by Gabe Beita Kiser
Clear your mind of the sharp broken glass, sandpaper surfaces, and loud noises. Meditate on thoughts of milk and honey, soft leather, and the warm scent of espresso. Put on some calm music, In The Waiting Line by Zero 7 should do. Spend a few minutes in that space and slow your heart rate. Relaxed? Good. You're now allowed to experience the Infiniti Q70L. It’s not like an orientation is needed, but as a first timer behind the wheel of a flagship Japanese luxury cruiser, expectations were non-existent.
It’s tough to have expectations when stepping into car that’s a Mercedes E-Class competitor in theory but sized like an S-Class. The Q70L defies logic in that sense, but it wasn't always a car with confusing proportions. With eyes on the Chinese market, Infiniti stretched the standard Q70’s wheelbase by 5.9-inches so that a 120.1-inch gulf lies between the front and rear wheels. Overall length is up 7.3-inches and rear seat occupants see 5.6-inches of that in the form of extra legroom. The cavernous interior makes for a sublime experience at the rear end, but it improves the experience in the driver’s seat even more by stabilizing the ride. Like an S-Class, the first thing a driver realizes about the Q70L is how smooth it is.
It lacks Cadillac CT6 agility, partially because it doesn’t have rear-axle steering like the Caddy and also in part because GM’s luxury wing seems to have an affinity with sporting chassis lately, but there’s never an instance where the Infiniti feels like anything less than a well-composed cruise ship so long as the steering wheel is straight. A large part of its stability and smoothness has to do with the added wheelbase, but toss it into a corner too quickly and it's easy to see that it has as much body as a cruise ship too. To drive hurriedly, however, is to miss the point entirely. At the end of the day, the Q70L wants to be driven as if its driver is a chauffeur for an 80 year-old client.
It’s supple and stable, with plenty of acoustic insulation keeping outside annoyances away from the occupant’s ears. That’s why it’s a complete surprise when, while sitting at a stoplight that seems to have forgotten what the color green is, heads are shoved into the headrests when an itchy throttle foot comes down hard after the stoplight wakes up. At once, the 7-speed automatic pours 416 horsepower and 414 lb-ft of torque into the rear differential, sending the heavyweight luxury cruiser towards the horizon while insulated glass keeps the ominous sounds of Beethoven’s 5th from being chopped apart by wind or engine noise. Better look under the hood and find out what’s wrong with this thing.
The expansive hood doesn’t exactly give it away, it’s the “5.6” badges on the fenders that do the trick, but open the lid and it becomes clear that Infiniti didn't spare any expense or a single cubic inch of engine of engine bay. A 5.6-liter naturally aspirated V8, the same one used on the Nissan Armada, gasoline-fed Titan, and Infiniti QX80, resides in the engine bay in place of the 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V6. It's also programed to work with the transmission brilliantly, the two always seeming to be in the right gear, and unless a lead foot driver is at the helm, shifts take place with only the slightest hint of transition. The transmission along with the throttle response can be altered using a four mode drive selector.
Flipping the dial through Snow, Eco, Normal, and Sport modes predictably changes transmission and engine maps, though our test model had no adaptive suspension unit, a commonality in this segment. In general, the hardware is fine by most standards, but what does feel in need of a forward push is the interior and its overall level of refinement. Though it’s elegant, it feels aged when compared to the competition and Nissan parts bin buttons cheapen the experience, even if the effect is slight. The Nissan/Infiniti infotainment system is far from the worst, but the low resolution on the 360-degree surround view cameras adds to the overall impression that a buyer isn’t getting the best of what’s available in modern day cars when buying a Q70L.
Our example came devoid of annoying driver aids, a welcome reprieve from beeps, vibrations, and flashing lights usually putrefy the experience. More insecure drivers can add these back by checking off the $7,200 Deluxe Technology Package box. Infiniti did bestow the Premium Select Edition package onto our test model, which adds darkened exterior trim features, aluminum colored interior panels, sport brakes, a suede-like headliner, illuminated kick plates, and 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels that add presence to a car already chalked full of it. The exterior styling is flashy in the same way the Nissan 370Z's is, aged but still retains the appearance that it's something special and in need of attention.
Aesthetics like these aren't for everyone, but your fair driver did get a few questioning looks from pedestrians wondering why there wasn't an AARP sticker on the bumper. That's in part because only AARP members who like to venture outside of the cookie cutter E-Class spend this kind of money on a comfortable isolation chamber that doesn't have the looks of a Maserati Ghibli or prestige of a BMW or Mercedes. With the V8, rear-wheel drive system, $3,300 Premium Select Edition package, and a $905 destination and handling charge, our test car comes out to $69,055. That's only $5 more than the Genesis G90 we tested last year and unfortunately for Infiniti, choosing between the two is hard.
The Genesis has far more toys than the Q70L and as the ambassador for a new brand, tries its best to wow the crowd. The dash and interior feels more special in the G90 and the infotainment system follows that suit. The only thing the Q70L has going for it are better exterior looks, a more prestigious badge, and a spritely V8 (although that's also available in the G90) that somehow managed its EPA advertised 16 mpg city during our week and made a mad dash to the airport where we were returning the Q70L a sight and experience to behold. Kind of like the Q70L itself.