Remember when Infiniti was a performance brand? Yeah, it has been a while since then, but Infiniti appears to be getting some of its mojo back. The new, athletic-looking 2017 Q60 coupe is leading the charge, but is it the second coming of the beloved original G35 coupe?
Yes and no. One reason the Q60 can’t be considered the second coming of the G35 is because, in a very fundamental sense, the G35 never really left. The Q60’s architecture is an evolution of the FM platform that underpinned the original G35 as well as every G35, G37, and Q60 coupe since (plus their sedan counterparts). Every one of those coupes has ridden on the same 112.2-inch wheelbase, and while the Q60 has grown wider and longer overall, its front and rear track widths have increased by less than an inch. Since the original G35 and the new Q60 are within 0.1 inch in height, the identical amount of passenger space (a snug 86 cubic feet) should come as no surprise. And, alas, the Q60’s trunk remains small and somewhat challenging to load because of its high liftover.
Things have definitely changed under the hood, however. Whereas the G35’s sole engine was Nissan’s VQ 3.5-liter V-6 with 280 horsepower, today’s Q60 offers a three-engine lineup: one inline-four and two VR 3.0-liter V-6s, all three direct injected and turbocharged. The way we see it, the rightful heir to the G35’s legacy is the top-spec Red Sport 400, with its twin-turbocharged V-6 churning out a hearty 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. And so we took temporary custody of a rear-wheel-drive Q60 Red Sport 400 (all-wheel drive also is available), drove the stink out of it, and performed a battery of instrumented tests to see if it can indeed fill the G35’s shoes—and, more broadly, whether it might help restore Infiniti’s performance-brand image.
Q Is for Quick
First of all, this coupe is quick. We clocked a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.5 seconds, the same figure we achieved in the Q50 Red Sport 400 sedan and a full 1.5 seconds quicker than the first G35 coupe we tested back in 2003. Furthermore, with all 350 lb-ft of torque available from 1600 to 5200 rpm, a healthy supply of thrust is always readily available, with just a whiff of turbo lag. On more than one occasion while cruising at 30 mph or so, we induced wheelspin by hammering the go pedal.
Sadly, the 2017 Q60 is the first Infiniti coupe since the M30 to deny buyers the option of a manual transmission. Infiniti’s ubiquitous seven-speed automatic is the sole gearbox, and we don’t especially love it here, as it lacks the slickness of the eight-speed automatic in the BMW 4-series (a car that still offers a stick, by the way). Not helping its cause is the VR engine’s general lack of charisma, plus its gruffness at high revs. Toggling the driving-mode selector to Sport or Sport Plus adds some life to the powertrain and brings rev-matched downshifts during aggressive driving, but the athleticism displayed here can be likened more to a weightlifter than a ballroom dancer: It’s strong and capable when summoned but would just as soon sit down and towel off as stay on the floor and dazzle the crowd.
Same Grip, Different Grasp
While the coupe’s outer dimensions haven’t changed much in 15 years, the amount of safety, technology, and equipment packed within has, resulting in a nearly 400-pound weight gain from the original, to 3866 pounds today. At least that weight is well managed from a body-roll standpoint, and at the skidpad, the Red Sport 400 matched but didn’t surpass the old G35’s 0.90 g of lateral grip. At 163 feet, its braking distance from 70 mph stretched six feet farther despite new, larger rotors and four-piston front and two-piston rear brake calipers. That said, the brake pedal felt damn near perfect, which inspired confidence.
As close as the Q60 and G35 may be in ultimate grip, as well as sharing intangible qualities such as unflappable high-speed stability and neutral overall balance, actually wheeling them around couldn’t feel more different. Blame the lifeless—and, fortunately, optional—Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) system fitted to the Q60. At just 2.0 turns lock-to-lock, it’s quick and fairly precise, yet it’s worlds away from the G35’s hydraulically assisted setup in terms of communication. This has been a common criticism as the industry has adopted electrically assisted power steering, but Infiniti’s DAS is a steer-by-wire system, so it not only feels disconnected, it actually is disconnected, with all its feedback simulated. Infiniti, though, continues to refine it and now offers three selectable ratio/effort settings: standard, Sport, and Sport Plus. Within the two Sport settings are three choices for off-center response: default, Dynamic, and Dynamic Plus. The most satisfying configurations, we found, are the Sport and Sport Plus settings combined with Dynamic Plus response.
To say that the Q60 is more highly styled than the G is obvious; the original design’s subtle modernity looks like a lightly used bar of soap next to the Q60’s flowing metal forms, chrome bands, superfluous garnishes, and wavy grille inserts. Compared with the standard car, the Red Sport 400 is marginally sportier with its red-painted brake calipers, specific exhaust tips, and rear wheels that are 0.5 inch wider than the fronts. With a low 0.28 coefficient of drag, it’s impressively aerodynamic, too.
The interior makes a strong first impression, especially when equipped with the shimmering “silver optic fiber” trim, as in our test car. But after plopping down into its splendid front seats and nesting their elbows in the artfully designed door panels, front-seat occupants will see a dashboard that dates back to the Q50 of 2013. And the sense of quality trails that of some competitors, what with the plastic rings around the speedometer and tach, the inelegant banks of climate-control buttons, and the dual stacked navigation/infotainment screens with varying resolutions, suggesting they came from different suppliers—or maybe even different eras.
That said, the Red Sport 400’s luxury quotient is the highest ever for an Infiniti coupe. The standard 13-speaker Bose surround-sound system blasts music through more than twice as many speakers as the old G, while creamy semi-aniline leather and intricate contrast stitching add appreciable class. And it’s oh, so quiet inside, registering a hushed 67 decibels at 70 mph compared with 72 decibels inside the G35 coupe.
Power Packed, Package Packed
Our Red Sport 400, which starts at $52,205, also came loaded with options, many of which were never offered on the original 2003 G, if they had even been invented back in 2003. The $1850 Technology package brings adaptive cruise control, blind-spot intervention, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, adaptive headlamps, auxiliary audio and video inputs, automatic high-beams, and more. The $2250 Driver Assistance package adds blind-spot warning, forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree-view monitor with moving-object detection, backup collision intervention, and rain-sensing wipers. Our car also had the $2250 Premium Plus package, which includes navigation, Infiniti InTouch telematics services, navigation-linked adaptive shift programming, SiriusXM traffic, heating for the front seats and steering wheel, and remote engine start. And, finally, the DAS adaptive-steering system tacked on $1000, bringing the grand total to $59,555.
With its head-turning looks, strong twin-turbo V-6, and comfortable cabin, the Q60 Red Sport 400 serves Infiniti well as a halo car. Even so, its added heft and lack of visceral feel likely will keep it from attaining the level of reverence that was bestowed on the G35 as a performance coupe.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe
PRICE AS TESTED: $59,555 (base price: $52,205)
ENGINE TYPE: twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 183 cu in, 2997 cc
Power: 400 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 112.2 in
Length: 184.6 in
Width: 72.8 in Height: 54.9 in
Passenger volume: 86 cu ft
Trunk volume: 12 cu ft
Curb weight: 3866 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 4.5 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 10.3 sec
Zero to 130 mph: 18.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 5.1 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.2 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 3.4 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 13.3 sec @ 109 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 155 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 163 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.90 g*
EPA combined/city/highway driving: 22/20/27 mpg
C/D observed: 20 mpg