I must admit, I tend to forget about Infiniti, Nissan's upscale marque, and I bet a lot of people do.
It is a brand without any discernable image. Which model best defines its? What distinguishes Infiniti from its competitors aside from its lack of a discernable persona? It's hard to imagine that after 30 years of existence, Infiniti is still very much a question mark, something it has been since its 1989 launch, with an ad campaign that infamously portrayed rocks and trees, but not automobiles. In some ways, the brand has never recovered from this disastrous launch. Over the past decade, it seems to have become a brand defined by its lease deals as much as its product.
And that's too bad, because Infiniti does offer some truly special vehicles that deserve more attention. Consider the 2020 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400. It's a rear-wheel-drive luxury coupe, a rarified segment filled with some tempting options, like the Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 4 Series and Lexus RC.
Given that list of competitors, and the image each model brings to mind, is it any wonder that the Q60 has its work cut out for it?Available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the Q60 is offered in Pure, Luxe and Red Sport 400 trim - the later boasting a 400-horsepower version of the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 used in the other models. The Pure and Luxe have 300 horsepower, still more than enough to move this vehicle with vigor. Infiniti provided a Red Sport 400 for a week-long test drive.
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Stylistically, the Q60 brilliantly asserts itself with a sensuously curvaceous modern aesthetic capped by a grille that doesn't resemble a kabuki mask. Its flowing flanks are seductive, unique and surprisingly timeless. The same can't be said of the interior, which lacks the visual indulgence of the exterior. The instrument panel is conventional, but sports an updated infotainment system across two screens along with a Wi-Fi Hotspot, an illuminated USB-C port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Elsewhere, red stitching on the instrument panel is new for the Red Sport, and a nice touch, as is the sinfully soft leather that cloaks supportive front bucket seats. Overall fit and finish is impressive.
As you'd expect in a coupe, front seat head and legroom is generous, while back seat space is more theoretical, and dependent on the kindness of front seat passengers. Thoughtfully, the front seats are heated, but they only have one setting, rather than the multiple settings typically offered. And if you think the back seats are small, wait until you check out the trunk. That's when you'll understand that the rear seats are actually meant for additional luggage capacity, not humans.
But look past the dated electronics and Lilliputian trunk and you'll find the Q60 is very pleasing to drive.
The Red Sport 400's power is effortless, a truly muscular luxury coupe powerplant. The seven-speed transmission plays the willing servant most of the time, although shifting manually through the paddle shifters isn't as crisp as that of some competitors. The Q60 remains planted and crisp while cornering, and displays a beautiful balance between handling and ride comfort thanks to an adaptive damping system Infiniti calls a "Dynamic Digital Suspension." Less successful is its drive-by-wire system, dubbed "Direct Adaptive Steering." There is no direction link between the steering wheel and the front wheels, and it's evident. There is no on-center feel and there's too much play on-center where nothing happens. And forget any kind of road feel.
This may not matter if you're into the luxury side of the luxury-sport divide; others may find it off-putting. Both the steering and suspension systems can be adjusted by the driver.
The Q60 Red Sport 400's timeless styling and powerful engine, along with an adeptly tuned suspension make for a compelling proposition, as long you don't mind its quirks. That said, sporting cars usually have them, which is what makes them endearing. It's just a shame that this car languishes, along with the brand. It's a truly enjoyable GT.
But this model, along with the rest of the Infiniti line, are mere placeholders as Infiniti plans to electrify its entire vehicle line within the next few years. Once again, the brand will shed its skin, seeking a new identity.
Hopefully, this one will stick.
2020 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400
- Base price: $57,150
- Engine: Twin-turbocharged DOHC 3.0-liter V6
- Horsepower/Torque: 400/350
- EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 20/27 mpg
- Fuel required: Premium
- Length/Width/Height: 184.4/72.8/54.9 inches
- Cargo capacity: 8.7 cubic feet
- Towing capacity: Not rated
- Curb weight: 4,047 pounds