2017 Infiniti Q30 First Drive Review

#hashtags: #Prototypes #Infiniti #Audi #Mercedes #Benz CLA #Renault #Nissan #Benz #CLA

Prototypes of drool-worthy GT-R-engine sedans might be high on the list for car buffs, but it doesn’t take a shadowy meeting in a parking structure to understand why Infiniti has pivoted to target more common-folk cars with its new Q30: money, honey. As in dinero, bucks, cold, hard cash. The compact luxury segment is highly lucrative. Go ask the Audi A3 or the Mercedes-Benz CLA. And to further sweeten the deal (and to make the endeavor less risky), Renault-Nissan tied up six years ago with Daimler to form the sort of automotive power couple that likely makes FCA’s Sergio Marchionne want to rip off his black crewneck sweater just thinking about it. With Daimler now in the picture, the Infiniti Q30’s gestation could have gone one of two ways. Either nab a chassis from Nissan (Juke or Rogue, maybe), or leverage a Benz. Wisely, Infiniti chose the latter, underpinning it with the chassis, powertrain, and suspension gear from Mercedes-Benz’s compact car platform (used for the CLA, GLA, and A-Class). So it’s unsurprising that the Q30 has wound up feeling like a proper premium product … something that might have been iffy had Infiniti taken the other route. (This will also be its first compact vehicle developed and sold for the global market, with much of its success depending on how well it’s received in Europe, where the brand is relatively unknown.) Although the Q30 shares its bones with the A-Class, it looks nothing at all like its German counterpart. As the latest example of Infiniti’s current design direction, the Q30 is simply a styling knockout. It just doesn’t have a bad angle, and to my eyes it looks even better than the Benz. The side profile is perhaps its most eye-catching, swept with sharp creases and sexy curves—especially the C-pillar, which features Infiniti’s Crescent Cut treatment. A few social media commenters have discounted the Q30 as a Mazda3 knockoff; they’ll take back those words once they see it in person. And Infiniti didn’t skip on the interior drama, either. The asymmetrical dashboard layout looks cool and modern with most surfaces covered in leather, Alcantara, or a suedelike material called Dinamica. A fair amount of Mercedes switchgear and gauges make guest appearances, though Infiniti did swap out Benz’s COMAND infotainment system for its own InTouch system that features both touchscreen and a cluster of knob and button controls. Our test car had the fixed panorama moonroof, which eats up quite a bit of front headroom. I’m 5-foot-9, yet I was just a few inches from contacting the Dinamica headliner. Rear headroom, however, is decent. Ditto legroom. Does the Q30 drive with the same flare, though? That depends. If you’re expecting a straight-line launch that’ll bounce your noggin onto the headrest, then you won’t find it from the Benz-sourced 2.0-liter inline-four (208 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque) despite its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Any major mechanical changes would’ve been cost prohibitive, so Infiniti left the powertrain untouched aside from a few programming tweaks. Nevertheless, the turbo-four smoothly unleashes its horses and feels plenty responsive in the meat of its powerband. And although the transmission is just as slick, it’s too eager to hold on to higher gears in its default Eco mode; it’s better in Sport, where downshifts are more immediate. (Ideally this would be the default selection.) Although the turbo-four lacks the sporty growl we’ve grown accustomed with Infiniti’s VQ six-cylinder engines, it doesn’t embarrass itself. Infiniti estimates that all-wheel-drive Q30s will dash to 62 mph in 7.3 seconds, and my rump agrees. Speaking of which, U.S.-spec Q30s will only arrive with front-drive, as Infiniti is reserving all-wheel drive for the QX30 (what’ll be the Q30’s elevated crossover sibling). The Q30 will be dressed in either Luxury or Sport trims, differentiated by exterior and interior accents and suspension tuning. Did I say suspension? For my drive in the Q30, I was handed the keys to an all-wheel-drive version in Sport trim, meaning a ride height 0.15mm lower and springs 7 percent stiffer than the Luxury version. I was then set loose on—yikes—the roads of Portugal, where towns are often carpeted with very quaint but very nasty old-world cobblestones. Triumphantly, though, the Infiniti soaked every one of them up like a ShamWow. Infiniti claims it tested no fewer than 50 suspension calibrations, and it shows. Up in the rural mountains on smoother surfaces, the Q30 displayed minimal body roll through sweepers and steering that’s predictable and nicely weighted. Cruising at 80 to 90 mph was a breeze, feeling stable and relatively quiet—particularly impressive given that my test car was riding on 19-inch wheels wrapped in run-flat tires. Visibility is good, considering the Q30’s high beltline and heavily raked tailgate. Opt for Infiniti’s 360-degree Around View camera for extra peace of mind while parking. The cargo area is on the smaller side, but the standard 40/60 split folding rear seat back should help for the bigger hauls. Infiniti will be releasing the Q30’s pricing closer to its on-sale date sometime next summer. But a smart guesstimate is that it’ll be in the neighborhood of the A3 and the CLA/GLA-Class, putting it in the low to mid $30,000 range. At that, it’ll be the cheapest model in Infiniti’s lineup, giving it a solid chance to slice off a significant piece of Audi’s and Benz’s market-share pie. And who knows? If enough people buy them, maybe the rest of us will see that rumored GT-R-powered Infiniti sedan sooner rather than later. 2017 Infiniti Q30 BASE PRICE $33,000 (MT est) VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback ENGINE 2.0L/208-hp/258-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto CURB WEIGHT 3,400 lb (MT est) WHEELBASE 106.3 in (MT est) LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 174.2 x 71.1 x 58.1-58.8 in 0-62 MPH 7.3 sec (mfr est) EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON Not yet rated ON SALE IN U.S. Summer 2016