When an automaker creates a sports car as immediately classic as the now legendary 240Z, it’s often all downhill from there. It’s like the band that has a top-10 hit on their first album, and never achieves the same level of musical genius again. Could the next Z be the one that finally outdoes the original?
Sometimes we forget that Nissan (then Datsun in North America) had already experienced relative success with another great sports car before the 240Z arrived in 1969. In fact, the 1965–1970 1600 roadster (and predecessors), named Fairlady in Japan and raced in SRL 2000 form by actor Paul Newman at the very beginning of his motorsport career, was the 240Z’s (Fairlady Z’s) predecessor despite looking nothing like it. Where the 1600 roadster looked and performed similarly to British and Italian sports cars of the era such as the MGB, Triumph TR4/TR5, Alfa Romeo Duetto/Spider and Fiat Spider, the 240Z left every other entry-level competitor in the visual and literal dust, and became an instant hit because of it.
The Zs that followed gained displacement to overcome pollution equipment and therefore weren’t quite as appealing, while the 280ZX added luxury and weight, a scenario that continued to play out with the 300ZX, although the second-generation 300ZX was absolutely gorgeous and extremely powerful for the era, and is therefore considered by many as the best Z since the 240. This said the 350Z was lauded for styling and performance when it arrived, while the 370Z added more luxury and weight, and has kind of worn out its welcome after 12 years on the market. This brings us to the here and now, with hopes that the yellow beast before us all is a thinly disguised seventh-gen Z.
The Z Proto, as it’s called, appears more than just a concept. The name Proto is short for prototype after all, which outside of sports car racing circles means a near production ready concept designed to test the waters before a full introduction. Nissan has a history of near-production concepts, which bodes well for this car becoming the new 400Z, as netizen pundits are calling it.
Nissan has been teasing the next-gen Z for quite a while, first with a teaser video showing the car in silhouette a few months ago. This caused quite the stir, with many expecting a production-ready car to appear, but alas we only have a concept, albeit a nicely fleshed out one at that. The Z Proto looks like it could easily be a production model, from its graceful lines that pay greater respect to the original than any Z since the ‘70s, to its fully formed interior that continues forward with many of the key design elements that have always been part of Nissan’s much-loved super coupe.
From the front, the Z Proto immediately reminds of the early 240, 260 and 280 Z cars, particularly the blocky, rectangular grille that seems to pay tribute to a popular mod of the era which saw owners removing the thin chromed front bumper (this practice became even more popular amongst 280Z owners due to its larger safety regulated front bumper), but also shares similar sizing to the current 370Z’s frontal opening. Just the same, this has been the new Proto Z’s most criticized design element, with some thinking it’s just too big and square.
The Proto’s elegantly formed hood plays off early Zs too, but with a much wider domed centre section that begins farther rearward after a more pronounced crease down the middle. The ovoid headlights are entirely new, however, sharing some circular symmetry with the first Z, particularly the daytime running lights that are supposed to represent the circular reflection of the transparent headlamp fairings used on Japanese-domestic-market (JDM) models (and aftermarket upgraded North American cars). Their flush glass-covered sealed beam look is more in-line with the fourth-generation Z32, mind you, which incidentally housed the Z’s first Xenon HIDs as part of its 1998 makeover, but the new concept uses LED technology.
The Z Proto’s roofline, rear quarters and hatch, on the other hand, pull cues from a variety of eras, albeit mostly from the ‘70s due to moving most of its visual weight to the rear, which sees nicely upswept quarter windows as well as pillars with integrated “Z” logos, paying direct homage to first-generation models. This said, the rear lighting elements and back panel garner more influence from both the refreshed 1987-1989 Z31 and all Z32 300ZX models thanks to their large, horizontal taillight treatments, while the entire car is a major departure from both 350Z and 370Z models, necessary to provide a fresh approach to such an outdated model.
For those wanting a return to what arguably made the original 240Z a great car to drive, its superb power to weight ratio, the Z Proto’s five-inch longer body won’t be good news unless Nissan constructs it from lightweight metals and composites. Doing so, of course, would drive the price up substantially, which means we’re only likely to see the same types of high-strength steels and alloys used in the platform-sharing Infiniti Q60’s body structure, with any exotic materials allocated to the much pricier GT-R.
The new Z Proto measures 4,381 mm (172.5 in) long, 1,849 mm (72.8 in) wide, incidentally, which is exactly the same width as the Q60, plus it’s 1,310 mm (51.6 in) tall. We can expect a production version to use at least as much aluminum for its body panels as the current 370Z, which gets a lightweight hood, door skins and hatch. Aluminum suspension components will make the grade too, the current Z already using an aluminum-alloy front subframe, engine cradle, and forged aluminum control arms (upper and lower in the rear), steering knuckle, radius rod, and wheel carrier assembly.
Within that just-noted engine cradle will be Nissan’s impressive twin-turbo 3.0-litre VR30DDTT engine, an advanced power unit that delivers superb performance and much better fuel economy than the 3.7-litre V6 currently in use. It comes in two states of tune in the Q60, including 300 and 400 horsepower variants, with most pundits expecting a 400Z nameplate to accompany the most potent version. This said it would be an unusual move to limit the upcoming Z to just the top-line engine, as a 300Z’s lower price point would allow for many more sales, while a potential 300ZX could denote available all-wheel drive, currently standard in Canada in the Q60, while provide an ideal marketing connection to the aforementioned historical Z models. A six-speed manual is shown in the concept, nothing new here, while it’s possible the new Z will debut more forward gears for the automatic, which currently houses seven.
As has mostly been the case through the decades, the new Z Proto’s interior is heavily influenced by first-gen Z cars, albeit with modern-day refinement and technology that far surpass today’s model. A key giveaway includes the sport steering wheel with its classic circular centre pad endowed with a “Z” logo instead of Nissan’s usual crest, but fans will appreciate the trio of driver-canted ancillary gauges atop the centre dash even more. Along with the usual oil pressure and voltmeter dials, the Z Proto replaces the current model’s digital clock with a boost gauge, a nod to the twin-turbo V6 housed just ahead.
The digital gauge cluster and large high-definition infotainment touchscreen are the most notable improvements over all predecessors, the former necessary for respect in this segment, and allowing for much more driver usability due to the ability to incorporate sophisticated performance readouts, while the latter should come equipped with all the usual modern amenities including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a big, clear backup camera with the possible option of a 360-degree overhead bird’s-eye view, and more.
The three rotating dials used for the heating and ventilation system strangely don’t appear to provide dual-zone capability, but it is automatic so this version is at least up to par with the current car.
Speaking of the current car, the Z Proto’s side-window defog vents on the outside corners of the dash, and its uniquely shaped door handles with integrated air vents, appear directly pulled from today’s Z, a strange choice if the brand wants to wholly differentiate the upcoming model from the one it replaces.
The seats look fabulous, but such can be said for the current model’s top-tier Recaros too, all of which help to make the new Z Proto appear like a production model in waiting. Then again Nissan is calling it a “development study vehicle,” so we shouldn’t get our hopes up too high, even though the 2001 Z Concept ended up looking a lot like the 2003 350Z. Reports claim the production vehicle has been signed off and development is well under way, but so far we haven’t been given a launch timeline. Considering today’s Z is now the oldest generation of any model sold in Canada, they may want to get a move on.
Hold on. Subaru’s BRZ now outsells the Scion FR-S… er… the Toyota 86 by 2.5-to-one? What’s going on? Toyota has the stronger brand, right?
Boy was I wrong. I was sure that rebadging Scion’s sports car with Toyota’s much better-known logo would cause some sort of uptick in popularity, but its sales decline has been brutal over the past couple of years. In fact, since the car first became available in 2012, which began with a level of excitement from performance and tuning car enthusiasts that I hadn’t seen for a very long time and resulted in 1,470 Canadian deliveries in its first seven months, its sales have steadily dropped from a bullish 1,825 units in 2013, to 1,559 in 2014, 1,329 in 2015, 988 in 2016, 919 in 2017, and 550 in 2018, while as of November 2019 Toyota has only sold 250 units, representing a 53.3-percent drop over the same 11 months last year. Adding insult to injury, Subaru’s aforementioned BRZ, which only started edging out the 86 last year, is now sitting at 625 deliveries after 8.1 percent growth so far this year.
The BRZ’s recent upsurge should be an important indicator when analyzing the 86’ fall from grace. The fact is, not all sports cars are experiencing a downturn, but instead some, such as the BRZ and Mazda’s venerable MX-5, which has sold 767 examples so far this year for a 26.99-percent bump in popularity, are showing there’s renewed interest in the entry-level sports car segment, as long as its ardent customer base gets what they want.
Truth be told, Toyota’s 86 hasn’t changed much since it was refreshed for 2017 as part of its Scion FR-S transformation, and while part of me believes it doesn’t need much if any modifications, the numbers don’t lie. Truly, despite a U.S.-market Toyota spokesperson declaring last year that the 86 is here to stay for the foreseeable future, its current numbers should have the model’s handful of diehard fans feeling uncomfortable.
But the quoted numbers are just for Canada, right? What about the U.S.? Sales are certainly brighter south of the 49th where they’d need about 2,500 deliveries to match Canada’s output per capita. Year-to-date Toyota’s U.S. division has seen 86 sales grow by 3.9 percent to 3,122 units, which while hardly worthy of streamers, party horns and other New Year’s noise makers, at least beat Subaru at the very same game by trouncing U.S.-spec BRZ sales by 70.5 percent due to that model’s 36.8-percent plunge to 2,203 units. How did the MX-5 “Miata” do in the States? Not well at 7,314 units, a 13.5-percent drop, but at least none of them are the Fiat 124 Spider that’s only sold 687 units as of November 2019, a 32.7-percent downward spiral from a position that some might say was already well underwater (or six feet under?). Such results make Fiat Canada’s 204-unit 124 Spider sales look awesome per capita despite a 25.8-percent hit (U.S. deliveries should be about 2,000 units by comparison), and really Fiat shouldn’t feel so bad when comparing its current 124 Spider success to the 86.
There’s kind of good news on the horizon for Toyota’s most affordable sports car, however, and no I’m not talking about any increase in straight-line performance, an improvement most have been calling for since the model’s inception, but rather a much-needed upgrade to its infotainment system arriving for the upcoming 2020 model year. As it is, the 2019 Toyota 86 GT you’re looking at on this page appears identical to the one I tested in 2017, other than this car’s coat Raven Black paint and the 2017 model’s now discontinued burnt orange-like Hot Lava.
Toyota redesigned the entire front fascia for 2017, with those changes continuing into 2019 as well. Attractively detailed standard LED headlamps were part of the upgrade, and still provide a more sophisticated appearance, while the elongated front fender vents and redesigned “86” insignia, now positioned lower on the side panel, were at least different, as were the revised taillight lenses updated with brighter LEDs.
The cabin has always been pretty decent, but the earlier FR-S examples I drove never let me inside with proximity-sensing keyless access, nor did they start with a pushbutton, keep me warm via dual-zone automatic climate control, skinned their seats in leather trimmed with suede-like Alcantara, or covered their primary instrument hoods and passenger-side dash sections in padded and stitched microsuede like this 2019 86 does, but I must say the infotainment update promised for 2020 will be welcome.
Back in 2017, the current 6.1-inch centre touchscreen stopped paying tribute to Pioneer by upgrade its graphics to an attractive blue on black patterned background with cyan links, plus adding Toyota branding. It continues to look pretty good, but doesn’t come off as advanced as the automaker’s new Entune system, because it clearly isn’t. Other than the usual radio functions it allows for USB integration, plus it connects wirelessly via Bluetooth for talking on the phone and streaming audio, but believe it or not it doesn’t project the backup camera’s image. Instead, it blocks half of the rearview mirror’s usefulness with a tiny image that’s hardly useful at night in the rain, seeming more like a way for Toyota to satisfy regulators that now demand rearview cameras, than improve safety. I was therefore shocked to learn that the completely new 7.0-inch centre touchscreen in the 2020 86, which positively includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, doesn’t include the rearview camera. This means you’ll still be squinting at the mirror when backing up, which simply isn’t good enough.
This said, with North American sales numbers as poor as they are, should we expect any more investment in the 2020 86? Then again, are those numbers as bad as they are because Toyota hasn’t invested enough in this car? Even hindsight can’t help us answer this question, but one thing is certain, the 86 remains one of the most enjoyable cars in its class to hustle down a winding mountainside road.
I specified “down” because its Subaru-sourced 2.0-litre horizontally opposed “boxer” four-cylinder engine continues to make just 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque, which while pretty good for most cars that weigh in at just 1,252 kilos (2,760 lbs), isn’t as formidable as many of its peers. Those numbers were bumped up five points each for 2017, which was an improvement, but 2.5 and 3.3 percent upgrades respectively didn’t answered the ongoing call for more performance requested by the very same customers buying it.
Of note, only six-speed manual (6M) equipped cars received the increased power, which came together with a reworked rear differential designed for quicker launches from standstill. Cars like my previous 2017 tester that utilize Toyota’s paddle-shift actuated six-speed automatic (6A), which incorporates a downshift rev-matching system dubbed “Dynamic Rev Management,” continued forward with the unmodified powertrain, but at least Toyota added hill start assist.
I have to admit to not minding the autobox as much as I expected, as it’s a decent transmission and a lot easier to live with around town, but this is a rear-wheel drive sports car folks, not merely a sporty looking front-drive coupe based on a compact commuter sedan, so if this were my personal ride I’d only own it with a manual gearbox.
Modulating the clutch and letting the revs climb right up to 7,000 rpm for maximum power is the best way to get the most out of the engine’s available power, whether taking off in a straight line or exiting a corner, and on that last note the 86 continues to be one of the nimblest chassis’ available in its price range.
It gets MacPherson gas struts up front and double wishbones in back, plus if you ante up from this GT trim line to the top-tier manual-only SE, SACHS performance dampers are included, while the already strong four-wheel discs get upgraded to Brembos and usual standard 215/45R17 summers grow to 215/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 performance tires, although my tester included Bridgestone Blizzak winters that really made it easy to slide the back end out; no bad thing.
The 2019 86 comes in base, GT and just-noted SE trims, by the way, some base model highlights not yet mentioned including a limited slip differential, auto on/off LED headlamps, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, remote keyless entry, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction three-spoke sport steering wheel, a leather-clad shift knob and handbrake lever, aluminum sport pedals, a trip computer/multi-info display, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, single-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker AM/FM audio with aux and USB inputs plus an Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL), Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, a six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, power windows with auto up/down all-round, dual vanity mirrors, all the usual active and passive safety equipment, and more for only $29,990 plus freight and fees.
The automatic transmission will set you back $1,200, this being the same price whether choosing a base 86 or opting for $33,260 as-tested GT trim. Of note, the GT wasn’t available when I last reviewed the 86 in 2017, with most of its features part of a Special Edition that now shares its more performance-oriented upgrades with the new SE, or TRD Special Edition. Before getting into that top-line model, GT trim provides the proximity-sensing access and pushbutton start/stop, dual-zone auto HVAC, and fancier leather/microsuede upholstery and trim mentioned earlier, those front seats also including warmers as part of this upgrade, while additional GT features include LED fog lamps, a rear spoiler with black-painted accents, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display with vehicle performance data, and a theft deterrent system.
Lastly, the $38,220 TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Special Edition, which once again can only be had with the manual transmission, adds a TRD aero kit, TRD performance dual exhaust, black side mirror housings, special cloth sport seats with red accents, red seatbelts, and red interior stitching to the upgraded wheel and tire package plus the suspension tweaks mentioned earlier.
Speaking of trims, packages and pricing, those interested in a 2019 86 can access up to $2,000 in additional incentives by visiting the 2019 Toyota 86 Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada, or if the new infotainment system in the 2020 model seems like the better bet, check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 Toyota 86 Canada Prices page, which will tell you how to access factory leasing and financing rates from 3.49 percent, plus other manufacturer rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
The 2020 model replaces the TRD Special Edition with a new Hakone Edition, by the way, which comes painted in unique Hakone Green and rides on 17-inch bronze-coloured alloys, while the name “pays tribute to one of the greatest driving roads in the world,” says Toyota, but so far the only way to find out about it is to visit Toyota’s U.S. retail website (where I sourced this info) as the automaker’s Canadian site has no info about the 2020 86 (again, go to CarCostCanada for 2020 86 pricing, trims, etcetera).
I’ve mentioned a number of 86 competitors already, but the one that probably comes closest to matching Toyota’s sports coupe in layout is Nissan’s 370Z Coupe, and you might be surprised to learn it retails for only $30,498 in its most basic trim, and with that solves the 86’ most criticized performance issue with a 350 horsepower base 3.7-litre V6. Its tech will take you a dozen years back in time, however, so get ready to be deflated if you want hook your smartphone up to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, or even stream a podcast via Bluetooth (the base model will only let you take calls that way), but the orange liquid crystal displays provide a cool ‘80s retro digital Seiko look if you’re into that sort of thing, and it’s hard to argue against all that straight-line power.
Before you run down to your local Nissan store and snap up a new Z, consider that it weighs 260 kilograms (573 lbs) more and feels like it, the Nissan doesn’t come with a rear bench seat so two (small) folks will need to stay home, and the 370Z’s fuel economy is nowhere near as efficient as the 86, Toyota achieving a claimed 9.9 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.7 combined with the manual or 11.3 city, 8.3 highway 9.9 highway with its automatic, and Nissan only managing 12.6 city, 9.3 highway and 11.1 combined with the Z’s six-speed manual or 13.3, 9.3 and 11.5 respectively for its seven-speed auto.
Of course, most of us don’t base the purchase of a future sports car on its fuel-efficiency, but this day and age it’s certainly a bonus, while anyone with kids will appreciate those rear seats. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Toyota’s 86 practical, but it’s easier to live with than many of its two-seat competitors and its one-piece rear seatback even folds down to expand on a reasonably sized 196-litre (6.9 cubic-foot) trunk to boot. Add to that good expected reliability and the 86 is a good choice for anyone wanting a daily driver with much better performance than most anything else available under $30k.
Twilight was causing headlamps and taillights to illuminate as I was driving home the other day, which is often a dazzling spectacle of white and red LEDs in my neighbourhood of premium and exotic machinery.…
Twilight was causing headlamps and taillights to illuminate as I was driving home the other day, which is often a dazzling spectacle of white and red LEDs in my neighbourhood of premium and exotic machinery. Driving up to a stoplight and one set of particularly elegant rear lamps caught my attention, followed by a captivating silhouette. My eyes immediately locked in, because I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. All I knew was that it was gorgeous. Then I laughed when I realized I was looking at the current generation Infiniti Q60, a car that I’ve spent weeks with at a time on many occasion.
To be completely honest, I’m more than a bit jaded when it comes to cars. This job allows me to park some pretty impressive hardware in my driveway, and like I said a moment ago, every manner of BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus and the list goes on crowd the highways and byways of my well-to-do city, not to mention more Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and McLarens, plus Bentleys and Rollers than those living anywhere outside of Beverly Hills or Dubai will ever get the chance to see. So factor that in when considering an Infiniti pulled my eyeballs. This is one stunning looking car, no matter the angle.
Another reason it caused me to look is rarity. The Q60 does pretty well compared to a Lexus RC, which it more than doubled in sales last year, but it’s not as strong a seller as say an Audi A5, a BMW 4 Series, or a Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe. Both the 4 and A5 more than tripled the Q60’s deliveries last year, and as Q3 2018 closed BMW had sold more than four times as many 4s and Audi had moved more than five times as many A5s, the new segment leader (although we can’t say for sure how many C-Class Coupes get sold each month as Mercedes lumps their sales numbers together with C-Class Sedans). And just in case you’re feeling sorry for Infiniti, consider BMW sold more than 12 times as many 4s and Audi more than 15 times as many A5s, while Infiniti found three times as many Q60 buyers. Ouch!
While slower sales might be a negative to a company’s balance sheet, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for premium buyers who want exclusivity. Let’s face it. In Canada’s better neighbourhoods the luxury wares from the big German brands are ubiquitous, causing their owners to spend umpteen thousands more for bespoke paint, fancy wraps, carbon fibre add-ons and expensive wheels, so therefore the opportunity to get into a car as stunningly beautiful as the 2018 Infiniti Q60 for just $46,295, or this 3.0T Luxe AWD that starts at $53,295, is rare indeed (see all of the 2018 Q60’s trims and pricing at CarCostCanada, plus save on your purchase by researching possible rebates and receiving dealer invoice pricing).
The base model just mentioned is the 2.0T Pure, a trim line and engine that will disappear on the Canadian market for 2019. If you can still find one and don’t care as much about forward thrust as beauty (because the car still looks as nice) its 208 horsepower Mercedes-sourced 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is plenty fuel-efficient, but most Q60 buyers opt for Infiniti’s own 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 that makes a much more formidable 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which I have to say is more than adequate, as long as you don’t try the Q60 Red Sport 400 with its same number of horses and 350 lb-ft of ready and willing torque.
That’s a car I’ve previously covered and hope to again soon, but its $61,295 price point might be a bit dear for some, hence the $55,295 Q60 3.0T Sport just below and the Q60 3.0T Luxe I spent a week with. Before I delve into Infiniti’s value proposition, which is always a key reason to consider the Japanese luxury brand, let’s talk driving dynamics.
First off, it’s an easy car to drive around town and on the open highway, as one might expect by looking at its classy chrome detailed exterior and luxuriously appointed leather, hardwood and bright metal lined interior. The ride is firm yet comfortable, its standard 19-inch machine-finished alloys on 255/40 all-season run-flats not helping the former, but its double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension making sure of the latter. Infiniti has tuned the spring rates, dampers and stabilizer bars for a competent mix of compliant performance, and while not quite as capable as the Dynamic Digital Suspension included with the Q60’s two top-tier Sport trims, its agility around corners shouldn’t leave anyone wishing for too much more.
Speaking of more, Infiniti offers the Q60 with the complexity of four different steering systems depending on engine, trim and your willingness to pay. The base model I mentioned earlier comes with a vehicle-speed-sensitive hydraulic electronic power steering setup, while the car I tested features standard electronic power steering, yet is offered with Infiniti’s exclusive Direct Adaptive Steering, which replaces mechanical linkages with electronic switches and servo motors to save weight and further enhance the driving experience. Lastly, those two just noted Sport trims can be had with the optional direct steering system or come standard with a more performance-oriented fast ratio electronic power steering setup.
As with the suspension, I never felt any lack of response when pushing the Q60 hard through corners, something I did as often as opportunity allowed. Instead, all that was needed was a little tap on the sizeable 12.6-inch front and 12.1-inch rear discs to load up the front tires and the wonderfully tuned chassis took care of the rest. Infiniti includes standard Active Trace Control that actually enhances cornering feel by modulates braking and engine torque, and I’ve long been a fan of the brand’s rear-biased Intelligent all-wheel drive that sends all available twist to the wheels in back until tire slippage transfers up to 50 percent of torque forward to the front wheels.
Rear tire slippage can happen when getting hard on the go pedal, although you won’t notice any such torque transferring going on behind the scenes. All you’ll feel is immediate response from throttle input, its torque strongest between 1,600 and 5,200 rpm, which considering its aforementioned 295 lb-ft of twist is a nice broad spectrum that allows what seems like relentlessly quick acceleration.
It feels especially potent when Infiniti’s Drive Mode selector is switched to Sport mode. It was quick enough in the default Standard setting, while Snow, Eco and Personal modes are also included, but Sport is best for lickety quick shifts from the wonderfully engaging seven-speed automatic that snaps to attention at takeoff or alternatively quickly drops down through the gears to find the ideal cog for passing manoeuvres. Shift intervals are nice and crisp, but to be fair this isn’t the sportiest transmission in this class, yet it’s certainly one of the best for simultaneously providing quick responses and ultra-smooth operation.
Truly, Infiniti has really done a wonderful job with this gearbox, while along with its quick reacting performance comes Downshift Rev Matching (DRM) that makes you look and sound like a pro as the engine automatically blips to ideally match a chosen gear; a driver-adaptive learning algorithm that senses your driving style and then adjusts its shifting accordingly; Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) that gets upgraded with navigation system synchronization in Luxe trim and above, which adds GPS mapping data to the usual sensor-based system in order to automatically select shift points when the transmission is left to its own devices in Drive, selecting the best possible gear depending on uphill, downhill or curving road conditions; plus dual automatic transmission fluid coolers to keep it running smoothly and reliably.
I only wish steering wheel-mounted paddles were included with V6-powered cars, and not only with the aforementioned Sport trims. This more pampering Luxe trimmed example is certainly sporty enough to warrant paddle shifters, and I for one would feel a bit put off if I paid $50k-plus for a performance coupe and wasn’t able to enjoy the hands-on control that paddles provide.
That Eco mode mentioned earlier is a pet peeve of mine, and not because it strangely still doesn’t include an auto start/stop function. While it seems to work pretty well for saving fuel, it incorporates one of my most disliked features of any car made anywhere. The Active Eco Pedal pushes back on your right foot when attempting to apply more throttle than it feels is necessary to maximize fuel economy, and I loathe this so much that I purposely won’t use Eco mode. Of note, I often use Eco mode with Infiniti’s competitors, as I like saving fuel when driving in the city, but I find the Active Eco Pedal so disturbingly intrusive that I’d rather pay more for less driving interference. Go ahead and search for it online and you’ll quickly see my distaste for this device isn’t unique, and I’m willing to be the sooner Infiniti gets rid of it the faster people will want to purchase its cars. On the positive, this version doesn’t push back as aggressively as early versions, but it still feels as if you’re pushing down on a block of wood instead of a nicely progressive gas pedal.
Speaking of economy, the new 3.0-litre V6 is much more fuel-efficient than the previous 3.7-litre version, with my weeklong non-Active Eco Pedal usage measuring a combined 11.7 L/100km from mostly city and some highway driving, which comes fairly close to matching the claimed Transport Canada rating of 12.3 city, 8.6 highway and 10.7 combined. The soon-to-be-discontinued four-cylinder gets a thriftier 11.2 city, 8.5 highway and 10.0 combined rating, by the way, which really isn’t all that much better than the V6, while the brilliantly quick 400 horsepower Red Sport version is good for an estimated 12.5 city, 9.2 highway and 11.0 combined, which once again isn’t much of a penalty for its superb performance capability.
I’ll refrain from deep diving into every last feature and option available to Q60 buyers this time around, mostly because this review is coming out towards the end of the 2018 model’s availability and the 2019 will see plenty of changes to trims and feature sets as noted earlier, but suffice to say this current model year and the next one offer premium buyers loads of value. For example, a shortlist of standard features found on the base Pure model include such niceties as full LED headlamps, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, signed aluminum treadplates, genuine aluminum interior inlays, dual-zone auto HVAC, Infiniti InTouch dual display infotainment with an 8.0-inch top monitor and 7.0-inch lower touchscreen, a reverse camera, voice recognition, text message capability, satellite radio, a powered moonroof, eight-way powered front seats with power lumbar support, rear parking sensors, Scratch Shield self-healing paint, plus all the usual active and passive safety features.
Along with the more powerful engine, my 3.0T Luxe tester added remote start, auto-dimming side mirrors, a heatable power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, heatable front seats, memory for the steering wheel, seats, and side mirrors, soft perforated semi-aniline premium leather upholstery, accurate navigation with lane guidance and 3D building graphics, the navigation-synchronized adaptive shift control I mentioned earlier, real-time traffic info via SiriusXM Traffic, superb sounding 13-speaker Bose Centerpoint surround audio, a garage door opener, powered front seat torso bolsters, and more.
Infiniti added $750 worth of Majestic White Pearl paint, plus the $5,200 ProAssist-ProActive package that includes rain-sensing wipers, auto-leveling front headlamps with adaptive cornering, front parking sensors, an Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection (PFEB), Blind-Spot Warning (BSW), and Back Collision Intervention (BCI) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (CTA), which proved to be a useful collection of advanced driver assistance features that worked well without being overly sensitive.
All of this advanced equipment comes in an interior that’s beautifully finished with high-quality materials. Its dash-top is all soft touch synthetic, and stitched together with contrasting thread. Infiniti provides the same impressive treatment across the entire instrument panel, all the way down to the lower console where it turns into an even softer padded leather wrap. This even includes the glove box lid. Likewise, the door panels are finished in this comfortable leather-like material from top to just under the armrests, with contrast stitching throughout—only the lower door panels are finished in a harder plastic, which unfortunately is all too common in this class.
Infiniti enhanced the leather with a rich looking, substantive feeling dark grey hardwood, plus lots of attractive satin-finish aluminum. It’s all tastefully put together for a classy result, while some of its switchgear is edged in knurled metal for extra grip and a ritzier look. Even nicer, the previously noted Bose stereo includes gorgeous drilled aluminum speaker grates on the front doors. Yes, it’s easy to fall in love with the Q60 interior.
I’d like to see more graphical information within the gauge cluster’s multi-information display, or better yet a fully configurable TFT gauge package, but nothing like this is on offer yet. Instead, you get a simpler colour display between two analogue dials ahead of the driver, plus the aforementioned dual display infotainment system that provides more digital acreage than the majority of competitors. The top display is controlled by a rotating knob on the lower console, and the bottom display is a regular touchscreen, and while it all looks impressive initially, the latter lacks the ability to use tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls for the map, forcing you to execute such functions on the rotating dial. The latter function works reasonable well, it’s certainly not as intuitive as a regular touchscreen, which most of us are used to due to our smartphones and tablets.
The perforated leather driver’s seat was wonderfully comfortable, and offered good lateral support made better via powered torso bolsters. This said I’d rather they included four-way powered lumbar support instead, but at least the fore and aft design came very close to pushing in at the ideal spot on the small of my back. Also on the positive, Q60 ergonomics fits my body like a glove. Its powered steering column has plenty of reach, while the seat is as adjustable as I could ever need, thus optimizing my driving position for total control and comfort. As I said over and over again in my reviews, this isn’t always the case due to my unique long-legged, short torso body type.
Rear seating space is tight of course, which is par for the course in the personal coupe category, especially amongst compact D-segment models. This said I had about four inches in front of my knees when the driver’s seat was set for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame, plus ample room for my feet and about an inch above my head to the window glass. I had reasonable side-to-side room as well, measuring about three inches from my outside shoulder and four inches from the hips, while Infiniti does not provide a centre armrest in back, but a centre console includes a shallow tray and equally shallow cupholders. The seatbacks are fairly comfortable, but I wouldn’t want to sit in the back over a long haul.
Now that I’m kind of complaining, I’m still not a fan of foot-operated parking brakes, mostly because they get in the way. Then again with the Q60 it’s not as much of a problem because no manual gearbox is offered.
It would be silly to complain about the Q60’s small 246-litre (8.7 cubic-foot) trunk, because most personal coupes don’t offer a lot when it comes to cargo carrying capacity. Fortunately it’s nicely finished with carpeting all the way around, plus Infiniti filled the empty spare tire hole with a handy tool kit holder. The rear seat folds forward, but take note there’s no split at all, which limits cargo/passenger flexibility.
Perfect it’s not, but factor in all you get with the 2018 Q60, from its potent and efficient powertrains to its gorgeous styling and ultra-rich cabin, not to mention its impressive load of standard features and optional kit, and it’s a lot of personal luxury coupe for a very reasonable price range. On looks alone I could recommend it, but it’s so much more than just a pretty face. If you want a truly special sports coupe that you won’t see coming around every other corner, I recommend you pay special attention to the Infiniti Q60.