Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 2017 review
You probably already know this, but for those who missed that class, Infiniti is Nissan's luxury division, just as Lexus is Toyota's prestige brand. But don't look at Infiniti as just a fancy Nissan.
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Put it down to good management, fortuitous timing or a combination of both, but in late 2015 Ford Australia brought a factory-built, right-hand drive (RHD) version of the blue oval’s Mustang muscle car to this market, and it took off.
From the ashes of the Aussie-built Falcon’s funeral pyre, the Mustang rose like a fiery phoenix (actually, that’s a Dodge) to grab some much-needed positive PR for the brand, and more than a few sales.
In its close to three years on offer here more than 20,000 examples of the sixth-generation pony car have found homes, with supply now meeting demand for an average monthly run-rate of around 500 units.
Which leads us to the other side of the age-old, blue-versus-red automotive equation. In late 2017, Holden saw the locally manufactured Commodore out the door on a high, with SS-V versions of the final VFII variant powered by the 6.2-litre all-alloy, LS3 V8, producing 304kW/570Nm, enabling it to sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds.
Then, for performance enthusiasts… nothing. And HSV, which had built its business over close to three decades on tuning Holden's local rear-drive product, was seemingly left in a hole.
Enter HSV 2.0; developer of the SportsCat version of Holden’s Colorado dual cab ute, RHD examples of a small planet on four wheels that is otherwise known as the Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck, and now, a RHD version of the Mustang GT’s arch nemesis, the Chevrolet Camaro SS.
Because the swap to RHD is carried out locally (with GM’s blessing, co-operation and approval) the Camaro is a smaller-volume, higher-priced proposition than the Mustang. Specifically, 30 per cent dearer and 90 per cent rarer, because HSV is offering just 550 for sale in the coming year.
And we’ve got our hands on one of the first to exit the HSV bunker to see how many bangs it delivers for your muscle-car bucks.
|Chevrolet Camaro 2019: 2SS|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Like the Mustang, Chevy’s Camaro is in the middle of its sixth-generation, similarly conforming to a retro-futurist theme, with clear references to its (mainly 1960s and ‘70s) forebears in an aggressively high-waisted, wide-body exterior design.
Angry HID xenon headlights are deeply recessed and surrounded by broad LED daytime running lights, combining with a huge lower air intake to give the Camaro SS an intimidating expression.
Bulging guards front and rear house big 20-inch ‘split-spoke’ alloy rims, the obligatory hood vents are all present and correct, with the side treatment following the classic muscle-car era ‘Coke bottle’ profile.
The pumped-up stance is further accentuated by a tiny glasshouse, with the turret tapering smoothly towards a high rear end, complete with stylised (LED) ‘60s tail-lights, a boot-mounted spoiler and quad exhaust tips.
Inside there are similar echoes of Camaros past, with satin chrome trim defining the leading edge of a dual-cowl instrument binnacle, housing an 8.0-inch configurable digital cluster.
The rest of the cabin is defined by grey and black tones across leather-trimmed sports front seats, a broad centre console and relatively simple dash, interrupted only by a curiously upright, 8.0-inch multimedia screen in the centre.
In fact, the screen is so upright, from the driver’s seat it feels like it’s canted over towards the rear of the car. Presumably to minimise reflections, but it's strange none the less.
A cool touch are the chrome rings around the circular central air vents (located between padded wings either side of the gearshift) controlling the climate-control temp settings. A simple idea, beautifully executed.
Interior ‘Spectrum Lighting’, including thin illumination strips in the doors, dash and centre console, is adjustable through 24 colour selections.
The Camaro SS is a ‘2+2’, meaning it can technically accommodate four people, but the rear is realistically a kids-only zone.
And sure enough there’s plenty of room in the front, with ample headroom for this 183cm tester, despite modest intrusion from the standard electric sunroof.
There are tiny pockets in the doors, a medium-size glove box, two cupholders (one small, one large) and a gratuitously placed 12-volt outlet in the centre console, with a lidded bin at the rear providing oddments space as well as twin USB ports and an ‘aux-in’ jack.
But this is where the first of several left- to right-hand drive swap anomalies raises its annoying head.
The centre console is unchanged from its original LHD set-up, so the lengthy taper of the padded lid for the centre storage box, which doubles as an armrest, is oriented toward the passenger side.
No big deal, you might think, until you (the driver) go to rest your arm on the console and your elbow drops straight into a cupholder. Put a cup or can in there and you’ll be bumping it constantly. It's as irritating as it is uncomfortable.
Similarly, while the glove box swaps from the right to the left side of the car, the locking door has been simply switched across, which means the release handle is biased towards the passenger side, making it a big stretch to reach from the driver’s seat. Grrrr.
In terms of rear seating, forget it if you’re a full-grown adult. Headroom is so limited that sitting upright is out of the question, and that’s before you even get to the almost non-existent legroom.
There are no cupholders, loose-item storage, adjustable ventilation or media connectivity back there either, so it's best to plan ahead before strapping the kids in.
Boot volume is a relatively modest 257 litres, but the storage area is usefully deep, and we were able to fit our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres) without any issues.
The CarsGuide pram was a different story, though, because the boot’s high lip and tight opening aperture simply wouldn’t allow it to pass.
There's no spare onboard, either, with the high-performance ‘run-flat’ Goodyear rubber allowing you to drive for 80km on a deflating or deflated tyre at a top speed of 80km/h.
Local engineering, durability testing, and ‘full-volume’ certification work, not to mention the actual re-manufacturing process underpinning the Camaro SS’s swap to RHD, comes at a cost, with HSV setting the car’s price at $85,990, before on-road costs.
For context, an equivalent Ford Mustang GT coupe undercuts that number by close to 20 grand, with a price tag of $66,259 (again, before on-road costs).
That said, the spec HSV has chosen for the Aussie Camaro is ‘2SS’, towards the top end of seven Camaro grades offered in the US.
Aside from the performance and safety tech mentioned in later sections, that means the standard equipment list includes dual-zone climate control air, Bose ‘premium’ nine-speaker audio, as well as Chevy’s ‘3 Plus’ multimedia system with 8.0-inch colour touchscreen, Bluetooth audio streaming (for two devices), wireless phone charging, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.
You’ll also pick up cruise control, the 8.0-inch configurable ‘Driver Information Centre’ digital instrument display, keyless entry and start, a high-definition rear-view camera, leather trimmed, power-adjustable heated and ventilated sports front seats with memory pre-sets (also leather in the rear), a leather-trimmed, heated, flat-bottom sports steering wheel, aluminium accents on the door trim and shifter cap, a power boot release, the 20-inch alloy rims, and an electric glass sunroof. Sat nav and auto rain-sensing wipers are surprising omissions.
North American market 2SSs also feature a multi-function colour head-up display, but according to HSV the left-hand side of the windscreen, that accommodates the HUD in the US, is different to the right-hand side we’d require. It's swings and roundabouts because the (standard) electric sunroof is an option in the States.
The mid-$80,000 bracket kicks up some interesting sports-luxury coupe options, including the super-slick Audi TT S line, BMW’s 430i M Sport, the Lexus RC 350 F Sport, Infiniti’s powerhouse Q60 Red Sport or Merc’s C300 Coupe.
All deliver a features list as long as your arm, but none can match the Camaro SS’s brute strength and sheer presence. Really, the key competitor’s got to be the Mustang. Just as well equipped, and 20 big ones cheaper.
And at this point we need to call out quality niggles we’ve never come across in the current Mustang. For example, the fit on some of the lower interior inserts in our test Camaro was poor, with large gaps where the passenger and driver’s side kick panels meet the door apertures.
The spaces were so large, red bodywork behind was visible and the end of the panels stood proud of the door-seal rubbers. Hard to accept in an $86k car.
On top of that, the exterior mirrors had seemingly been simply flipped from left to right side, this inversion process meaning both protruded awkwardly from their housings.
The shut line between the dash top and door card on the driver’s side was too big, while random holes and recesses in the A-pillar coverings (presumably for US bits and pieces not relevant here) were not a great look.
The Camaro SS is powered by the latest (Gen 5) version of Chevrolet’s 6.2-litre, naturally aspirated LT1 small block V8.
It might be an old-school overhead-valve design, but it’s all-alloy, uses direct injection and features variable valve timing, as well as cylinder-deactivation tech.
Peak power (339kW, and identical to the Mustang GT) arrives at 6000rpm, with maximum torque (617Nm, and 61Nm more than the Mustang GT) available at 4400rpm.
In this application the engine is fitted with an external oil cooler and extra-capacity cooling system.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 11.5L/100km, the Camaro SS emitting 260g/km of CO2 in the process.
During our time with the car, covering city, suburban and freeway running, we averaged 14.9L/100km, which is impressive for a 1.7-tonne, 6.2-litre V8 muscle car.
Cylinder deactivation, turning the LT1 into a 3.1-litre V4 under light throttle, no doubt plays its part, but you’ll still need 72 litres of dinosaur juice to fill the tank.
Okay, obviously you want to know what it’s like bringing the Camaro SS’s ‘yuge’ atmo V8 to life. No shock that it’s a suitably seismic experience, totally in keeping with the car’s personality.
With the bi-modal exhaust in its most raucous setting, the ground trembles and heads turn, which is exactly the kind of aural introduction Camaro owners will be looking for. But then, it comes to actually moving.
Remember that tiny glasshouse I mentioned in the design section? Well, from behind the Camaro’s wheel it feels like you’re looking out of a letterbox slot.
Combine that with a high bonnet, flanked by pronounced front wings, plus a cluttered over-shoulder rear three-quarter view, and the extremities of the car remain largely a mystery.
An embarrassing, walking-speed ‘interaction’ with a pair of early morning joggers on a pedestrian crossing came about because I initially failed to spot them behind the car’s thumping big A-pillar. Orkz…
But this isn’t a grocery-getting SUV. The Camaro SS doesn’t pretend to be ‘sensible’. It’s a beast of the first order, and even though HSV is playing coy with 0-100km/h acceleration claims, you can expect a number in the high four-second bracket.
That’s definitely getting along, and 3000rpm is the start of a thundering ramp-up to maximum torque delivery at 4400rpm. From there, you’re cleared for take-off with the 378ci small block breathing deeply and pulling like a train to the 6500rpm rev ceiling..
Four drive modes (Tour, Sport, Track, Snow/Ice) are available at the touch of a console-mounted button to fine-tune the throttle setting, shift calibration, stability control, steering weight, and exhaust tone. A neighbour-friendly ‘Stealth’ exhaust mode is independently available via the vehicle set-up menu.
We found Track to be the most entertaining selection, with a range of loud exhaust pops, bangs and blurts accompanying up and down changes through the eight-speed auto. Wheel-mounted paddles enhance the fun in manual mode, but don’t expect lightning-fast shifts, even in the most focused drive setting.
When it comes to turning, no matter which drive mode you’re in, or what speed you’re travelling, the variable ratio, electrically assisted steering feels heavy and relatively lifeless. But the standard LSD helps the SS put its prodigious power to the ground with confidence-inspiring authority.
Australia misses out on the magnetic dampers available in the US, yet the strut front, five-link rear ‘Performance Suspension’, combined with the big 20-inch rims shod with Goodyear Eagle F1 run-flat rubber (245/40 front, 275/35 rear) delivers a planted feel on your favourite B-road, offset by a jarring ride at more sedate speeds around town.
Braking is Brembo all the way, with heavy-duty ventilated discs (345mm front/339mm rear) and four-piston calipers at each corner. It's no surprise that stopping power is strong and progressive.
One possible LHD-to-RHD niggle is the position and angle of the accelerator pedal. It felt oddly high and slanted too far to the right from the moment we got in the car.
3 years / 100,000 km warranty
The Chevrolet Camaro SS hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in the USA gave the car a maximum five-star rating after crash testing in December, 2017.
Active, crash-avoidance technology includes ABS, EBD, ‘StabiliTrak’ (stability control with brake assist and traction control), ‘Lane Change Alert’ (with Blind Zone Alert), ‘Rear Cross Traffic Alert’, ‘Rear Park Assist’, ‘Forward Collision Alert’, and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system. There’s even a (luminous) emergency-release handle in the boot.
The big miss is that lack of AEB, but passive protection includes dual-stage front, thorax side, knee, and curtain airbags.
Chevrolet calls it the ‘Latch’ system but we’d call it ISOFIX, and there are top tethers and anchor points for child restraints in both rear-seat positions.
Warranty for the Camaro SS is three years/100,000km, which is like time-travelling back to the 1990s when that was a good deal.
You do get roadside assistance for those three years, including towing up to 100km for rural owners, and 50km for city slickers.
Servicing is recommended every nine months/12,000km (whichever comes first) and HSV isn’t offering a capped-price-servicing plan on the car at this stage.
HSV’s traditional positioning line has been, ‘I just want one’, and no matter what this review says there will be people lining up to get their hands on one of these fast but flawed modern muscle cars.
The seventh-gen Camaro, due in 2020, is expected to include RHD production straight from the factory. And if that’s the case, you can bet Holden is already well down the track on a local program.
But for some, that’s two years too late, and owning ‘just another’ Ford Mustang won’t do. The relative exclusivity, plus the individual look and feel of the Chevrolet Camaro SS will be a must.
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||8|