475Nm of torque, the latter of which is available between 1600 and 5200rpm. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it feels fast almost all the time.

It's worth bearing in mind, that's 58kW and 25Nm more than the BMW 440i manages from its inline-six, and 11kW more than the Mercedes-AMG C43 offers after a recent power bump. The Q60 is priced below hotted-up 'regular' cars in the BMW and Mercedes range, but its outputs are edging towards full-fat M or AMG numbers.

Grunt is put to the rear wheels through a seven-speed torque converter automatic. There's no manual option, and unlike left-hand-drive markets, we don't get all-wheel drive. Unless you're very gentle with your right foot, it'll light up the back tyres in first and second gear, while in-gear shove is a real strong suit.

It sounds good, too, with a sonorous note right through the rev range.

But don't be fooled into thinking it's an outright sports car, because the NASA-grade electronics systems responsible for steering, stopping and suspending the car give it an awkward, disconnected feeling. Now in its second generation, the car uses a steer-by-wire system dubbed 'Direct Adaptive Steering 2.0'.

The upside is pretty clear: there are five different weighting/tune options available here, but the right coding could offer an infinite number of different set-ups. An electric steering system also opens the door for smoother, smarter, semi-autonomous driver assists.

But in the Q60, a car billed as a rear-drive rival to the BMW 4 Series, it makes for a 'sports' driving experience somewhere between 'unnerving' and 'terrifying'.

Granted, lots of owners won't ever push beyond seven- or eight-tenths in their Q60, but those who do are in for a few surprises. We took the car on a tight, twisty, bumpy loop around Healesville in Victoria alongside a Lexus LC500 and it fell to pieces.

There's no sense of what the front wheels are doing in any drive mode, and the variable-weight steering is so inconsistent in its response, you're never sure exactly what's to come. Coupled with the boosted-six's propensity for lighting up the back tyres, it makes for a sketchy nine- or 10-tenths driving experience.

So it isn't a high-tech showcase, and it isn't an outright sports car. That leaves one more niche into which the Infiniti could slot: grand tourer. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite nail that one either.

There's quite a lot of road noise from the 245/40 tyres on the highway, especially if you venture onto the coarse-chip surface so prevalent in (semi-) rural Australia. The interior is also quite cramped for tall drivers, thanks in part to the head room-chewing sunroof.

Folding rear seats and a 341-litre boot mean it's relatively practical – a previous drive of the Q60 in America saw it swallow two suitcases and two ski-bags, along with two large passengers – but the 4 Series (445L), C-Class Coupe (400L) and A5 (465L) all hold more kit.

Which leaves the Q60 looking a little bit lost. It doesn't match the BMW 4 Series for outright sporting prowess, it lags behind the A5 for refinement, and the C-Class Coupe has a nicer interior.

And yet, there's something about it that really clicked with me. Although it doesn't have the same focused, honed strengths as its rivals, driving around in the Q60 is actually kind of refreshing. It's really, really pretty, and if you're shallow like me, that's worth its weight in gold.

It's also really fast in a straight line, and that never gets old. If you're able to break free from comparisons and enjoy the car in its own light, you're left with a good looking, fast, semi-practical two-plus-two unlike anything else in the office/golf/bowls/polo-club car park.

That's not going to please everyone, but it'll make a few people – 58 last year, to be exact – very happy.

Oh, and if you're a Melbourne supporter, Infiniti is now a major sponsor. For tragic fans like me, that could be enough to swing you.

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