Audi S5 Sportback 2017 review
Many is the time a hot hatch full of yoofs has rolled up beside what they thought was Audi's pretty-but-slow 1.8-litre CVT equipped A5 Sportback, thinking they had the traffic light race won.
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Infinitis are a bit like politicians. Not everybody likes them, a lot of people are not quite sure what they're supposed to stand for and, even if you're aware they exist, you don't see one in the flesh very often.
The early wave of Infinitis (well, not so "wave" as dribble) were also unkindly mocked for their unusual, Americanised looks, particularly the Bullwinkle-like QX SUV. But this Q60, particularly in its top-of-the-range Red Sport (sitting above GT and Sport Premium specs) guise, is a genuinely beautiful looking car. But then it needs to be, because it's up against some very pretty premium competition in the Audi S5, BMW 440i, Lexus RC350 and Mercedes-Benz C43.
Priced at $88,900, the Red Sport is a mere $620 more than the RC350, but a hefty $18k more than the Sport Premium. It also undercuts Audi’s $105,800 S5 Coupe and BMW’s $99,900 440i by a considerable sum – a figure that looks even more attractive when you look at Infiniti’s standard features list. Value for money is very much an Infiniti selling point, because brand-value and heritage are not, or at least not outside the US (the market Nissan invented its Lexus-like premium brand for).
The only exterior styling feature distinguishing the Red Sport from the Sport Premium is the brushed satin finish dual exhaust tips. The name and aggressive sports styling are anything but skin deep, happily, with this Q60 housing a new 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo engine, paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels.
What I'm wondering, as I cruise home on the Friday night, is whether the Q60 drives as good as it looks?
This is a fine-looking, eye-catching ("what the hell is that?") car, with exceptional amounts of kerb appeal as witnessed by the number of people craning their necks to grab a look as I cruised by. By the same token I found myself stealing glances at the car at every opportunity.
The front-end features an angular grille with smaller, sleeker headlights that command attention in the rear-view mirrors of cars in front of you. The 19 x 9.0-inch dark chrome alloy wheels with 245/40 R19 94W run-flat tyres are another standout design feature. You won't lose your Infiniti in a crowd, that's for sure.
Interestingly, within the car’s 22-page press release kit the word "practical" makes exactly zero appearances. Nor should it in this review.
Bear in mind I'm using this car as the family hauler for the weekend. The Q60 design is unashamedly driver focused and while it features four seats, I get the sense the passenger pews are merely token offerings.
The front seats are supremely comfortable and provide support in all the right places. The rear seats, with two cup holders in the centre armrest, are cosy but not a pleasant place to sit for any person over 5ft tall. To allow for any sort of decent legroom my driving seat had to be positioned closer to the steering wheel than normal, with my knees up high.
Getting the kids in and out of the rear was surprisingly hassle free, however, with the folding lever and electronic seat adjustment button located at the top of each front seat allowing for easy access.
Boot capacity is quoted at 341 litres and while that is smaller than its rivals (RC350 is 423 litres) it managed to fit our luggage, consisting of small overnight bags for the weekend, but only just.
Back inside the cabin, storage is restricted with a small bin under the centre armrest and a hidey hole in front of the shifter, and a meagre-sized glove box. The two cup holders in the centre console provided useful storage for my mobile phone, sunglasses and keys. As long as I didn't want to drink anything.
The interior styling makes a decent first impression with tasteful amounts of leather covering the comfy bolster seats and doors, and a premium looking 13-speaker Bose surround-sound system (quite Audi-like). The cabin does a successful job of keeping engine and road noise to an almost inaudible hum.
Further inspection reveals a couple of questionable design decisions, however. Of particular note is the use of plasticky looking silver carbon-fibre-style trim and cheap plastic rings around the speedometer and tacho. The dual-stacked touchscreens, one slightly larger than the other, are another decidedly odd touch for a luxury sports car.
The Q60 has been gifted with a generous standard features list that includes auto LED headlight and DRLs, power sunroof, two touchscreens (an 8.0-inch and 7.0-inch display), sat nav and a surround-view camera.
There's also proximity unlocking, electrically adjustable steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, power adjustable and heated driver and passenger seats, aluminium finished pedals and a leather-clad steering wheel.
On paper, the Q60 Red Sport's power of output 298kW/475Nm from its 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 engine gives it a considerable edge over the RC350’s 233kW/378Nm V6, and promises a serious amount of fun. Sport Plus was the pick of the six driving modes and extracts the most excitement in performance and handling terms. Overtaking in this car is seriously addictive, and languorously effortless.
Despite its punchy acceleration, though, I felt a little cheated. For all its engineering smarts, the Red Sport failed to truly excite or stimulate the sort of idiotic grin I had expected.
I sensed that sheer driving pleasure had made way for a more luxury focused set-up, with the exhaust a particular case in point. Driving in Sport Plus mode with the window down provided a less than satisfactory auditory experience. A barky and exciting C43 this is not.
My Q60 Red Sport came with (optional) Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS), using steer-by-wire technology. The simulated feedback is designed to give instantaneous response to inputs and is best experienced in Sport Plus mode, where increased steering feel and response are more noticeable. That said, it lacks the connection and feel of a mechanical set up, to he better German EPS units, and will take some getting used to.
The Q60 Red Sport hasn't been given an ANCAP crash rating yet, but the Q50 scored the highest possible five stars. It comes with an outstanding level of advanced safety equipment, including AEB, blind-spot and lane departure warning with steering assistance. There are two ISOFIX mounts in the back and two top tether anchor points as well.
With around 300km over the two days of open road, urban and city driving the car’s trip computer indicated an average 11.4L/100km. Slightly higher than Infiniti’s claimed 8.9L/100km (combined driving).
This car has a beautifully sculpted profile that screams sports performance, with a clear desire to be innovative, and turn heads. While acceleration is smooth and endlessly addictive, the overall driving experience falls short in eliciting an exciting response. It's no a German sports car. On the flip side, its less than supple ride makes it difficult to label it a luxury coupe, so it's no Lexus, either.
If the sports performance doesn’t get your blood pumping, the Q60's distinctive and drop-dead good looks might. At this price bracket, it ticks most of the high-end two-door coupe boxes, but not all.
|3.7 S Premium||3.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$55,770 – 64,130||2017 INFINITI Q60 2017 3.7 S Premium Pricing and Specs|
|3.7 S Premium Monaco Red||3.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$57,200 – 65,780||2017 INFINITI Q60 2017 3.7 S Premium Monaco Red Pricing and Specs|
|2.0 GT||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$38,280 – 44,990||2017 INFINITI Q60 2017 2.0 GT Pricing and Specs|
|3.7 GT Premium||3.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$38,830 – 45,650||2017 INFINITI Q60 2017 3.7 GT Premium Pricing and Specs|