We say: Infiniti’s new coupe has its merits – just don’t go thinking it’s sporty
Take a good slow look at the Q60 on these pages. It’s going to be a while before you see another. Infiniti’s global sales are small, and in Europe tiny. Despite years of optimistic projections from Infiniti bosses, they’re still struggling at about a tenth of the numbers that BMW, Audi or Mercedes each shift. And it’s not like their cars have been hopeless. Sure, they’re a bit patchy dynamically, but that’s an accusation you could equally level at certain of their rivals’ perfectly successful vehicles. Infiniti also got into crossovers good and early, which should have brought rewards, and these days it has a good range of cars running Mercedes diesel power. But no, the cars continue to languish, and few dealers want to sign up to sell the nameplate.
And in the case of the Q60, it’s patently obvious why it’s going to be as common as a unicorn with a mouthful of hens’ teeth. It comes, in this country at least, only as a 400bhp petrol AWD or a turbo petrol RWD. BMW sells very few 440i xDrives. Audi not a lot of S5 quattros. It’s all 2WD 420ds and
A5 2.0 TDIs, isn’t it? And if BMW and Audi can’t shift many of their petrol coupes, what chance for an almost unknown brand with a tiny dealer network? Infiniti simply can’t justify a diesel in the minority-interest coupe, because diesel is a Europe-only thing and Infiniti sells mostly in the US. Besides their people say the diesel will be all-but doomed come the next round of exhaust-emission changes, and hybrid is the way of the future.
Still, it’s an interesting car that I’m curious to drive. Although it’s based on the (not terribly dynamic) Q50 saloon, it has extensive changes to the suspension and the unique-to-Infiniti drive-by-wire steering. It also has a brand-new engine. Plus you can’t argue it doesn’t look pretty intriguing. Especially in the eye-popping red colour. Infiniti installed a new paint booth at its factory to do just this one colour. It has several clear coats on top and really does look like it’s still wet. Let’s hope the driving is more interesting than watching paint dry.
The engine is very, very loosely based on the successful 3.7-litre VQ V6 that powers many other Infinitis, and Nissans in the US and the 370Z. But this new VR drops to three litres and gets twin turbos. No, it’s not related to the GT-R V6. Each turbo snuggles up close to the cylinder head, and the charge cooler has an unusually short water path. Direct injection and electronic control of the cam phasers completes the spec. It reads like a low-lag engine.
It isn’t, not quite. The throttle feels tardy even as you’re above 4,000rpm. But the engine does rev well and sounds fairly fruity (if not as brassy as the old VQ). It’s the industry-standard story of the arrival of turbos: more power and torque, less of the emotional fizz.
There are seven speeds in the autobox, and unusually gears two and three are pretty short. Accustomed as I am to the leggy ratios farced on us by the Germans, I kept paddling down to second when it wasn’t at all necessary an open Californian roads. I suspect for cramped Britain, this ratio set will be very handy. Pity the ‘box occasionally came over hesitant and slurry under full-torque shifts.