There’s a problem that most automotive journalists experience when constructing reviews: few new cars are truly bad anymore. In fact, most are somewhere between “good” and “pretty good,” but that means they have the unintended effect of blurring together until they’re hard to tell apart. Thankfully, Infiniti took their otherwise regular new 2017 Infiniti Q60 coupe and put some much-needed stank on it, to the tune of 400 horsepower. And it is way more than just pretty good.
(Full Disclosure: Infiniti needed me to drive the Q60S Red Sport 400 so badly that they flew me to San Diego, where I stayed at a five star resort for two days and got to blast a few of their press cars through curvy SoCal hillsides.)
For the last few decades, Infiniti has been the leather-lined glove adorning parent company Nissan’s right hand, doing its best to create a luxury brand around platforms that have an affinity for attracting soccer moms and forum trolls. It has not always succeeded. The company’s first real foray into the sporty coupe (and sedan) market was the unforgettable G35, based on Nissan’s capable 350Z platform.
This would be the first time Infiniti utilized Nissan’s VQ engine in a rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configuration, making for a car that, with some bolt-on mods, could be the luxury sleeper that was a reliable alternative to anything coming from Bavaria at the time.
The model evolved over time into the more tech-heavy and stylized G37, sporting Nissan’s larger, naturally aspirated 3.7 liter VQ engine, producing right about 330 horsepower, with the company’s sights aimed squarely at BMW’s twin-turbo 335i.
While the Bimmer’s turbocharged platform did have a touch more tuning potential and midrange torque delivery, the G37 made up for it in sharp throttle response and looks that rivaled most six figure cars.
The G37, through facelifts and brand restructuring over the years, became three cars—the old but renamed Q40, the Q50 sedan, and now the Q60 coupe, which is such confusing nomenclature that I have neither the time, the will, nor patience to explain to you.
The important bit is that from those humble beginnings sprouted a new top-of-the-range model called the Q60S Red Sport 400, again poised to take on German adversaries, except now there’s a new powerplant, and by the looks of things, it’ll knock the crap out of any competition unlucky enough to trespass into its $50,000-$60,000 price bracket.
Infiniti’s new engine, called the VR30DDTT, is direct-injected, twin turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, producing 400 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. Consider it a cousin to the GT-R’s engine, because it is.
For those paying attention, that’s 100 more ponies and 31 more torques than you get with a 335i and it’s within shouting distance of the top-of-the-line M4.
The way the VR establishes this lofty baseline is by making the entire process of internal combustion more efficient, from the initial suck to the satisfying blow.
For starters, the engine uses two water-filled intercoolers with electric pumps rather than traditional air-to-air systems, as it allows the intercoolers to be placed on top of the engine, rather than in the front air ducts. This reduces the intake path by around 60 percent and sharpens throttle response and reduces spool-up time for the tiny but potent twin Honeywell turbos.
The engine also ditches the traditional external exhaust manifold design used in most other cars for an integrated design that merges the exhaust streams inside the cylinder head, reducing temperatures in the engine bay and, again, decreasing spool time for the turbos, although this may make it more difficult for aftermarket tuners to tinker with the car, as the turbo flanges are proprietary to the engine. You likely won’t just be able to slap on a bigger turbo, as you would on, say, an old Volvo.
The jury’s out on whether this setup will create hot spots in the head gasket and will be prone to failure in the long run, but the engineers have assured me, without a hint of irony, that the engine is absolutely guaranteed at least until the warranty runs out.
Having said that, the thing that makes or breaks an engine with forced induction is the method in which air is forced in the cylinder. In this engine, it’s accomplished via two tiny turbos, running at a max pressure of 1 bar, or 14.7 psi, if you don’t speak science. They sport sensors that monitor the actual speed of the steel blades and adjust timing curves accordingly, to give maximum boost at a certain rpm and driving condition.
While your run-of-the-mill turbo setup can make do with around 150,000 revolutions per minute, these turbos, with the added tech and monitoring of the installed sensors, can reach a jet-embarrassing 220,000 rpm. This, simply put, translates into your back being mashed into the leather-trimmed driver’s seat when you see an empty road in front of you and make the well-informed decision to weld your foot to the floor.
The way this car accelerates is unlike anything with the Infiniti brand on it, which makes sense, because the Infiniti factory has never made a faster car for the mass market. When prodded, it exudes the slightest, split-second, sensation of turbo lag at lower rpms, but then immediately takes off like it’s late to its daughter’s piano recital.
The 0-60 dash is dealt with in about four and a half seconds and the top speed is who cares, because you’re driving an Infiniti, not a Koenigsegg.
The seven speed automatic transmission operates on just the right side of smooth when at full throttle, giving a more firm shift on the 3-4 upshift than I’d like, perhaps due to its dramatic change in gear ratio, the fact that it locks up the torque converter, or maybe just the fact that Infiniti has some kinks to work out in its transmission tuning.
The paddle shifters attached to the wheel prompt the auto to do its best impression of a double-clutch gearbox, the gears only getting the message to engage a hair later than what you’d consider acceptable on an AMG Mercedes or BMW with their respective MCT or DCT transmissions. This shift time gets significantly less acceptable when at part throttle and off-boost, as the engine struggles to find an optimal rpm, boost level, and torque converter pressure to make the oncoming shift smooth enough to leave your toupee, and your dignity intact.
Utilizing the paddles when in traffic and in manual mode made for shifts ranging between one and three seconds, which may not sound like much, but if you were playing a video game with a one to three second lag, you’d have legitimate reason to bitch about your garbage K/D ratio.
For flappy-paddle newbies, it’ll be as snappy as you ever need it to be. For those that have experienced 200 millisecond shifts on a different platform, this will miss the mark by a Texas mile, so it might make sense to refrain from using the paddles unless you’re planning on ripping up some canyon roads at full tilt, something the Q60S does with a holy shit amount of proficiency.
Placing this car into Sport+, the most interesting of its five driving modes, does a few things: It sharpens up Infiniti’s second-generation steer-by-wire system that has infinitely adjustable ratios, it adjusts the dynamic digital electric suspension to be more firm and level during turns, and it unlocks the engine’s full potential, as if you just entered a God mode cheat in a Game Genie.
The one gripe I do have with this system, however, is that the engine is too quiet for the power and thrill it squeezes out of every bend. A sports exhaust option, a la AMG with an RPM-activated flapper valve would’ve been money on this car, and I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to the initial designers to include it. Thankfully, the lack of noise doesn’t take away from the car’s immense road-holding ability.
The rear wheel drive, relatively long wheelbase Q60S shifts around turns without the weight shift that you’d associate with a more than 3,700 pound automobile, the same goes for the slightly heavier all wheel drive variant, although the turning radius is increased by about a foot with the latter.
It’s not Dodge Charger heavy and while it doesn’t handle like a featherweight Miata, you’d be hard pressed to find a more capable car in this price to bomb through the canyons with this kind of heft behind it.
That’s due in large part to the car’s Active Trace Control, which adjusts brakes and suspension settings on the fly to enhance the feel of cornering, giving the driver more confidence at taking that 35 mph off-ramp at a speed requiring a bit more intestinal fortitude.
The dynamic steering system in the firmest setting, however, may need a slight bit of adjustment, as it can be twitchy on-center and suffer from fair bit of numbness when going over uneven pavement and off-camber turns, sort of the worst of both worlds, and when you have a car this heavy and powerful, it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in certain scenarios. Personally, I’d leave the system in its normal mode, or simply leave that option un-ticked at sale time.
The brakes remain phenomenal as they’ve always been on the top-range Infiniti models, adopting Brembo 4 piston front and 2 piston rear calipers, with mammoth 14" rotors in the front and 13.8" in the rear.
Even after repeated downhill runs in my test drive, the brakes never protested or faded, although the stock pads would likely need an upgrade if you were to push the power any farther than stock, or if track time is a priority.
Aesthetically, I wager it’s one of the best looking cars to come out of Japan in quite some time. It has a MKIV Supra-like quality to its rear raised haunches and has body lines that looks like they were all part of one complete thought, rather than the jumbled mess that Lexus currently uses in its RC, which has a front end that looks like it lost a particularly nasty bar fight.
The Q60S headlights are styled to look like the human eye, but come off looking like an anime caricature rather than something organic. No bad thing in the least, as it adds to the aggressive nature of the particularly menacing-looking front end.
The design does follow suit to the interior, which is made to resemble a driver’s fitted racing glove, however a few things let it down in this department.
The silver carbon fiber trim that wraps around the center console looks a bit like a cheap eBay vinyl overlay and I’d bet that it’s a little sparkly and gaudy for the type of buyer Infiniti is trying to court. It’s less track thoroughbred and more “Please welcome Sinderella to the stage.”
Also, while the leather sport seats were quite supple and forgiving on the nearly five hour drive around southern California, our test cars weren’t equipped with ventilated seats, which does seem like an oversight and a first world problem, but it’s a definite necessity if you’re in San Diego and asking mostly middle-aged automotive journalists with chronic cases of swamp ass to white-knuckle canyon roads for hours on end. I’m actually not even sure it’s an option, now that I mention it.
It should be taken for granted that any launch-model platform will have teething issues, and it’s actually quite a refreshing feeling to have a car that gets so much right out of the gate. As a huge proponent of the Nissan’s V6, I’m excited to see what Infiniti does with this model as far as ultimate capability and competition.
The Q60 starts at $51,300; the blue Red Sport 400 you see here that I tested was priced at $59,555.
Barring a few minor gripes, it’s an extremely solid car for its market and I can’t wait to own one after it’s done 100,000 miles. Then it’ll truly be a sight to behold and one of the best performance deals ever.