Infiniti has been electrifying its luxury car lineup since 2011, but so far it hasn’t gone so far as to bring a full EV to market, instead relying on hybrids to fill the bill.
This said its mid-size E-segment Q70 Hybrid is no longer available in Canada and appears to have disappeared from its U.S. division’s website for 2019 as well, but the smaller Q50 Hybrid remains a formidable challenger in the D-segment thanks to a brand-wide focus that’s always been as much about efficiency as performance— seven years ago the original M35h set an official Guinness world record for fastest acceleration from a production hybrid. Still, while a strong effort so far, these two models only represent the beginnings of Infiniti’s road to electrification.
Such was made clear by Nissan chief executive officer Hiroto Saikawa who, as part of his address at the Automotive News World Congress in January, told the audience that the Infiniti brand would almost entirely be comprised of electrified vehicles after 2021, and furthermore he predicted that half of the luxury division’s sales would either feature a hybrid or a pure electric powertrain by 2025.
Based on calendar year 2017 sales of 153,415 units globally (which was an increase of 11 percent over 2016), this means about 75,000 new Infiniti vehicles will be rolling off of Infiniti production lines with electrified powertrains in just seven years.
According to Saikawa, Infiniti will rely on parent company Nissan’s new range-extending electric motor-powered technology dubbed ePower for future hybrid powertrains, a system that applies a unique EV strategy.
First off, unlike plug-in hybrids that are gaining popularity today, the ePower system can’t be plugged in. What’s more, it doesn’t use its gasoline-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) for propulsion, but rather it merely recharges the battery, which in turn powers an electric motor that drives the wheels.
Infiniti’s future electrified vehicle platform architecture, announced in April during a special Auto China preview event at the Infiniti Brand Experience Center in Beijing, has been heavily inspired by the recent Q Inspiration concept first shown at January’s Detroit show. Infiniti plans to produce an electrified vehicle on this new platform as one of five upcoming models to be built in China.
“Infiniti is developing a new platform for electrified vehicles inspired by the Q Inspiration concept car, which shows the new design language for the age of autonomy and electrification,” said Infiniti chairman and global president Roland Krueger. “We very much had China in mind when designing the Q Inspiration, which shows a very sporty, performance-oriented electric concept, with a much bigger interior space.”
While China has become a global leader in automotive powertrain electrification in recent years, new trade disputes between the second-largest global economy and the current U.S. administration governing the world’s largest economy, may result in strategies changing for Infiniti and other manufacturers already importing vehicles across the Pacific or considering doing so.
Of note, the Q Inspiration concept is not only being touted as inspiration for future Infiniti electrified vehicles’ platform architectures and powertrains, but is also said to be reflective of future Infiniti styling.
“The Q Inspiration concept car takes the traditional sedan architecture to its next stage of evolution,” said Karim Habib, Infiniti executive design director. “A shift towards smarter, more compact and less intrusive powertrains; We were able to create an alternative form with flowing gestures, more engaging in character and more enriching in experience. With its long cabin, balanced proportions and muscular stance, the concept heralds in a new era for Infiniti models.”
Infiniti gave its popular Q50 sport-luxury sedan a mid-cycle makeover for 2018, and while the refresh wasn’t overdue it was certainly welcome. Without the need to totally recreate Q50 styling that…
Infiniti gave its popular Q50 sport-luxury sedan a mid-cycle makeover for 2018, and while the refresh wasn’t overdue it was certainly welcome.
Without the need to totally recreate Q50 styling that most would agree was already attractive, the design team was freed to mildly tweak details. The changes include a slightly reworked version of the brand’s trademark double-arch grille that now offers more texture to its wavy mesh-patterned insert, plus muscled up character lines that now follow the upper outside corners of that grille across each side of the hood. Additionally, Infiniti revised the LED headlamps with a more animalistic eye-like design, and reworked the LED taillights at the polar end.
While all these updates help modernize the Q50’s look, the new model’s most noticeable changes were saved for its lower front and rear fascias, which now more clearly depict the trim line, or rather “grade structure” being offered.
On that note the 2018 Q50 is now available in Luxe, Signature Edition, Sport and Red Sport 400 grades. The latter two trims will be familiar to Infiniti faithful, although Luxe and Signature Edition are entirely new. Let’s be first to thank Infiniti for not using Limited or Platinum in the Q50 naming scheme, two of the most overused trim levels in the industry, after which we should give them a collective nod of approval for more visually separating each trim line to benefit those paying more to move up into a higher-end model.
To this end, Signature Edition and Sport grades offer performance-oriented exterior styling, while yet sportier visual upgrades join the model’s most potent 400-horsepower engine in Red Sport 400 trim. Items specific to the three upper grades include a more sharply creased front bumper and wider, lower air intakes, the corner vents edged in glossy black, while the rear bumper gets a bolder black diffuser embedded at centre, with a circular stainless steel exhaust tip at each corner. The Red Sport 400 gets a bit sportier still, with some glossy dark paint and body-colour two-tone detailing on the rear fascia, while the side mirror caps also feature a gloss black treatment, plus it includes a unique set of 19-inch alloys.
While all this is interesting and covered in depth as part of my previous 2018 Q50 Red Sport 400 road test, the model I most recently spent a week with is the more elegantly penned 2018 Q50 3.0t Luxe, which is essentially the Canadian-spec base trim upgraded with the more formidable 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. This means, instead of the 2.0t turbocharged four-cylinder engine’s 2.0-litre displacement, 208 horsepower, and 258 lb-ft of torque, my tester’s mill produced 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque for much more pleasing response from takeoff, during highway passing manoeuvres, and everywhere else, plus improved quietness with less vibration for a greater sense of refinement, and lastly a wonderful engine and exhaust note.
It appears I’m not the only one voicing praises to this new mill, as the Nissan/Infiniti VR family of 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engines is following in the automaker’s former VQ V6 engine’s footsteps by once again becoming a 2017 Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner.
Like the 2.0t, the 3.0t engine comes mated to Infiniti’s in-house seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, the latter system often praised by yours truly and other journos for its rear-biased nature and tenacious grip in both dry and inclement weather, while the Infiniti autobox (also used in Nissan’s 370Z) is a highly advanced bit of cog swapping kit that comes complete with dual transmission fluid coolers, Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) boasting an adaptive learning algorithm that senses a driver’s style and automatically adjusts shifting accordingly (upgraded with navigation-synchronized capability in upper trims), as well as a manual shift mode that helps you drive and sound like a pro thanks to Downshift Rev Matching (DRM).
It all sounds like race-spec equipment, but in the 3.0t Luxe these components are used to deliver creamy smooth, linear power from all over the boosted engine’s rev range, making it easy to manage in any situation. No doubt this is why Infiniti chooses not to offer steering wheel paddle shifters with this particular car, instead only including them with Sport and Red Sport 400 grades. This is a shame as the 3.0t’s formidable power and the car’s overall sporty nature deserve such hands-on engagement, but I made do with the lower console-mounted DIY shift lever when wanting to extract the most from the powertrain.
That’s when the Q50’s updated Rack Electronic Power Steering shows its advantages. This more sophisticated steering system, standard with the V6, is an upgrade over the 2.0t’s vehicle speed-sensitive hydraulic electronic rack-and-pinion power steering setup, in that it adds steering effort when the Q50’s yaw rate changes, and then adjusts to increase assistance when the wheels straighten. This isn’t the top-line Q50 drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system and doesn’t include the two Sport models’ fast-ratio setup either, but it nevertheless combined sporty responsiveness with wonderfully smooth control at high speeds, while it was ultra-easy to drive around town or within confined parking garages.
You can make adjustments through the lower console-mounted Drive Mode Selector, which modulates steering, suspension and drivetrain settings via Standard (default), Snow, Eco, Sport and Personal modes. All of this works wonderfully with the fully independent standard suspension, an aluminum-intensive design that combines front double-wishbones with a rear multi-link setup, along with Dual Flow Path shocks and stabilizer bars at both ends.
While performance is important in this class, fuel economy is becoming more of an issue due to rising pump prices. To this end Infiniti should be lauded for developing such a powerful engine that makes such a small environmental footprint, the as-tested Q50 3.0t AWD good for a claimed 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.8 combined. Of course, the 2.0t AWD is thriftier still at just 10.7 city, 8.6 highway and 9.7 combined, and the as yet unmentioned Q50 Hybrid AWD better yet at 9.1, 7.7 and 8.5 respectively, but that’s a different story for another time.
Any talk about the Q50 interior I tested will shed light on changes made to the Hybrid, mind you, not to mention other grades within the range, starting with the redesigned steering wheel that looks and feels sportier than the outgoing version. It’s ideally shaped with well-placed, more defined thumb spats, plus its inner baseball-style stitching provides better grip. It also seems as if it’s finished in a higher grade of leather, while its spokes are thinner for a more sophisticated look, and the switchgear attached impresses as well. The shift knob is new too, with a more ergonomic design, nicer leatherwork, double stitching, and higher end detailing that even includes an Infiniti logo on top, although none of this will be new if you’d spent time in last year’s all-new Q60 sport coupe.
It only makes sense that changes made to the Q60 would find their way to a car that has always shared much of the Q50’s underpinnings and cabin detailing, and being that the two-door coupe thoroughly impressed us during our multiple tests you should be able to guess that the rest of our 2018 Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe tester’s cabin didn’t disappoint either. For instance, the four-door model gets double-stitched padded leatherette on the instrument panel, while this luxury-oriented grade features gorgeous maple hardwood inlays that look and feel more naturally genuine than previous attempts.
Additionally, my tester’s beautifully finished leather upholstered seats were some of the best ever installed in a Q50, likely due to Infiniti’s new “spinal support” design that ideally cupped the backside while comfortably supporting the upper legs. Their standard eight-way power-adjustability made it easy to get comfortable too, while the optional powered steering column and proximity-sensing key-controlled memory settings automatically reselected my ideal driving position on startup.
The leather upholstery is actually an exclusive 3.0t Luxe option, as higher grades come standard with leather and both Luxe 2.0t and 3.0t trims get standard leatherette seating surfaces like most of the Q50’s rivals, with additional standard kit including auto on/off LED headlights, LED fog lamps, LED brake lights, 18-inch alloys on 225/50R18 all-season run-flat performance tires, Scratch Shield self-healing paint, aluminum “INFINITI” branded kick plates, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, Fine Vision electroluminescent primary gauges, micro-filtered dual-zone auto climate control, Infiniti InTouch infotainment with 8.0-inch upper and 7.0-inch lower displays, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite audio with HD playback, RDS and speed-sensitive volume, two USB ports, a heatable steering wheel, heated front seats, eight-way powered front seats, a powered moonroof, and more.
Moving up from the 2.0t to the 3.0t Luxe not only provides more power under the hood but also a handful of additional features such as remote engine start, Infiniti InTouch navigation that proved easy to operate and totally accurate, the Infiniti InTouch Services suite of digital alerts and remote services, voice recognition for audio, SMS text and vehicle info, power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver, and 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre pass-through (which are optional on the base car).
The optional leather I spoke of a moment ago comes as part of the $3,500 Sensory ProASSIST package that also adds two-way memory for the driver’s seat, the upgraded power-adjustable tilt and telescopic steering column and the side mirrors, the latter items also enhanced with reverse dipping and auto-dimming capability, while the package also includes an Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) with a Plasmacluster and Grape Polyphenol filter, a superb sounding 16-speaker Bose “Performance Series” audio system with advanced staging signal processing and CenterPoint 2.0 surround-sound, a very helpful Around View parking monitor with Moving Object Detection (MOD), always appreciated front and rear parking sensors, and a suite of advanced driver assistance technologies including Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Forward Emergency Braking (FEB), Blind-Spot Warning (BSW), and Back Collision Intervention (BCI) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA).
My tester also came with the $3,800 ProACTIVE package that adds an auto-leveling Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) that “bends” the headlights to improve night visibility around corners, High Beam Assist (HBA), Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) with Full Speed Range, Distance Control Assist (DCA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) with Active Lane Control, Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), and Infiniti’s Eco Pedal. The only other option was $650 Asgard Grey paint, which when combined with everything else pushed the base Q50 2.0t AWD price of $39,995 before freight and fees up to $52,920, which is still an excellent value when compared to competitors with similar features. And by the way, I found all of my pricing info for the 2018 Q50 and its competitors on CarCostCanada.com, a great resource for car pricing and so much more.
I noted a number of improvements to the Q50 interior earlier, but neglected to mention that along with the stitched leather-like dash-top and instrument panel, Infiniti also finished the lower console sides in the same luxurious treatment, protecting inside knees as part of the process. They didn’t go so far as to add soft-touch synthetic to the mostly unseen lower instrument panel under the knees, which almost never comes in contact with anything and therefore is rarely upgraded, or for that matter the lower door panels that are done better by some D-segment competitors, but the glove box lid was given a dose of the good stuff for a nice upscale feel.
Possibly more important in this category are digital interfaces, and to this end I think Infiniti has an advantage over some of its closest rivals due to dual tablet-style centre stack infotainment touchscreens. A number of Q50 competitors are still held back by only offering old-school lower console-mounted rotating knobs, buttons, or touchpads. Infiniti still includes a beautiful knurled metal dial with a few surrounding buttons for those who’d rather get their info this way, but let’s face it, our world has become a lot more comfortable applying finger gestures directly to touchscreens, so kudos to Infiniti for being ahead of the curve in this all-important area and delivering an impressive interface as well.
Both vertically stacked Q50 displays are touch-capacitive, which allows easy use of multiple functions simultaneously, such as the top screen for navigation mapping and the bottom for audio control. Infiniti’s appropriately named InTouch system also lets driver and front passenger customize the car’s inner environment by storing detailed personal information for multiple drivers, such as memory seating and mirror positions, identifiable via individual proximity-sensing I-keys.
If I could fault the Q50 interior I’d have to point to the mostly analogue primary instrument package that, despite having a large, highly functional colour multi-information display at centre, doesn’t provide the wow factor of Audi’s optional Digital Cockpit or a number of other fully configurable TFT gauge clusters. It’s certainly bright, colourful and attractively laid out, while providing superb legibility day or night, but buyers in this class want the best and brightest, literally, so Infiniti will want to address this issue with something more cutting edge soon.
One small negative after a lengthy list of positives is a fair way to end this 2018 Infiniti Q50 review, but we should also take into consideration that anyone buying a near-base competitor won’t be enjoying a fully configurable TFT gauge cluster either. Such fanciful features are relegated to top-tier trims across the industry, and despite my tester’s bevy of standard features, impressive finishing and strong performance, this 3.0t Luxe trim is more or less base. For these reasons and more, I recommend you experience this car firsthand.
Drive a 2018 Infiniti QX80 and you’ll quickly be comparing it in kind to full-size SUV competitors from Land Rover, Lexus, and even Mercedes-Benz, and a little research into its origins will immediately…
Drive a 2018 Infiniti QX80 and you’ll quickly be comparing it in kind to full-size SUV competitors from Land Rover, Lexus, and even Mercedes-Benz, and a little research into its origins will immediately tell you why.
The QX80, like the Nissan Armada that shares its platform architecture, is based on the legendary Nissan Patrol, a rugged, go-anywhere SUV nameplate that’s as old and well respected in global off-road circles as Land Rover’s Defender, Range Rover and others, Toyota’s Land Cruiser that forms the basis for the Lexus LX, and Mercedes’ G-Class, or Gelandewagen. All have decades-long ties to militaries worldwide, not to mention relief organizations, policing, businesses requiring wilderness travel, etcetera, and that on- and off-road prowess can immediately be felt by driver and passengers. The QX80 is a solid, well-built vehicle first and foremost, and an impressively finished luxury SUV after that, which is all the more reason to be amazed at its highly competitive pricing.
As sourced on CarCostCanada.com, the handsomely refreshed 2018 Infiniti QX80 is now available for just $77,350 plus freight and fees, which means you can get into a well-equipped, impressively finished base model for $32,250 less than the 2018 Lexus LX 570, $35,650 less than the Land Rover Range Rover, and $51,550 less than the base Mercedes-Benz G 550. What’s more, the QX80 is $9,190 more affordable than the 2018 Cadillac Escalade while representing a $10,300 savings over the new 2018 Lincoln Navigator, which will have you questioning whether Infiniti priced its full-size SUV too low after comparing them all directly.
To the ultimately wealthy such pricing trivialities won’t make one bit of difference, but value matters to smart luxury SUV shoppers trying to maximize the most from their hard-earned income. To that end the QX80 won’t disappoint, starting with a comprehensive refresh for the 2018 model year that includes a redesigned grille, front fascia, hood, fenders, fender vents, and rear bumper, while its LED headlamps, LED taillights, LED fog lamps and side indicators have been dramatically revised as well. Infiniti has rounded out the new exterior design with new 20- and 22-inch alloy wheels, while new exterior colours include Moonstone White, Mineral Black and Champagne Quartz.
Moving inside, the 2018 QX80 receives a newly refined cabin with a contrast-stitched wrapped upper instrument panel and a new shift knob across the line, plus a new stitched and leather-wrapped steering wheel hub/horn pad and diamond-patterned quilting for the upgraded door trim and seat inserts when opting for the Technology Package.
That Technology Package, at $8,150, also includes a new Infiniti-first Smart Rear View Mirror that doubles as a wide-angle rearview camera, while the infotainment system is now Infiniti’s InTouch Single Display design.
Additional Technology Package equipment includes the 22-inch wheels noted earlier, which are 18-spoke forged aluminum alloys shod with 275/50R22 H-rated all-season performance tires, plus Hydraulic Body Motion Control to enhance handling further, Active Trace Control brake vectoring that improves at-the-limit stability, safety and performance, Infiniti’s Eco Pedal that presses back on the driver’s right foot to promote less aggressive driving (which can be turned off), chrome mirror caps, an Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) with auto recirculation, a Plasmacluster air purifier and a Grape Polyphenol Filter, Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) with auto-leveling headlights, and front seat pre-crash seatbelts.
The Technology Package also includes a host of advanced driving assistance systems such as Intelligent Cruise Control (Full-Speed Range), Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Distance Control Assist, Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), and Backup Collision Intervention (BCI).
Even with the Technology Package included, the 2018 Infiniti QX80’s increased $85,500 price rings in lower than all of the aforementioned competitors, while a new no-cost optional colour treatment includes Saddle Brown with Charcoal Burl Trim, plus the QX80’s Wheat motif has been updated from low contrast to high contrast. Likewise the Graphite grey interior gets updates too.
Surprisingly the rear entertainment system, with its dual 8.0-inch displays, two pairs of wireless headphones, remote control, aux inputs and more, comes standard, as does the Bose Cabin Surround audio system with digital 5.1 decoding, Bose Centerpoint 2 signal processing, 15 speakers and more, while the list of standard in-car electronics not already mentioned also includes satellite radio, streaming Bluetooth audio, multiple USB charging ports, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, an Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), Infiniti InTouch Navigation, Infiniti InTouch Services, Infiniti Connection telematics, voice recognition, NavTraffic with real-time traffic info, and more.
Additional standard features include skid plates, body-colour running boards, roof rails, remote engine start, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, aluminum kick plates, power-folding, auto-dimming, heatable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, courtesy lamps and reverse tilt down, a heated leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a powered steering column, auto on/off LED headlights with high beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, an analog clock, a HomeLink garage door opener, tri-zone automatic climate control, front and rear parking sensors, a powered moonroof, two-way memory for the driver’s seat, side mirrors and steering column, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, and an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support.
Those seats are covered in semi-aniline leather upholstery, plus heated and climate-controlled up front, while the second-row captain’s chairs are heated (seven-passenger only) and feature tip-up easy entry for the third row, with standard 60/40-split power-folding and reclining third row seats also added to the standard feature set, plus a powered rear liftgate, a stainless steel rear bumper protector, an integrated Class IV tow hitch and seven-pin wiring harness with cover, tire pressure monitoring, Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control, all the usual active and passive safety systems, and more. Lastly, an eight-passenger QX80 can be had for the same price.
The QX80’s 5.6-litre V8 is also standard, making 400 horsepower plus 413 lb-ft of torque and mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission powering all four wheels via Infiniti All-Mode 4WD with Snow and Tow Modes.
“The 2018 QX80 commands a heightened flagship presence within the Infiniti portfolio,” said Adam Paterson, managing director, Infiniti Canada. “The updated model provides upscale luxury for all passengers, as well as a suite of advanced technologies that elevate confidence and control on any road.”
It’s no wonder QX80 sales have experienced a major upswing lately, with this updated 2018 model having its strongest sales ever in March, 2018, with 147 units sold and a year-over-year gain of 113.0 percent. The QX80 has shown strength through all three months of this year’s first quarter too, with sales growth up a solid 66.4 percent.
Clearly, Canadians have responded well to the 2018 Infiniti QX80’s sharp new styling updated, plentiful interior refinements, and incredible value proposition.
The premium subcompact SUV segment only came into existence in 2011 with just three models competing, yet after seven years its ranks had swollen to an identical seven challengers with sales growth having…
The premium subcompact SUV segment only came into existence in 2011 with just three models competing, yet after seven years its ranks had swollen to an identical seven challengers with sales growth having increased by more than 450 percent. That upward trajectory is hardly slowing either, with 2016 to 2017 year-over-year sales up by more than 25 percent alone. Per capita volume in this segment is higher in Canada than in the U.S. as well, so it only makes sense that all luxury brands want a piece of the action.
In August of 2016 the QX30 became that seventh subcompact luxury SUV competitor, and thanks to a very affordable starting price that remains unchanged from last year at just $35,990 plus freight and fees, the new SUV simultaneously gave Infiniti a much-needed entry-level gateway model for thousands less than most rivals.
At that price one might think the QX30 is somewhat short on features, but a quick glance at its spec sheet will show the complete opposite is true. In fact, walk up to the little sport utility with key fob in pocket and welcoming approach lamps illuminate the ground to each side, while a proximity-sensing key lets you inside. Yes, I’m talking about the base QX30, not a fully optioned version.
Continuing on that value-added theme, the standard features list is further bolstered with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, plus auto-dimming centre and driver’s side mirrors, while those turn signal-enhanced outer mirrors are also power-folding, making it easier to squeeze by in tight parking spots. A standard backup camera with dynamic guidelines makes reversing out of such spots less stressful too, while other thoughtful standard conveniences include dual-zone auto climate control, heated eight-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar support and three-way seat and mirror memory for both the driver and front passenger, while the standard upholstery is genuine Nappa leather front to back.
Seriously, if you want to see a German blush from shame, match that list up to one of the QX30’s Teutonic competitors. This reality becomes even more awkward when you learn this elegantly styled Infiniti is actually a Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 under the skin. While its classy chromed double-arch trademark grille, cat’s eyes LED-enhanced headlamps, secondary trademark C-pillar kink, beautifully detailed LED taillights, and gracefully arcing rear window/liftgate design look every bit Infiniti, the interior is filled with clear giveaways to its Stuttgart-sourced underpinnings.
I actually noticed the Mercedes-style key fob even before climbing inside, while repositioning the driver’s seat required adjustment via the German brand’s unique seat-profile shaped switchgear up on the door panels, where they’re easy to see and access. The power window and lock buttons, plus the mirror toggle and switches are Mercedes fare too, as is the shape of the steering wheel, yet while obviously pulled from M-B’s vast parts bing the buttons on the steering wheel spokes are totally different from those used for the GLA, as is the Mercedes-sourced gauge cluster and colour multi-information display, which comes complete with M-B fonts and graphics.
The entire centre stack could be from a Mercedes too, especially the HVAC interface, but which one I’m not sure. The 7.0-inch touchscreen is filled with Infiniti’s familiar graphics and functions, but the infotainment dial and various buttons on the lower console are pure Benz, as is the satin aluminum-trimmed gearshift lever.
Of course, Infiniti brands everything with its “two central lines leading off into an infinite point on the horizon” logo, and as importantly there isn’t much inside the cabin that looks remotely similar to the GLA from a design standpoint, which leaves Infiniti and its Japanese-luxury oriented fan-base happy with a subcompact SUV of their own, and Mercedes’ parent Daimler content that it has a B2B partner to share both development and production costs with.
It’s important to note, for respectability’s sake, the relationship between Infiniti and Daimler isn’t merely a one-way street. In fact it’s a comprehensive long-term strategic partnership founded in 2010 that sees Nissan, Infiniti’s parent, building 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engines for rear/all-wheel drive Renault/Infiniti and Mercedes vehicles in Decherd, Tennessee (the Q50, Q60, and C-Class included, whereas engines for the transverse-mounted front/all-wheel drive QX30 and GLA come from Mercedes’ plant in Germany); an assembly plant collaboration in Aguascalientes, Mexico for the new Infiniti QX50 (plus the upcoming short-wheelbase Mercedes A-Class sedan, and future Mercedes GLB SUV); Nissan Twingo architecture and powertrain contributions for Daimler’s Smart ForTwo (including the electric powertrain for Smart’s EV); the future Mercedes X-Class pickup truck riding on Nissan NP300 Navara hardware and built by Nissan at a Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina; etcetera.
Additionally, Infiniti was involved in the QX30/GLA design from the ground up, and tunes the powertrain to its own unique specifications, resulting in a small SUV that feels a bit more luxury-oriented than the slightly sportier Mercedes, although the QX30 is no laggard either. The direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the latter from only 1,200 rpm, resulting in off-the-line performance that’s more than adequate and overall drivability that’s plenty of fun, especially when a curving roadway opens up ahead. Infiniti’s suspension tuning provides an excellent compromise between ride quality and road holding, delivering an engaging driving experience that’s nevertheless very comfortable, even over rougher patchwork pavement.
Both Infiniti and Mercedes have long employed seven-speed automatic transmissions, making them easy to interchange without anyone noticing. I certainly found the QX30’s dual-clutch gearbox quick-shifting enough and appreciated the standard steering wheel-mounted paddles as well, while the Japanese brand makes sure an effective Sport mode is also part of the standard package, not to mention an Eco mode that makes the most of auto start/stop, which shuts the engine down when it would otherwise be idling to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
The result is a five-cycle Transport Canada rating of 10.6 L/100km in the city, 8.0 on the highway and 9.4 combined with its as-tested all-wheel drive powertrain, making the QX30 one of the more fuel-efficient AWD models in its category. Of note, both base and top-line Sport trims are front-wheel drive and therefore even thriftier, with a claimed rating of 9.7 city, 7.1 highway and 8.5 combined, which is by far the best in class.
Swift, comfortable and quiet, the QX30 could be the ideal subcompact luxury SUV. It measures up in most other respects too, with a superbly crafted interior above the beltline, featuring a padded and contrast stitched leather/leatherette (depending on the surface covered) dash top and instrument panel, steering wheel rim, door panels, and seat upholstery, high-quality soft-touch synthetic door uppers that extend into the back, shiny chrome and stylish satin-silver metal trim, plenty of piano black lacquered coatings, and features galore, the infotainment system in my Premium-trimmed and Technology-packed example even upgraded with split-screen rear-view and top-view surround parking cameras that were oh-so helpful, but others in the class provide clearer, higher resolution digital displays with more functions.
Now that I’m grumbling, I’d also like to see more premium competitors in the entry-level luxury classes improve materials quality to the levels of compact and mid-size models. For instance, below the QX30’s aforementioned beltline are hard plastics most everywhere, including the glove box lid, while Infiniti, like Mercedes, only wraps the A pillars in fabric, leaving the B and C pillars with low-rent looking hard plastic covers. Most premium brands are guilty of such cost cutting, so I’m not singling Infiniti out, and their seemingly reasonable collective responses will no doubt be savings oriented, but with mainstream volume brands doing such a fine job of equipping their similarly sized yet much more affordable models to very similar levels of fit, finish and refinement as premium players, not to mention features, luxury brands might want to consider improving their lot to the point that their individual brand DNA remains consistent from their smallest to largest models.
As it is, the current mindset rewards buyers of larger, less efficient vehicles with greater levels of luxury, and punishes those who might alternatively want the same level of pampering without a more powerful engine and larger, heavier footprint, nor the environmental impact this decision delivers. Again, this isn’t an issue with Infiniti or the QX30 per se, but rather with all premium manufacturers and, likely, the entire luxury ethos.
As noted at length earlier, the base QX30 is very well equipped, with some features not yet mentioned including 18-inch alloys, auto on/off halogen headlamps, signature LED daytime running lamps, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/USB/satellite audio, all the usual active and passive safety equipment, and more.
Choosing all-wheel drive doesn’t add to any equipment levels, however it ups the starting price to $38,490 (also unchanged) while providing unique front and rear fascia designs, extended overfenders with reformed sill panels, a different set of 18-inch alloy wheels, a three centimetres-plus raised ride height, flashier glossy black mirror caps, and roof rails up top.
And what about all the features not yet mentioned? These are the result of a $5,000 Premium package that boasts LED fog lamps, a chrome trunk finisher, aluminum treadplates, rain-sensing wipers, heated windshield washer nozzles, a universal garage door opener, a colour multi-information display, more advanced Infiniti InTouch infotainment with Navigation and lane guidance, great sounding 10-speaker Bose audio, a fixed panoramic sunroof with a powered sunshade, and front and rear parking sensors.
Last but hardly least, a $2,500 Technology package improves those cat’s eye-shaped headlamps to full LEDs with dynamic cornering capability and auto high beams, adds enhanced LED ambient lighting inside, plus adaptive cruise control, the superb aforementioned 360-degree surround parking monitor with moving object detection, semi-automated self-parking, forward emergency braking, blindspot monitoring, and lane departure warning.
I won’t go into the Sport model’s features right now, but hopefully will cover this model separately later in the year. Suffice to say it improves on styling, performance and standard features for $46,490.
Along with its loads of features, the QX30 is quite accommodating inside as well, with plenty of room for most body types up front plus surprisingly spacious rear quarters. When I positioned the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight height I still had five inches left over ahead of my knees and more than enough space for my feet when wearing winter boots, plus there were approximately four inches over my head and about the same beside my outer shoulder and hips. You could probably stuff three side-by-side in back, but it’s a great deal more comfortable with two, especially when folding the centre armrest down and taking advantage of its pop-out twin cupholders.
Further back, Infiniti provides a very roomy cargo hold measuring 544 litres (19.2 cubic feet) with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks upright or 963 litres (34.0 cubic feet) when they’re laid flat. Alternatively you have a best of both worlds scenario of stowing longer items through a pass-through down the middle, leaving the more comfortable outboard window seats to rear passengers.
Yes, the QX30 is one very livable little luxury utility, with an emphasis on upscale refinement and comfort. Its enjoyable performance and generally easy driving nature weigh in its favour too, which would all come together to make this little Infiniti a worthy contender in the subcompact luxury SUV class even if its value proposition wasn’t so good. Yet there lies the differentiator. The 2018 QX30 drives excellent value along with its many other attributes, making it one of the better choices for premium buyers that want to get the most from their automotive investment. I certainly believe it deserves a lot more attention than it currently gets, so if you’re in the market for a small SUV I recommend a closer look at an Infiniti QX30.
Don’t get too excited. While last year’s sensational QX50 Concept was a definitive firsthand view at the future QX50 production model, Infiniti made sure to clearly state in the opening lines of its…
Don’t get too excited. While last year’s sensational QX50 Concept was a definitive firsthand view at the future QX50 production model, Infiniti made sure to clearly state in the opening lines of its press release that “the Q Inspiration Concept is meant to demonstrate future technologies and will not be available for sale.”
We car enthusiasts love to dream, and concepts like the Q Inspiration are purely designed for this purpose, plus providing a glimpse at tomorrow’s technologies integrated within a feasible luxury car, of course.
“The new Infiniti concept car will take the traditional sedan architecture to its next stage of evolution,” said Karim Habib, Infiniti Executive Design Director. “A shift towards smarter, more compact and less intrusive powertrains; we were able to create an alternative form with flowing gestures, more engaging in character and more enriching in experience. With its long cabin, balanced proportions and muscular stance, the concept heralds in a new era for Infiniti models.”
We’ll get to that powertrain in a moment, but the Q Inspiration’s styling might be the most talked about of its many noteworthy attributes just the same. Unique above all, a body-colour grille insert is filled with fine vertical slats that mimic baleen hair, as if their sole purpose were to extract floating krill from the atmosphere, yet as unimposing as that might sound to any creature more than a couple of centimetres long its surrounding “double-arch” maw and myriad ducts appear anything but passive.
The deeply grooved hood line seems pulled from a Formula One car’s fuselage, as does the lower front fascia’s intricate latticework of aero-formed wings. Even the headlamp clusters appear sliced into the composite, while deeply carved front brake vents are duplicated on the opposite side of the wheel cutouts, this time to allow that air to escape rearward via heavily sculpted door and fender panels.
“The premium sedan segment has become rather conservative,” said Christian Meunier, Infiniti Global Division Vice President. “The Infiniti Q Inspiration previews something that could appeal to a younger audience, who seek modern design and new technologies to inspire and empower them.”
Innovative lighting elements prove how LEDs can be minimized to the point they don’t overpower a car’s overall design, yet at the same time highlight specific details when daylight turns to dusk. Those up front are hardly noticeable under the sun’s rays yet encircle the entire grille cutout at night, while the headlamps get a narrow horizontal beam backed by multiple angled strips of bright light, whereas the single body-wide taillight design is used to broaden the car’s overall visual appeal from behind. Front and back emblems, plus the rear deck lid’s “INFINITI” branding light up in the dark as well, while a scripted “Q Inspiration” nameplate seems to hover on its own within a dual-plane integrated rear diffuser. If this is the future of Infiniti, we’re in for some pretty artistic rolling lightshows.
As should be the case with all luxury cars, Infiniti’s left the best to those inside. Wedged between open-pore birch hardwood planks is a full-width digital display that houses primary driving instrumentation as well as a multi-information display and infotainment interface, whereas a second tier of digitization floats above the lower centre console, featuring touch-sensitive access to the audio system, HVAC controls, and more.
Infiniti provides a two-tone leather-wrapped rectangle of a steering wheel who’s shape suggests inspiration from F1 as well, although its controls are an exercise in touch-sensitive minimalism compared to the motorsport series’ master of hub complications. Likewise for the cabin-length cream, black and orange decorated leather-covered centre console that merely houses an infotainment controller up front and a T-shaped ultra-widescreen monitor for two in back—so much for cupholders.
These touchscreens are specified as “human-machine interfaces” in Infiniti’s press information, with each passenger getting their own display filled with the expected infotainment, plus a special “meditation-regeneration mode” that minimizes displayed info while providing a guided meditation designed to “leave any stress behind when they start a journey.” The system can also monitor occupant biometrics, or rather the measurement and statistical analysis of each individual’s unique physical and behavioural characteristics. Hopefully it only uses this highly private information to keep the driver relaxed yet alert and further unwind passengers.
According to Infiniti, the Q Inspiration’s unique design and the materials used maximize cabin space while minimizing exterior noise and absorbing the din within, the result being a calming, thoroughly comfortable environment.
Further diminishing noise, vibration and harshness levels, the door inserts are finished in the same padded cream leather as the centre console, also enhanced by black and orange detailing plus birch woodwork for a cohesive look that’s rich yet mid-century modern chic, as if the entire interior were penned by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich.
In actual fact it was the work of Infiniti’s in-house design department under the watchful eye of Mr. Habib, introduced earlier, as well as Alfonso Albaisa, SVP Global Design.
“As a new wave of technologies begins to take shape, our Detroit concept car heralds a new generation of Infiniti,” said Albaisa. “A seamless and stunning new design philosophy demonstrating Infiniti artistry in the new age of autonomy and breakthrough drivetrains. In Detroit, shown alongside Prototype 9, Infiniti aims to showcase a new elegance, one that strikes harmony and simplicity in a complex world.”
It certainly lives up to Albaisa’s claim of harmony and simplicity, not to mention luxury. The seat upholstery, also finished in cream leather, appears craftily stitched into tufted golf ball dimples at centre with black piping around their edges, the seats themselves on raised pedestals and shaped like they were pulled from some futuristic airline’s first class section.
“The Q Inspiration interior is reduced to a minimalist expression of wellbeing and comfort, and strives to create a warm and uncompromisingly modern atmosphere, like one so often finds in Tokyo residential architecture,” added Habib. “The purpose being to enable users in a new era of connectivity, while simultaneously enriching the driving experience with materials of the best quality, crafted by the hands of the artist.”
Despite its resplendent luxury and shapely form, the kilowatt-infused era we live in as well as the Q Inspiration’s pure-as-the-driven-snow paint scheme and shapely albeit chrome-less styling causes a person to scan its body panels for somewhere to plug it into an EV charger, but Nissan Leaf fans hoping for a premium version of their zero-emissions ride will have to wait a bit longer. Instead, this new concept is powered by Infiniti’s formidable yet efficient new VC-Turbo engine that was first introduced at last year’s Los Angeles auto show in the all-new 2019 QX50.
VC stands for variable compression, an industry-first technology capable of varying compression from 8:1 for high performance to 14:1 for best efficiency. While VC should work in any type of turbocharged internal combustion engine size or configuration, for this application a single-scroll turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder is used, and while Infiniti chose not to disclose output numbers for the Q Inspiration, it makes a considerable 268 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 280 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm in the upcoming QX50.
“As a brand with technological innovation at its core, the wider introduction of our advanced VC-Turbo powertrain is a natural next step for Infiniti,” said François Bancon, Vice President, Product and Programs. “After the recently launched QX50, the Q Inspiration proposes an alternative application for VC-Turbo technology in a potential new product.”
As you might expect, straight-line performance isn’t the only VC-Turbo attribute, with fuel-efficiency factoring into its design just as critically. Infiniti claims city/highway combined mileage of 27 mpg (8.7 L/100km) with the front-wheel drive QX50, or 26 mpg (9.0 L/100km) with the all-wheel drive variant, which is a 35- and 30-percent improvement over the outgoing V6-powered QX50 respectively.
“The beauty of the VC-Turbo powertrain is that it is a global technology,” added Bancon. “While we have plans to electrify our product portfolio in future, drivers all around the world are still reliant on internal combustion engines for their transport needs. This revolutionary engine offers a compelling blend of turbocharged performance and high efficiency. These qualities need not be unique to hybrids and diesels.”
Yes, Infiniti promises the immediate torque and responsiveness of a hybrid or turbodiesel powertrain, while its all-wheel drivetrain means it should get off the line with minimal slippage no matter the weather or road conditions. The powertrain is compact for such a sizeable sedan too, which helped Infiniti make the most of available passenger space so occupants can stretch out and relax.
This is where a fully autonomous drive system would be ideal, and to that end the Q Inspiration includes the next best thing, Nissan/Infiniti’s semi-autonomous ProPilot system.
“The Infiniti Q Inspiration reveals the next stage of development for the brand’s ProPilot autonomous drive technologies,” added Bancon. “The new, near-future technologies previewed here seek to both empower and liberate drivers.”
ProPilot responds to the road ahead and surrounding vehicles via camera and radar technology, plus it can drive you to your destination effortlessly via the navigation system’s route guidance.
“ProPilot empowers drivers with end-to-end autonomous driving, providing autonomous multi-lane highway driving and intersection auto-navigation functionalities,” says Infiniti. “These near-future technologies work alongside existing ProPilot Assist technologies, such as the capability to navigate stop-start highway traffic and monitor the positions of surrounding vehicles.”
As noted earlier, don’t expect to see the Q Inspiration piloting itself around your neighbourhood anytime soon. It’s a concept that’s been designed to inspire future styling directions, interior materials usage, and leading-edge technologies. To that effect it does a commendable job, although we’ll have to wait a few years to see how impactful it becomes to future generations of Infiniti vehicles.
For now, check out these videos of the Infiniti Q Inspiration concept:
“The next step in Infiniti design” (0:40 minutes)::