With its G- and M-series cars, Infiniti mixed performance with high-tech luxury, but then rested on its laurels for a good five years. I waited for the next innovative model update, but all Infiniti offered was rebranding, changing the model names of its entire lineup.
From my desk, it was a disappointing update. But when I got behind the wheel of the Q60, I was instantly reminded how good the old G37 coupe was. Besides the model name, there isn't much new in the Q60. It features the same 3.7-liter V-6 engine, seven-speed automatic transmission, and dashboard infotainment system.
Fortunately, this car has aged well. In coupe form particularly, it looks good. The front fenders show a styling language that Infiniti refined for over 10 years. And it's more than just removing the rear doors from the sedan version; the coupe's roofline drops back sharply toward the rear. That design might mean less headroom for rear-seat passengers, of which only two can fit, but who needs that extra weight in a sports coupe anyway? You aren't a taxi service for friends and family.
The Q60 isn't a very practical car. The oddly shallow trunk only holds 7.4 cubic feet of cargo.
But it is a particularly satisfying sports car. The model I tested was in Journey trim, meaning it could only be had with an automatic transmission. It included all the packages: Premium, Navigation, Sport, and Technology, raising the price about $10,000 from its base $40,400. Infiniti also offers a Q60S model with a six-speed manual transmission.
Ready to rumble
Gripping the Q60's steering wheel, I was pleased to see long paddle shifters attached to the steering column. Unlike steering-wheel mounts, column-mounted paddles maintain their position no matter how much you're turning. The power-adjusted seats were well-bolstered and very comfortable, befitting the Q60's premium segment, but I wasn't crazy about the high-gloss wood trim in the cabin. It's a car, not a bureau.
The engine sounded ready to rumble from my first stab at the start button. This 3.7-liter mill carries over from the previous G37 models, and builds on the 3.5-liter V-6 Nissan put into play back in 2001. The variable valve lift and event programming serves to adjust fuel delivery for different engine speeds, resulting in an impressive 330 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.
This same engine sees use in the Nissan 370Z.
This V-6 earned awards and praise for its linear power delivery, and those qualities remain in the Q60. Unlike lower-displacement turbocharged engines, popular among other automakers for improved fuel economy, the Q60's V-6 put power to the rear wheels as soon as I hit the gas. I could easily modulate that power delivery by feathering the pedal, making it easy to drive in heavy traffic.
Given changes among the competition, the Q60 feels like an old-school muscle car in the sport-luxury segment.
When I got into the power, the exhaust note sounded off with a growl to warm the heart of any gearhead. More than that, from my grip on the steering wheel, the Q60 felt taut, like a puma ready to pounce. The power steering is one of the diminishing numbers of hydraulic rigs you'll find among new models. I appreciate the precision of high-tech electric power steering, just now coming into vogue in so many other models, but steering the Q60 felt like going back to basics, reinforcing the car's old-school feel.
Set up for sport
This car's Sport package, for a very reasonable $1,950, brought in 19-inch alloy wheels, a limited-slip differential, and a tighter suspension. That last feature added to very enjoyable handling when I was bombing down a twisty road, but also some back-wrenching bumps when using the car for mere transportation.
Infiniti doesn't offer any sort of adaptive suspension on the Q60, so the factory tuning is what you're stuck with. On smooth pavement, the ride is fine, but a lot of miles over bad roads can be torturous. If you're not an adrenaline junkie, forgo the Sport package in favor of a more comfortable ride.
As impressively as the engine, steering, and suspension come together when flogging the Q60, the automatic transmission is the weak link. I threw the shifter into the Sport position and there was no immediate change in the car's response. But once I got onto the power -- flooring it for the straights and braking hard at the turns -- the Sport program engaged, holding the engine speed in its power band.
The real disappointment came when I hit the paddles to engage manual shifting. This seven-speed automatic showed typical torque converter lag, with a little hesitation before each shift. To make this Q60 really competitive, Infiniti needs to either go to a dual-clutch automated manual or look at the sorts of quick-shifting automatic transmissions that companies like Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar are using.
In city and highway cruising, the paddles didn't come into play, and the transmission shifted through its seven gears smoothly. Partly because of the responsive engine, the car was never caught flat-footed when I need a quick boost for a merge. The cabin appointments added to the comfort of this sort of driving, although the ride quality made me suffer when the pavement turned rough.