Here’s an epic high horsepower long distance cruiser that won’t sink your bank account.
When Infiniti shipped a 300 horsepower Q60 3.0t to our office a short while back, we handed back its keys after the end of the pleasant week with a healthy smile and high hopes for the company’s future. This, after all, was a new page in its history books, signifying that Infiniti had taken the next step towards coming out from behind Lexus’ shadow and eventually reaching its target of becoming a threat to ze Germans. Like Lexus did with the RC, Infiniti built a grand tourer rather than a sports coupe.
However, there’s a more hardcore variant in the Q60 family that we just had to get our hands on before writing the car off as just another Japanese grand tourer that’s better-looking than the RC and rougher around the edges. We petitioned Infiniti, not just for the Red Sport 400, which features extra badges, an eye-searing red paint job, and an extra 100 horsepower milked out of the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, but for the chance to take it from San Francisco to Los Angeles. As great as the rolling hills of California’s northern costal city are for testing Hill Start Assist, they offer little room for all 400 horsepower to stretch its legs and seven square miles of city don’t make for much of a grand touring adventure.
Contrary to the typically scenic winding roads of Highway 1, I touched down to a stormy SFO runway, meaning I’d have to be skillful and prudent to keep the Infiniti on the road. That’s because, even with a staggered stance and all-season tires, the Q60 is not fitted with rubber representative of its power output. This became immediately apparent when curiosity hit me during a 60 mph cruise on a soaked and secluded six-lane highway, forcing my right foot to the firewall. The gearbox dispensed downshifts, the engine paused while the turbos gathered some breath, and then a wallop of torque, all 350 lb-ft of it, went straight to the tires and disheveled the rear end, requiring counter steer and a new level of respect to properly digest the car.
In the dry it was easy to replicate the experience when using anything more than a half throttle application, especially during launches from standstill. This turned out to be a demerit for the Q60’s sporting prowess because with no launch mode and a properly overprotective traction control system, wheel spin turns into lost time. California’s Interstate 5 is no race track, so to interrogate the Q60 in the corners, I paid homage to our favorite winding road where we test the squabbles of any “sporting” vehicle. Despite the mismatched tires, the Infiniti gobbled up the road more easily than a grand tourer should, although a short wheelbase helped keep me from getting too close to the car's edge.
After wrestling all 3,800 pounds of curb weight around the corners while trying to preserve the life of the Q60 and yours truly, it was time to pay Southern California a visit. Following a long day of work and a rushed meal, I hit the road, marveling at the silver carbon fiber interior trim and the presumptuousness of the Infiniti engineers who decided that two screens stacked on top of each other was the simplest way to formulate an infotainment system. Ironically enough, the six mode drive selector was less confusing, facilitating vehicle settings for driving in Snow, Eco, Standard, Sport, Sport Plus, or Personal modes.
Just as it sounds, Personal mode allows the driver to tailor the engine, throttle, suspension, and steering to just the right level, enabling a total of 336 combinations. On the highway, Standard and Sport are the only two cards you need out of the deck, with a softened suspension, radar cruise control, and lane keep assist doing much of the work when fatigue sets in. We’re advocates for a good night’s sleep before a long drive, but adrenaline and caffeine are always good substitutes. When the former of the two supplements is needed, simply extend the Q60’s abilities by opting for Sport mode, which prompts a downshift, cues a sharper throttle, and most noticeably, stiffens the ride to double the level of confidence at speeds above 50 mph.
Aside from these brief jolts of addictive adrenaline, the rest of the ride was, well, uneventful. Not that it wasn’t sublime. The Q60 rides as smoothly as any other luxury car and despite a slight waft of Nissan parts bin, the interior is an inviting place to be in. What truly ties the experience together is the Q60’s incredible value. A mere $38,950 buys your way into the club while 400 horsepower can be had for $51,300. Those in snowy climates can opt for AWD versions of any Q60 trim, with the Red Sport 400 AWD starting at $54,205. My tester had $8,150 worth of options including the $1,850 Technology Package and $2,250 Driver Assistance package, which split driving aids like Lane Keep Assist, Intelligent Cruise Control, an Eco Pedal, and the Around View Monitor.
Unlike the Mustang GT I took to LA previously, the Infiniti Q60 lacks the Moses complex that forces cars in front to switch lanes after a glance in the rear view mirror. Part of that may have to do with the exhaust note that’s been subdued by both turbochargers, but Infiniti’s new and evolved aggressive design language still shows in the night, prompting one outclassed Chevy Malibu to try and coax me into a race. That demand was quickly rescinded after a I pinned the throttle and propelled the red Infiniti a great many car lengths ahead. Other cars simply camp in the passing lane, only realizing the flood of horsepower they were holding back when a red coupe slipped by to their right with a whoosh.
Another $2,250 buys the Premium Plus package, which adds navigation, heated front seats and steering wheel, and Infiniti’s InTouch services. The feature that gets reprimanded the most is the $1,000 Direct Adaptive Steering system, which is precise but sucks the life out of the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Infiniti’s technology and overall sense of luxury is just shy of or on par with Lexus, which is to say it’s just a half step below the Germans. With that level of power, comfort, and convenience, any buyer that strays to the competition will be paying a steep premium, over my Q60's $60,000 price tag. And for what? As a grand tourer, the Q60 checks off all the boxes and then some.
In the looks department, it’s safe to say that the the G37 replacement’s looks are a sight to behold. In person, the squinted lights and massive grille are equal parts bold and beautiful, although the rear end’s femininity stifle a bit of the aggression the front end has going on. According to Infiniti, the car's body is a "Zero-lift aerodynamic design," and our confidence with it well into triple digit speeds gave us assurance that the Q60 indeed exhibits minimal amounts of front end weightlessness. As a grand tourer, however, looks are more important. The best proving grounds for the designer's efforts was sunny LA, the harshest place to conduct any subjective test of aesthetic value.
While the Q60 can’t match the looks and credibility of the Ferraris and Porsche 911 Rs we saw out and about, its newness and brash design stole plenty of eyes, especially on the tourist-laden Santa Monica Pier. It's unclear how its celebrity will last as the Q60 starts to sell as well as the G37 it replaced, but with looks like these at the price point it sits at, we're sure Infiniti could let the body style languish a bit, as it does with all its other models, without it going stale. What's most exciting about the Q60 Red Sport is its potential. Locked inside its FR-L platform, soon to be seen on the next Nissan 370Z, is solid sporting prowess, the likes of which can be drawn out with some suspension tweaks, lost weight, and stickier rubber.
The engine, codenamed the VR30DDTT, is a direct cousin of the twin-turbo 3.8-liter V6 from the Nissan GT-R, meaning it's not entirely unlikely to believe that more power can be squeezed out while maintaining reliability. When we spoke to Infiniti at the 2016 LA Auto Show, we heard that Red Sport is the brand's attempt to steal customers who would usually drop a dime on BMW's M Sport models or Mercedes' AMG 43 line. However, Infiniti mentioned that if the line took off, we could expect to see true performance cars aimed directly and M and AMG. That day seems to be a long way off, but the taste our elongated adventure with the Q60 left in our mouths has us salivating for that future.