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First drive: 2017 Infiniti QX30

Infiniti's QX30 is a luxurious CUV that dares to enter sports wagon territory

Do you like Infiniti cars generally? You’ll love the QX30. Looking for a sporty luxury crossover you can actually afford? QX30 checks all the boxes. Ashamed to admit you love sport wagons? The QX30 is the perfect cover story.

At some point in 2015, Compact SUVs became the biggest-selling class of vehicles on the market. The small SUV finally outpaced the venerable mid-size Sedan, which had held the top spot more or less forever. There’s no great mystery to this shift: the SUV design offers significant benefits in carrying capacity and all-weather capability over the typical sedan, and a compact crossover SUV offers an image more in line with how Americans see themselves today; rugged and outdoorsy, yet still urbane enough to park downtown.

Related: 2016 Infiniti QX50 First Drive

But here’s the thing that really drove the compact crossover revolution: people want a vehicle that drives like a car, but has the looks and at least some of the capabilities of an SUV. The all-new 2017 Infiniti QX30 is designed to deliver precisely that package, with upscale luxury appointments and an attractive price tag.

Teaming-up for the crossover

The QX30 is the result of a joint development project between Nissan and Daimler, and shares a platform with the Mercedes-Benz GLA. You don’t have to squint too hard to see the sibling resemblance to the GLA and on the inside, the family heritage is even more obvious. Sit in both the GLA and the QX30 and you’ll find that many of the gauges and controls are the same, but the differences are crucial. Infiniti gave the QX30 its own tuning on the engine, transmission, and suspension, as well as its own infotainment system which is an improvement over the Benz option. Finally, Infiniti’s brand fans will enjoy their signature touches to interior and upholstery.

A thoroughly modern crossover

The QX30 also shares its single engine and transmission setup with the GLA, featuring a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine good for 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s not impressive by modern standards, with many competitors squeezing 240 horsepower or more out of 2-liter power plants, but the real test is how the engine works with the transmission. The QX30 uses a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that uses the available torque and horsepower to good advantage. Like most modern cars, you can choose between economy and sport modes, and the difference in the QX30 is substantial.

You don’t have to squint too hard to see the sibling resemblance to the Mercedes GLA.

Economy mode predictably moves the QX30 to the highest possible gear in the name of fuel economy. The EPA has not yet released official fuel economy figures for the QX30, but we saw high 30s from the trip computer on the highway, and we weren’t driving all that economically. The EPA rates the sibling GLA with the same drivetrain at 25 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, which seems about right, based on what I experienced.

If you punch the button for Sport mode, the QX30 starts to behave the way you want your Infiniti to drive. It will hold each gear to the upper registers if you get on the pedal, and both upshifts and downshifts are more crisp. If you want to control everything yourself, punch the button one more time for full manual control through the wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Three basic flavors, lots of options

The basic design of the QX30 is front-wheel drive, which is perfect for most urban drivers, but no self-respecting crossover would fail to offer AWD, and so the QX30 offers that option. In addition to a full-time AWD system that can, when necessary, send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels, the AWD version of the QX30 sits 1.2 inches higher than the base FWD QX30. The third option is the Sport model, which sits 0.6 inches lower than the base model. The QX30S also features seven-percent stiffer suspension, drilled rotors, and special 19-inch wheels.

In the course of our tests, we drove both the AWD and Sport models, and while the difference in suspension tuning is noticeable, it’s not dramatic. Similarly, you can tell that you’re sitting higher in the AWD trim, but it’s not like you’re towering over the car next to you. The AWD drive model also receives a less responsive steering ratio than the base model, while the Sport model gives you a predictably tighter wheel.

2017 Infiniti QX30
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Taken together, the model differences in the QX30 are more like accents than entirely different languages. The basic FWD QX30 is available in three trims: Base, Luxury, and Premium. The QX30 AWD is available in Luxury and Premium trim, and the QX30 Sport has its own single trim level. The variables in the trim levels are typical, and no matter what you choose, you’re getting an Infiniti.

Related: Infiniti’s new 2017 QX30 crossover is a Mercedes-Benz GLA in disguise

Infiniti also offers 10 separate option packs with the QX30, so you can really customize your vehicle with your preferred features and at your preferred price point. Packages include LED lighting, a Technology pack with advanced safety and convenience features such as surround-view camera, parking assist, adaptive cruise control, and forward emergency braking, among others. There’s also a leather package for the QX30 Sport, and special all-white and teak-brown themes for QX30 and QX30 AWD respectively.

Driving the QX30

People buy Infiniti for a distinctive luxury car experience, and that’s what you’ll get with the QX30. Infiniti is a performance brand, and that shines through in the driving experience of the QX30. Get it out onto some twisty roads, punch up Sport mode, and the Infiniti will carve corners in a way that you won’t ever get with an economy brand crossover.

Related: Infiniti does its best GLA-Class impression with QX30 Concept

In fact, let’s just abandon the pretense altogether. What the QX30 is, at least in the Sport model, is a classic Sport wagon. The AWD model has a little more crossover credibility, but the basic QX30 and the Sport are both FWD-only, and they drive like the great sport wagons of automotive history. That’s no slam in any way – the QX30 is the un-crossover for people who really do want the handling of a sports car with 5-door folding-rear-seat utility, and maybe AWD if you live somewhere with serious winter weather.

The crossover competition for the QX30 includes the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, Volvo XC60, Lexus NX 200t, and the Chinese-market Acura CDX, if it ever gets here. But in terms of the driving experience, I’d put the QX30 closer to an Audi Avant or Volvo V60. Having chosen both of those as my own personal daily drivers over the past several years, that’s high praise.

Bottom line: If you love sporty driving, but you’re looking for crossover utility, the QX30 is just what you’ve been waiting for.

What’s it going to cost?

Infiniti has done a good job of pricing the QX30. They’re undercutting the GLA by a couple thousand dollars, and they’re in the sweet spot with respect to the rest of the crossover competitors.

The base QX30 will be tagged at $30,900 including all fees. For that you get the FWD vehicle, zone climate control, 6-speaker stereo, rearview camera, and LED running lights. Not a bad deal when the Audi and Mercedes start around $33,000, the Lexus and BMW are about $35,000, and the Volvo XC60 is up around $40,000.

If you opt for the QX30 Sport, you’ll pay between $39,450 and $43,050, and the AWD model comes in from $35,350 to $43,700, depending on your package choices. Option packs, naturally, go on top of those prices, but about the most you’ll ever spend on a QX30 is around $45,450.

So there you have it. Do you like Infiniti cars generally? You’ll love the QX30. Looking for a sporty luxury crossover you can actually afford? QX30 checks all the boxes. Ashamed to admit you love sport wagons? The QX30 is the perfect cover story. If you’re shopping the luxury crossover market, be sure to include the Infiniti QX30 on your list.

Highs

  • Attractive styling
  • Sport model lives up to the name
  • Great value for the money
  • Real Infiniti luxury
  • Compact crossover utility

Lows

  • Some buzz and rattle issues in the test vehicles
  • Panoramic glass roof does not open