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First Drive: 2017 Infiniti Q60 S Red Sport 400

Don't let the twin turbos fool you; Infiniti's Q60 S still puts luxury first

Quick and agile, Infiniti’s turbocharged sports coupe focuses on being a better grand tourer than the competitors.

Although it represents only a small fraction of the market, the battle for the hearts and minds of sports coupe buyers has never been more heated. We’re currently living in the golden age of performance – the horsepower is plentiful, the hardware is reliable, and the choices are numerous. No automaker is safe to rest on their laurels, and those that wish to succeed must establish a unique place for themselves in a fairly crowded market. Infiniti seems well aware of this notion with the new Q60, the latest iteration of the company’s sports coupe.

While it brings with it a new high performance power plant that offers increased output, lower emissions and improved efficiency, rather than attempting to create a Japanese facsimile of a BMW M or a Cadillac V-Series, Infiniti’s latest two-door focuses on the fundamentals of grand touring rather than performance statistics.

For the Q60 S that means that underneath the turbos, adaptive suspension, and sinewy sheet metal is a vehicle that’s at its best when asked to provide sanctuary from the dissonance of the outside world. But when the mood strikes, a flick of the Driving Mode switch and a generous application of throttle should be all the reassurance needed to prove that Infiniti hasn’t forgotten to engineer in a healthy dose of fun as well.

Concept to reality

We got our first glimpse at the future of Infiniti’s sports coupe when the company unveiled the Q60 Concept at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. Although its look tamed slightly during its journey to production, the new Q60 cuts a significantly more dramatic figure than the car it replaces. While it retains the hallmarks of Infiniti’s design language, its heavily sculpted bodywork and enlarged double-arch grille give the Q60 S a more athletic presence overall, and yields it a 0.28 drag coefficient to boot.

We’re currently living in the golden age of performance – the horsepower is plentiful, the hardware is reliable, and the choices are numerous.

Infiniti’s designers say the new 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged and direct injected “VR30DDTT” V6 played a role in their design direction as development of the Q60 progressed. The Red Sport models will be treated to the top-spec version of this new motor, outputting 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, while the Silver Sport models will get a detuned version that generates 300hp and 295 lb-ft. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder motor will also be available on base models, and all iterations of the Q60 will dispatch gear changes with a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Power gets sent to the rear wheels by default, while an all-wheel drive system that can split the power 50/50 between the two axles is optional.

The name is admittedly a bit of a mouthful, but the new VR30DDTT motor is a fairly trick piece of hardware, boasting an aluminum block and aluminum cylinder heads that integrate both the turbochargers and the exhaust manifolds into the head design. Its water-cooled charge coolers help to minimize the flow path for the turbochargers, in turn reducing the potential for dreaded turbo lag out on the road. It’s also more environmentally friendly than the VQ-series mill it replaces, offering both reduced emissions and superior fuel economy.

On the handling front, the Red Sport gets a new two-mode adaptive suspension system. Known in Infiniti parlance as Digital Dynamic Suspension, the system monitors body roll, pitch and bounce rate and continuously adjusts damping characteristics to ensure the car’s ride stays stable and controlled whether you’re bombing down a mountain road or navigating through urban traffic.

Related: Infiniti’s QX30 is a luxurious CUV that dares to enter sports wagon territory

DDS is supplemented by the new, second-generation version of Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steering. The system is designed to filter out unwanted steering vibrations by making the steering inputs completely electronic, with no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the rack that’s dictating the direction of the wheels. It’s here where the company’s intentions for the Q60 become a bit clearer – while other sport coupe designers are doing everything they can to restore natural steering feel to their electronically-assisted steering racks, Infiniti is essentially going in the opposite direction in order to reduce potential driver fatigue. Those who prefer to have a more direct influence on steering inputs will be pleased to know that DAS is optional on the Q60.

The interior of the Q60 sees substantial revision as well. While the stylistic revisions and updated roster of materials modernize the coupe’s interior, the centerpiece of the cabin is undoubtedly the InTouch infotainment system. It utilizes a pair of displays situated on top of one another, with the lower 7-inch display offering contextual information and menus while the upper screen presents navigation data. While both are touchscreens, inputs can also be delivered through a rotary knob and hard buttons just behind the shifter or through voice commands.

On the road

Although its sound has about as much charisma as its moniker, the new VR30DDTT power plant brings a new level of urgency to the Q60’s thrust. Infiniti only supplied Red Sport 400 models for the drive in and around San Diego, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

Peak torque comes in around 1,600 rpm, and it propels the 3,900-pound rear-drive Q60 with a genuine sense of purpose. Infiniti says the AWD version will hit 62 mph in about five seconds flat, though I’d venture to speculate that both the all-wheel and traction-limited RWD versions of the Red Sport are capable of even quicker times in the right hands. And this isn’t just a case of shorter low gears to juke testing results – this motor pulls hard well past any legal rate of speed. Turbo lag is indeed minimal, and with peak torque coming in so low, power delivery stays fairly linear throughout the rev range once you’re in boost.

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With such a gem of a motor in the engine bay, it seems like a bit of shame that the transmission isn’t really up to snuff. It’s certainly a serviceable gearbox for daily driving and the occasional spirited run, but its overall responsiveness feels a step or two behind the best traditional automatics available today. Its sense of urgency isn’t altered by switching over to the Sport or Sport+ driving modes either – although those modes will keep the transmission in lower gears and shift later in the rev range when left in automatic mode, they have no discernible impact on the its operation if you’re firing off gear changes with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Related: 2016 Infiniti QX50 First Drive

Those more aggressive driving modes also alter the damper firmness of the Digital Dynamic Suspension, but truth be told it was difficult to tell the difference at speed. But perhaps that’s an inadvertent compliment to the system, as it the suspension system never really felt especially out of sorts either, regardless of the setting and driving situation it was paired with. The suspension tuning seems to take special consideration for ride compliance in general, but the Q60 S always felt eminently planted at high rates of speed regardless of driving mode, and the well-bolstered sport seats kept me in place and comfortable throughout our 200-mile drive.

Infiniti’s latest two-door focuses on the fundamentals of grand touring rather than performance statistics.

This extended stint in the car gave me a chance to get to know the latest version of the InTouch infotainment system as well. I’m typically a big proponent of touch screen systems – I’d rather simply press on the function I’d like to do rather than use a controller as an awkward input middleman. Infiniti’s system works well enough – the hardware is responsive and the menus are laid out logically – but the execution of the dual display system is a bit awkward.

While upper 8-inch display uses a matte finish and recessed into the instrument panel, the lower display is flush mounted and glossy. I’m certainly not one to scoff at additional display real estate, but this lack of symmetry makes upper screen look like an afterthought as a result, and it breaks the continuity of an otherwise lovely interior. The use of a single, larger display seems like reasonable a solution here.

A new niche

Pricing for the Q60 S Red Sport 400 starts at $51,300 for rear-wheel drive models and $53,300 with AWD. Sports coupe buyers might be tempted to cross-shop the Q60 S Red Sport 400 with cars like the BMW M2, but at the end of the day, the two serve fundamentally different purposes.

While the new 3.0-liter twin turbocharged motor gives the Q60 S the heart of a sports car, the reality of the Infiniti’s configuration makes this a grand touring machine rather than an autocross phenom. Don’t interpret that as a point against the Infiniti though, as it handles GT duties admirably. It’s simply a matter of context. For those that want both sport and luxury in their coupe but place a slightly higher value on the latter, this new Infiniti will absolutely deliver.

Highs

  • New muscular look
  • Gutsy twin-turbocharged V6
  • Vastly improved interior

Lows

  • Slightly awkward dual-screen infotainment display
  • Lackadaisical gear changes even in the sportiest driving modes