First Drive: 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 – it may not be Godzilla, but we’ll take it
The 2017 Infiniti Q60 Coupe will enter showrooms soon and in its top-most package, this little luxury coupe offers 400 horsepower of turbocharged goodness to go with its sleek new look and short ergonomics. It's not perfect, but it'll do.
When Infiniti teased the idea of an Eau Rouge sport-centric car a couple of years ago, it was rumored to have underpinnings from Godzilla itself – the Nissan GT-R. Understandably, we got excited. After all, the only conceivable improvement to be made to the GT-R would be to add a luxury model. When that didn't pan out, many in the automotive industry believed that Nissan's premium brand was going soft and dropping the idea of luxury sports in favor of more profitable luxury crossovers. When the Q50 sedan emerged with a four-cylinder engine, that seemed clinched. Now we know better.
Infiniti is introducing a new Q60, a coupe version of the Q50 sedan, and it's got a serious top-shelf contender in its Red Sport 400 packaging. The 2017 Q60 will have three engine options, a turbocharged four-cylinder, a turbocharged V6, and a twin-turbocharged V6; each putting out progressively more horsepower to the rear wheels of this beautiful coupe.
For a first drive, Infiniti invited us out to San Diego to get our hands on the new Q60. We first laid eyes on it on its debut in Detroit at the January auto show and we were aghast at the opportunity to feel 400 horses in a car with this muscular, elegant design.
For the drive, Infiniti provided us with both the rear-wheel drive version of the Red Sport 400 and the surprisingly good all-wheel drive version of the car.
By far the most compelling aspect of the new Infiniti Q60 is its Red Sport 400 package with the twin-turbocharged V6. That engine is the next evolution in the VQ family that powered the car before, becoming the VR30 – a 3.0-liter six. In its natural form, the engine outputs 300 horsepower (224 kW) for the standard versions of the Q60 coupe.
Boosting the 300 to 400 required some engineering. Infiniti designers upgraded the direct injection gasoline (DIG) fuel delivery with better timing controls. This improves fuel burn and power output. The optimized turbine blades for the turbochargers use optical turbine speed sensors to allow those turbos to perform at 220,000 rpm under steady load and up to 240,000 rpm in hard acceleration. A water-cooled charge cooler system keeps this in check, with two circulation pumps fitted to the higher output engine.
Adding those improvements, the 300 hp V6 engine is boosted to 400 horsepower (298 kW). With those 400 horses come 350 pound-feet (475 Nm) of torque, which arrives at only 1,500 rpm and continues through to 5,200 rpm. That's an amazingly broad band for power output, though peak HP doesn't come until 6,400 rpm – almost right on the engine's redline.
On the road, this translates to excellent acceleration thanks to all that torque at early delivery. The AWD model is reputedly capable of 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) sprints in just five seconds. We didn't have many chances to test that on public roads, but given the kind of acceleration we felt, it's perfectly plausible. A very well-tuned seven-speed automatic transmission helps with this impression.
Also unique to the 2017 Q60 is a new chassis, which centers around Infiniti's new Dynamic Digital Suspension and second-generation Direct Adaptive Steering; both of which are optional and both of which were fitted to our test drive vehicles. As standard, Q60 models will be equipped with more common hydraulic or electric-assist power steering on their rack-and-pinion systems. The DDS and DAS systems, though optional, are very advanced and unique to the new coupe.
Dynamic Digital Suspension works by sensing the road through a combination of physical inputs and a forward-looking camera. Electronically-controlled suspension dampers react to those inputs to absorb road bumps, smooth body roll in corners, and otherwise even out the ride. These can be adjusted by the driver through the Q60's selectable driving modes to either firm or soften the ride further. These same inputs also give feedback to the transmission, changing shift patterns to match the style of driving being undertaken to speed or delay gear shifts for better road hugging.
Along with DDS is the Direct Adaptive Steering option. This is a fly-by-wire steering system introduced in the Q50 sedan when it was redesigned a couple of years ago. Although a physical backup exists, using a standard steering column to the electronic-assist rack, this physical connection is clutched to become "freewheeling" under normal conditions and only engages when there is fault with the fly-by-wire DAS. This steer-by-wire system allows not only immediate control over the steering without physical delays, but also allows the vehicle to dynamically change how the steering feels and what sorts of inputs are given to the driver.
We noted that this second-generation direct steering system became far less limp in our hands when compared to the previous version experienced in the Q50. It's far more natural with good inputs from the wheels and road. That input is noticeably different when various driving modes are engaged in the Q60. Very little feel is had when in Comfort mode, for example, and a lot of vibratory and road feedback is felt when in Sport+ with the other modes falling in between.
Turning to the drivetrain, the rear-wheel drive version of the 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 we drove was very spirited and fun to operate – as only a rear-wheel sport coupe can be, especially with that much power under its hood. In all-wheel drive, we found a more controlled and dynamic experience which is very well suited to those who prefer road handling to pure muscle. Either style can be accommodated, we found, depending on drivetrain choice. As an added bonus, the AWD system normally diverts nearly all power to the rear wheels under normal driving conditions, but kicks in to help in cornering, acceleration, and in inclement weather.
With the Infiniti Q60 being a luxury coupe, of course, the interior is also an important factor and is where we found the most to complain about with this beautiful new car. The overall interior experience is excellent, with high-quality materials choices found throughout and great color schemes on offer – including an off-white soother and a red-accented exciter. Seating is comfortable and well bolstered for both everyday and spirited driving. Driver controls are well-placed and very adjustable. We're also fans of the new, large Infiniti driver's display at the center of the instrument cluster, giving plentiful, configurable information in an easy-to-read format.
The new dual-screen infotainment system is also a great option in the new Infiniti line, but still needs some work in regards to how it's controlled and with screen options between the two. Placement also means that glare is inevitable and fingerprint smudges become a nuisance.
We also noticed the lack of a place to put one's phone during driving, with the only feasible storage spot being in the center storage bin between the seats. There are two USB ports and two 12-volt plugs in the Q60, though, making plug-in spots easily accessible in a car that seats two with two seats to spare for the dog or small children. We were also impressed with the 13-speaker Bose sound system, which is particularly well-tuned for this small coupe's interior. Although we didn't use them much on this short test experience, the driver's aids such as adaptive cruise control and the 360-degree backup camera are also worth noting here.
The new 2017 Q60 is produced in Nissan's facility in Tochigi, Japan. The car enters select markets, including the US, in the third quarter of 2016. Prices begin at about US$51,000.