2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400: Frustratingly Short of Perfection
In the months leading up to its debut in 1989, Infiniti launched a major ad campaign using images of calm seas, serene skies, and open roads — just about anything but cars. In the nearly three decades since, Nissan’s luxury brand has always been in the scrum, but it has rarely had the visibility of its peers. Despite fielding cars that compete with Mercedes, Lexus, BMW, Audi, and the rest of the world’s finest, Infiniti just hasn’t thrown that knockout punch.
That’s not to put the brand down. Since its inception, Infiniti has done things a little differently. When Lexus was building its foundation by aping Mercedes, Infiniti’s flagship, the Q45, was bold and unabashedly Japanese. In the 2000s, the G35 and its successors were some of the most attractive luxury coupes on the market — just ask the thousands of tuner kids who still lust after them. The brand’s latest luxury coupe, the Q60, is a direct descendant of those coupes. But as the performance-focused Red Sport 400, it could be Infiniti’s best effort to date.
Unlike the brand rollout of the ’80s, the Q60 — especially the Red Sport 400 — is central to Infiniti’s marketing campaign today. The brand’s recent spots show Kit Harington, Game of Thrones‘ Jon Snow, reciting William Blake while taking a coupe identical to our tester right up to the limit. The Q60 didn’t exactly make us wax poetic, but it did turn heads. And that’s a big part of what Infiniti needs because the luxury coupe segment hasn’t exactly been a huge seller since M*A*S*H was on the air.
There’s still a lot of prestige here though, as evidenced by the BMW 4 Series, Mercedes C-Class Coupe, Lexus RC, and Audi A5 all jockeying for supremacy. Luxury coupes convey a brand’s style and attitude better than almost anything else in their stable, and the Q60 certainly does that for Infiniti. It stands out from the entire segment, which charmed us. But after a week of living with one, it just barely fails to live up to its potential. If it’s going to be the dominant luxury cruiser it deserves to be, the Q60, even in high-performance trim, will need a little more refining.
Even in a more subdued color, we think any Q60 would cause a scene in traffic, and we loved it for that. With its fastback profile and extremely kinked rear quarter glass, the Q60 is a definite stunner. In our opinion, it’s the best-looking car in its segment.
Despite being the high-performance version, the Red Sport 400 doesn’t differ much from the base Q60 on the outside, which is refreshing in this segment. The car already looks great, and no amount of added aero bits are going to make it look better. It’s a luxury coupe first, and it lets its powertrain do the talking.
Exterior pros and cons
+ It has a beautiful design. Even in range-topping trim, the Red Sport 400 doesn’t need any add-ons to prove it’s tough.
+ With just the right amount of chrome brightwork to feel special, and even with all the creased sheet metal, it never looks too busy.
+ In its signature Dynamic Sunstone Red over a Gallery White leather interior, the Q60 has a classic, almost ’70s-style vibe. We loved it.
– It’s a fairly big car. Our tester made its 19-inch wheels look tiny.
– Tiny rear quarter glass means you’re working with a big blind spot.
– Ditto rear visibility. The backup camera is a lifesaver.
This is the Red Sport’s pièce de résistance: its new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, which is good for 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. While the base Q60 makes due with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four (good for 208 horses), the twin-turbo V6 (technical name VR30DDTT) is an absolute gem.
We won’t bore you with the details — we’ve already done that — but this power plant’s advanced design maximizes performance (zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds, with its top speed about 155 miles per hour), while also prioritizing fuel economy (19 city/26 highway) and all but eliminating turbo lag. If the tuners went crazy with last decade’s G35/37 coupes, wait until they get their hands on these things.
This gem of an engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. It does its job admirably, even if it doesn’t quite match the brilliance of the engine. A word to the enthusiast: If you’re determined to shift manually, the steering wheel-mounted shifters tend to lag by about 1 to 3 seconds. We found it frustrating. If you’re looking to run through the gears as quickly as possible, it’s best to leave the Red Sport in Drive and focus on the road. Base cars send power to the rear wheels. But our car was the range-topping all-wheel drive model, which we were incredibly thankful for in January.
Powertrain pros and cons
+ Nissan has always had a way with six-cylinder engines, and the Red Sport’s engine is its latest gem.
+ For a 2-ton performance coupe, good fuel economy is an added bonus.
+ It sounds great, along with the performance.
– Paddle shifting is a bit of a letdown.
– After driving the 3.0 V6, how could we recommend the 2.0 four?
On first impression, the Q60 interior looked great. The white leather is a bold choice and something of an Infiniti hallmark. And as mentioned earlier, the red over white combo gave it a subtle ’70s vibe — just what you want from your big luxury coupe.
But with every pro, we began to find just as many cons. Pro: The white leather is soft and supple. Con: It was dirty after just a few days of normal driving. Pro: The machined aluminum trim looks nice, and the subtle backlighting on the doors is a beautiful touch at night. Con: The more we looked at it, the more it began to look like cheap add-on appliqué. Pro: The steering wheel is nice and meaty, and it looks great despite being full of controls.
And here’s the big con: It feels too much like a Nissan in here. The instrument cluster, infotainment screen, signal and wiper stalks, window controls, starter button, door locks, vents, HVAC controls, key fob — they all seem to have been pulled from the parent company parts bin. Of course the base Q60 starts at under $39,000, and this is fine at that price point. But at this level — $62,355 including options — it just doesn’t pass muster against something like an RC, 4 Series or C-Class.
Interior pros and cons
+ White leather is bold and attractive.
+ Front seats were comfortable and supportive, even on long drives.
+ Overall interior design is nice.
– But switchgear and execution leave something to be desired.
– There are way too many Nissan parts for a $60,000-plus car.
– Despite just enough legroom in the back, the sloping roofline makes seating for adults tough.
Tech and safety
Our loaded Q60 came loaded with just about everything Infiniti has to offer in it. There were eight-way power front seats, a polarizing dual-screen infotainment and HVAC system (thankfully with redundant analog controls), and Bose 13-speaker premium stereo. But the majority of tech options — the electronic nannies, premium nav system, and amenities, such as heated seats and steering wheel, were part of expensive options packages.
Our car had the Technology Package, which offered a suite of safety sensors for $1,850, the Driver Assistance Package, with even more sensors for $2,250, and the Premium Plus Package, which upgraded the InTouch infotainment system and added those heated seats and steering wheel for an additional $2,250. Along with the drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering ($1,000), the Q60 can get pricey pretty quickly.
Luckily, a lot of the standard tech is underneath its flowing sheet metal. Its Dynamic Digital Suspension delivers real-time adjustments to the car to make sure it feels planted at any speed on any kind of road surface. It being January, we were able to test four of the Q60’s five driving modes at length. It offers Snow, Eco, Standard, Sport, and Sport + (with a personal setting, too).
The Red Sport unsurprisingly delivers the most thrills in Sport +, but it’s just fine in Standard when you’re in the city or the ‘burbs. And luckily, Snow mode isn’t synonymous with “limp mode,” which is a common gripe of ours when it comes to sporty cars. There’s a lot of work going on to make the Red Sport feel effortlessly planted to the road while getting the maximum amount of performance out of it regardless of weather conditions, and we’re glad that’s what Infiniti chose to focus on.
Tech and safety pros and cons
+ It offers almost everything you’d want in a luxury coupe — for a price.
+ Driving modes are distinct enough, and none really takes away from the car’s character.
+ Snow mode lets you drive with confidence even when the roads are getting bad.
– Options packages are pricey and add up quick.
– The split-level infotainment screen is odd and distracting.
Like the G35/37 did last decade, the Q60 feels like a true driver’s car. The seats are well-bolstered and comfortable. And on cold mornings, the heated seats and steering wheel are essential. Put the car into Sport +, and the engine sounds great as you eat up miles with ease. The twin-turbo is fantastic, with all the horsepower and torque you need in the real world. And the active suspension works to keep it well balanced and planted in curves. Plus, the active headlights follow your line like a vintage Citroën, making spirited night drives a little less worrisome.
In city driving, the Red Sport is quiet and well composed. On the open roads, it’s plenty quick and communicates well with the driver, even if the drive-by-wire system feels a little vague at times. While competitors in the segment tend to flirt with being outright performance cars, the Red Sport feels more like a potent grand tourer, and we loved it for that. But as it is now, the Q60 still leaves something to be desired.
Wrap up and review
We deliberated a long time on this because it almost pains us to say it, but the Q60 Red Sport 400 is a frustrating car. It looks great, sounds great, has all the power you’d need, is plenty responsive, and it’s equal parts comfortable and sporty. We took it on several hours-long drives, and it behaved like you’d expect from any true grand tourer. But it has too many loose ends, too many nagging shortcomings that keep it from being the benchmark car it deserves to be.
Its interior just doesn’t pass muster against Germany and Japan’s best. While its performance puts it near the top of its segment, this is the Q60’s ceiling, at least for now. All-wheel drive, 400 horses and 350 pound-feet are impressive against its immediate competitors, but once they become the Mercedes-AMG C63 (476 horses), BMW M4 (444 horses), and Lexus RC F (467 horses), the Red Sport is in way over its head. What’s more, these high-performance variants fall within $10,000 of our tester’s sticker price.
That leaves the Red Sport 400 in a tough place. On looks alone, it’s our winner. Its interior is nice, but it doesn’t carry its weight once the price tag starts to climb. And its engine is excellent, but again, once the letters AMG, M, and F enter the equation, Infiniti is out.
Tighten up that interior, and offer a transmission that can match the twin-turbo V6’s brilliance, and Infiniti’s got a segment leader. Take it one step further; go all-in on the Eau Rouge concept and squeeze a few more ponies out of that engine, and you’d have a world-beater. Infiniti’s coupe isn’t frustrating because it’s a bad car. It’s frustrating because it’s this close to being truly great.