Infiniti’s intension for its new Q6OS are perfectly clear. This is a two-door, four-seat, all-wheel-drive coupe powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 in a body packed with more tech than any of its rivals.
And those rivals, if you haven’t guessed, are from the obvious German brands. But it’s going to take more than a comprehensive spec sheet to drag the masses from their 4-Series, C-Classes and A5s, so this latest attempt by Nissan’s luxury arm needs to be very good.
The Q60S’s silhouette is long and elegant, but thanks to a low ride height and slightly nose-down stance, there’s more than a hint of aggression, too. The shape isn’t that distinctive — the profile could be mistaken for almost any of its competitors —but the details are expressive. The elaborate C-pillar, wide grill and small hump above the front badge work really well together and inject some individuality into the Q60S’s overall appearance.
“The Q60S outguns rivals on paper, developing 38kW more than Audi’s new S5”
There’s this 298kW Q60S model along with an entry-level 2.0-litre four-cylinder Q60 (155kW, 350Nm). There will also be a 224kW model with a detuned version of the V6.
The Q60S outguns rivals on paper, the engine developing 28kW more than the Mercedes-AMG C43, 38kW more than Audi’s recently released S5 and 59kW more than BMW’s new 440i. There’s also 475Nm on offer.
Like the C43 and S5, the Q60S is only available with all-wheel drive, the Infiniti’s system using a viscous-coupling centre differential to distribute torque between the two axles. By default 100 per cent is sent to the rear, but upon detecting a loss of traction up to half can be redirected to the front. Like the Mercedes and Audi, the Q6OS is also only available with a torque-converter automatic gearbox, here with seven speeds.
The Q6OS has fully adaptive suspension that promises to change the character of the dampers based on the quality of the road and the driver’s style. There are also six drive modes to choose from: Snow, Eco, Standard, Sport, Sport+ and Customise. The 19-inchwheels are 9 inches wide at the front wearing 245-section tyres, and half-an-inch wider at the rear with 265-section rubber. Behind the wheels sit ventilated brakes discs with four-pot calipers up front and two-pot calipers at the rear.
The most remarkable piece of technology hidden within the Infiniti is its Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS). This is Infiniti’s steer-by-wire system, so there’s no direct mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the frontwheels. For safety reasons there is a physical connection as a backup, but it’s not used during normal driving.
With no mechanical connection, this steering system is widely configurable. As the feedback to the driver is all created by servos acting on the steering wheel, the level of ‘feel’ can be altered, along with the steering ratio, depending on the cars speed and the selected drive mode. The Customise mode even includes three settings each for steering effort and response.
Inside, the Q60 is a little fussy and looks slightly dated, especially compared with the ultra-sleek, modern interior of the Audi S5. And despite two touchscreen displays, there are still an awful lot of buttons. One screen is for the satnav, while the other is home to the infotainment system, vehicle submenus and, confusingly, more navigation controls. There’s also another dial that allows you to control the map. Thankfully there’s a real quality to anything you touch.
The seats, meanwhile, are softly padded as well as having relatively deep side bolsters, and the perfect driving position is easy to find. Initially it feels as if you’re sitting too high, but this is because the tops of the doors and windscreen are much lower than expected. Once on the move, you feel nicely nestled within the car while also having great forward visibility.
First impressions are not of the V6’s298kW but rather the cabin acoustics. Wind noise barely infiltrates and only the roughest concrete road surfaces generate intrusive tyre noise. And that engine is incredibly polite, too — practically silent when you’re cruising and not creating obscene pops and crackles for the sake it. Instead it sings to its 700Orpm limiter in a pleasant if slightly anodyne way. The gearbox isn’t the quickest, whether left in auto or when you use the paddles, and downshifts are noticeably lazy.
So, while the engine revs smoothly and without hesitation, the slow gearchanges stall progress. Despite its power and torque outputs, however, the Q6OS never feels that quick. Acceleration swells rather than fires you forward, and the Q6OS never feels like the 5.Osec 0-100km/h car it claims to be.
Sadly the car doesn’t ride with the sophistication that its hardware leads you to expect, either. That’s not to say it rides badly, it just isn’t as refined as the rest of the car. There’s also very little difference between the chassis’ Standard and sportier modes, with the body constantly fidgeting across the slightest imperfection.
This firm chassis does mean the Q6OS is well equipped to deal with directional changes at higher speeds, though. There’s no unwanted body roll and it remains stable under heavy braking, which, because of a very sensitive brake pedal, happens all too often. It darts into turns quickly and with great accuracy, the steering allowing you to place the Q6OS surprisingly intuitively. There’s very little sensation of what the front tyres are dealing with, turn-in requiring a leap of faith as you hope the grip will be there, but the Q6OS does loyally follow your inputs and allow you to build confidence.
Active Trace Control, a brake-assisted torque-vectoring system, is designed to keep you on-line. It’s effective, but there’s not a lot of joy or satisfaction to be had when you really push. With Sport or Sport+ mode engaged there is a palpable sense of the Infiniti sending power to the rear as it pushes you out of a corner, but it never feels as engaging as a bona fide rear-drive car.
Start to explore the limits with the traction control and torque vectoring switched off and the experience becomes distinctly different. A spell of unseasonable rain makes the roads of our California test route treacherously slippery, but it helps paint a clearer picture of the Q60S’s dynamics.
Grip is still impressive in the wet and the cars sharp turn-in remains. But once on the power the front end begins to go AWOL: the front tyres — now receiving torque — are immediately overwhelmed and there’s no sense of the all-wheel drive actively distributing power back to the rear. Alarmingly, none of this is hinted to the driver until it’s obvious the car’s nose is plotting a course straight ahead. The steering’s remoteness may not be a huge issue when the traction control, torque-vectoring and four-wheel-drive systems work with you to guide the Q60S neatly around a corner, but it’s practically impossible to manipulate the car with no way of gauging the front tyres’ limits and without the help of some driver aids.
Though we criticise electronically assisted power-steering systems for being lifeless, it isn’t until you remove the physical connection altogether that you realise just how essential a direct link is, no matter how minimal the feel it allows through. A wet surface may exaggerate the problem — more grip and more force injects some life into the steering but it does highlight the Q60S’s dependence on electronics.
The Q60S exudes quality but retains a distinctly Japanese character. As a technical feat, it is mightily impressive, too; the steering doesn’t provide enough feel but when working with the traction control, torque vectoring, all-wheel drive and the adaptive dampers, the car is able to achieve things beyond what a human could alone.
Disappointing as the Q60S is to drive quickly with the electronic assistance turned off, this pales into insignificance next to the frustration of knowing that it is significantly more capable, safer, quicker and simply better with electronic assistance. The German alternatives aren’t that much more engaging, but they do go about creating pace and composure without such an obvious reliance on electronic aids. And as a result, they are marginally more satisfying to drive.
Engine: 2997cc V6, dohc, 24v, twin–turbo
Power: 298kW @ 640Orpm
Torque: 475Nm @ 1600 -520Orpm
Weight: 1799kg (166kW/tonne)
0-100 km/h: 5.0sec (claimed)
Top speed: 250 km/h limited