Infiniti Q60 VS Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class
- Great looks
- AEB even on this base spec Q60
- Grunty engine
- Not as engaging to drive as the Red Sport
- Restricted head and legroom in back seat
- Confusing double decker screens and media system
- Angry sound
- Confused nav
- Modest rear headroom
- So-so warranty
One day Nissan's luxury sub-brand Infiniti could grow up to be as popular as Toyota's Lexus, but it'll take more than just time and brand awareness to get there – it will have to build outstanding cars that impress us, as well.
When I drove the top-of-the-range Q60 Red Sport at its launch a few months ago I called it the breakthrough car for Infiniti. Now we're testing the entry point into the line-up – the GT, which likes to imagine itself as keeping the BMW 420i and Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe awake at night, but really rivals the Lexus RC 200t.
So, is the Q60 GT outstanding or should you ignore it and go straight to the Red Sport with its bigger engine and Sport + driving mode if you want to be impressed? And what is it like to live with when you've taken your race face off and need to pick up the toddler from day care, then do a load of shopping on the way home?
We found out pretty quickly when we lived with the Q60 GT for a week.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
If you're after a hot hatch with a boot, you can't have one because it wouldn't be a hatch anymore.
Packing 300kW – that's just over 420hp – and 500Nm its 2.0-litre engine is claimed to be the most powerful series production turbo four ever made.
And Australian deliveries are scheduled for early 2020, with a likely price tag in the mid-$90k bracket.
Mercedes-AMG invited us to the car's global launch in Madrid, Spain, where we got behind the wheel on road and track.
|Fuel Type||98 Ron Petrol|
Beautiful looks, good handling, but the driving experience of the Q60 GT is let down by a numbness and disconnection relative to what's happening under you. Refinement isn't on the same level as its BMW and Benz rivals, but the GT is a perfect match for the RC 200t, while remaining good value for money. If you have your heart set on an Infiniti Q60 then I'd skip straight to the top and opt for the Red Sport.
Would you buy a Q60 GT or pay a few thousand more for a Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
The Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S is more glorious madness from the hot-rodders in Affalterbach. A design and engineering master-class putting a slightly more mature spin on the fast and furious small AMG formula. But only slightly. It's brilliantly outrageous.
Is the CLA 45 S your kind of 'under the radar' performance four-door? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The Q60 GT is a head turner – literally. Whenever I was driving slow enough to notice, people were rubbernecking to look at the long, low-slung coupe. I'm sure most had no idea what brand of car it was, but in its 'Iridium Blue' paint the Q60 looked amazing with its curvy, sleek profile.
There's only one small issue – the RC 200t and Q60 GT are way too similar looking, right down to their 'signature' shaped c-pillars. I prefer the grille of the Lexus but the rear of the Q60. While there might be a bit of copy-catting going on, both are prettier than their BMW or Benz rivals.
The Q60 GT feels fairly large to drive and the dimensions don't lie – 4690mm end-to-end, 2052mm across with the wing mirrors unfurled, but low at 1395mm.
The cabin treatment is just as emotional as the exterior, with its dual screens, swoopy dashboard and sectioned off driver and passenger cells.
Claimed to blaze from 0-100km/h in 4.0 seconds the second-generation CLA 45 has the performance credentials of a mid-engine supercar, wrapped in a relatively unassuming three-box body. And while it might look mild-mannered from a distance, this devil's differences are in the detail.
Like it's A 45 sibling the CLA 45 S features AMG's now signature Panamericana grille with 12 vertical louvres, a winged front spoiler treatment, extra aero bits around the front air intakes and 'Power Dome' bumps in the bonnet.
The side skirts are wider, and the 19-inch twin five-spoke rims are standard. While at the back the diffuser treatment is more pronounced than the hatch, but the fat 90mm exhaust pipes are the same, and the lip spoiler is on the boot lid rather than the roof.
The interior is virtually identical to the hatch, the biggest difference being the four-door coupe's frameless doors.
A combination of Merc's 'Artico' faux leather and 'Dinamica' microfibre trim is accented with racy yellow highlights, with a nappa leather and Dinamica AMG Performance wheel and sports pedals completing the picture.
And the twin widescreen MBUX instrument and media display boasts AMG-specific read-outs on everything from gear selection, warm-up menu, car set-up, a G-metre, race timer and engine data. The standard 'Track Pack' even includes specific circuit layouts and data.
The short answer is not very practical - but then no two-door sports car really is. So while the front two seats are roomy (although the optional sunroof restricts headroom) the same can't be said for the back seats – at 191cm tall, not only can I not sit up straight (because of the sloping roofline), I can't fit my legs in behind my driving position.
While those large doors open wide the roofline and the lack of rear doors means trying to insert a toddler into his car seat was painful and involved kneeling in the street, there were days we took our much less fancy SUV just because it was easier.
This is a four seater – with two cupholders in between the rear seats and two more cupholders up front. Storage elsewhere is limited, with tiny pockets in the front doors and a small centre console bin to hide your phone and wallet.
The boot is also on the small side at 341 litres – don't compare this to the 423 litre of cargo capacity in the RC 200t which is measured in VDA litres. That said, there was more than enough room for our weekly shop which fitted in snugly, although you have to hoist your shopping bags high to clear that boot lip.
At just under 4.7m long (248mm longer than the A 45 S hatch), a bit under 1.9m wide, and fraction over 1.4m tall the A 45 S in the dimensional bullseye for a compact four-door.
The CLA A 45 S driver is presented with the same sleek 'MBUX' widescreen display found in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.
In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver's seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although headroom isn't as generous.
A centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console is a welcome inclusion. No map pockets on the racy, hard shell sports front seats, though.
There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.
Boot volume is a healthy 460 litres (VDA), expanding further with the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat down. There are tie-down hooks, a 12-volt outlet and elasticised storage pockets either side of the load space to further enhance useability. But beware, the Merc-AMG CLA 45 S is a no-tow zone.
Price and features
The Q60 GT has a list price of $62,900, undercutting the Lexus RC 200t by $2000, but what you might find surprising is that the Benz C200 Coupe is only $3500 more than the Infiniti, while the BMW 420i in the Luxury grade lists for $69,900. Depending on how you look at it, either the Germans are affordable or the Japanese are expensive. Perhaps a bit of both.
What's for sure is that the Q60 GT's standard features list is substantial. There's 8.0-inch and 7.0-inch 'double-decker' screens, sat nav, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo, LED head- and fog lights, proximity unlocking, heated and power adjustable front seats and leather upholstery.
The Q60 Sport Premium is the next grade up from the GT and lists for $70,900, while the Red Sport is $88,900.
The new CLA 45 is launching in the premium S variant only (a 'base' non-S version is offered in other markets). The outgoing model was tagged at $93,800, before on-road costs, prior to its discontinuation in January this year, and Mercedes-Benz Australia has hinted strongly that a price increase is likely. So, expect a list price in the mid-$90k range.
We'll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, and although final Australian specification is yet to be confirmed you can expect the stand ard features list to include the 19-inch alloys, 'Artico' faux leather and 'Dinamica' microfibre trim upholstery, the 'MBUX' widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens) and 'MercedesMe' voice recognition, heated and electrically-adjustable sports front seats, auto adaptive LED headlights, LED tail-lights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, dual-zone climate-control, sat-nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, active cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, Active Parking Assist' (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), rear privacy glass, plus premium audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Engine & trans
The Q60 GT has a 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with drive being sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The same engine is also in the Q60 Sport Premium, while the Red Sport packs a twin-turbo V6.
The A 45 S's all-new 2.0-litre (M139) engine is claimed to be the most powerful series production turbo four ever made, pumping out 310kW at 6750rpm and a monumental 500Nm, peaking between 5000-5250rpm. . That's up from an already impressive 280kW/470Nm on the out-going model.
It's an all-alloy, closed deck design fed by a combined direct and port fuel-injection system, with a single, twin-scroll turbo featuring low-friction roller bearings for quick spool up.
It's transversely mounted, but compared to the previous model has been spun 1 80-degrees on its vertical axis so the turbo's near the firewall and the intake system sits at the front to simplify and shorten ducting on the intake and exhaust sides.
The cylinder linings are treated with Merc's patented 'Nanoslide' coating, which delivers an ultra-hard, mirror-like surface for less friction and greater durability. And 'Camtronic' variable valve control sits on the exhaust side.
Drive goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed 'AMG Speedshift DCT 8G' dual-clutch auto, with manual shift paddles attached to the steering wheel.
An official combined fuel consumption figure of 7.7L/100km is fairly optimistic and our combination of urban, city and highway running saw the trip computer reporting back to us with 9.1L/100km. Still, that's not too bad considering how much time was spent in city traffic.
Claimed fuel economy to the combined cycle NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) standard is 8.1L/100km, the engine emitting 186g/km of CO2 in the process. Figures for the Australian (ADR 81/02) standard will be issued at the time of the car's local launch in early 2020.
Stop-start is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 98 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 51 litres of it to fill the tank.
Our combination of furious hot-lapping on the circuit and relatively enthusiastic open road driving on the launch program means we'll wait until we test the car on home soil to log a real world average.
I had a feeling this would happen - the GT was disappointing to drive after the Red Sport with the latter's twin-turbo V6, sports suspension, better steering and excellent Sport + drive mode. There's lots to like about the GT, though – the grip is great from the wide Dunlop SP rubber (235 40 R19 front and 255 40 R19 rear), the chassis feels taught, acceleration is good and it's a gorgeous looking car.
But there's a sense of disconnection from the driving experience I couldn't get past, such as the numb feeling in the steering which needed constant re-adjustment. I also think the suspension felt over sprung and lacked composure over small bumps in the road.
The GT and all Q60s don't have the same level of refinement as the C200 Coupe or 420i, evident from the clunky feel of the door handles to the road noise intruding into the cabin.
I'm not a fan of the cockpit. Sure it's brave and expressively designed, but the double-deck screens are confusing, there's one for nav, while the other's for media... I think. Then there are things you don't need, such as a digital compass – actually there are two, one on the display and another in the instrument cluster, but there's no digital speedo.
That 2.0-litre engine is great, but the transmission is a mood killer with it wanting to change up gears quickly to save fuel, even in 'Sport' mode.
Here's a curve ball call for you – I've just stepped out of a, Alfa Giulia Super. Close in price to the Infiniti, same sized engine, but infinitely more rewarding and fun to drive – plus you get an extra two doors.
Mercedes-AMG invited us to the Jarama race circuit just outside Madrid in Central Spain, and the twisting B-roads nearby, to sample its latest pride and joy.
In the AMG tradition the engine is assembled by hand, by one technician. And hats off to the spanner twirlers, they do a great job. It's a spectacular unit. Torque delivery is shaped to mimic a naturally aspirated engine, with the maximum figure arriving between 5000-5250rpm.
But that's not to say it's hollow in the mid-range. Around 90 per cent of that peak number is available from below 3000rpm and low-end throttle response is brilliantly crisp and linear, helped in no small part by roller bearings on the turbo for a quicker spool up.
Merc-AMG claims 4.0 seconds for the sprint from 0-100km/h, which is supercar fast and with drive going to all four wheels entertainment is the name of the game.
The eight-speed dual-clutch auto is positive and sharp, especially in manual mode where shifts flick through in much less than the blink of an eye.
And as the A 45 S beefs up the A-Class on the outside, it's the same underneath the skin with body reinforcement including an alloy sheering plate under the engine, a front strut tower brace, extra reinforcement between side members and A-pillars, and diagonal struts on the front and rear of the underbody.
So, the strut front, four-link rear suspension has an extra stiff platform to hang from, and the three-mode 'Ride Control' active damping can transform the ride from soft and compliant to tightly buttoned down.
The speed-sensitive, electromechanical steering is specifically tuned for this car, and it points accurately with good road feel and pleasantly firm weight in Sport and Sport+ modes.
Rubber is Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S, and it grips hard. On the fast and technical Jarama circuit they performed flawlessly, helping the A 45 S transform its prodigious power into maximum forward velocity without fuss.
The icing on the dynamic cake is 'AMG Dynamic Select' with six modes from 'Comfort' to 'Race' adjusting the engine, transmission, steering, suspension, and exhaust.
On top of that 'AMG Dynamics' uses the ESP and torque vectoring (by braking) to vary the level of stability and slip through four levels from 'Basic' up to 'Master'.
We played with all the toys including 'Race Start' and a 'Drift Mode' made possible by a new rear axle featuring two multi-disc clutches - one for each rear wheel.
Torque is split variably between front and rear axles with a default setting of 50/50 rising to around 70 per cent to the rear when pushing hard. Drive is also continuously managed across the rear axle, and like a swan gliding across the lake all the action happens seamlessly out of sight, turning you into a track hero in the process.
The first-gen A45's exhaust was a mass of pops, bangs and crackles, while this car's more rasping and rorty exhaust note is controlled by a flap in the system adjusted by engine speed and load. It's also amplified by the 'AMG Real Performance Sound' system, which puts some actual engine and exhaust noise (nothing is synthesised) through the speakers.
Open road ride comfort in the softest setting is surprisingly good, with rough surfaces unsettling the car only slightly despite the big 19s and high-performance rubber. Body control is S and S+ settings is spot-on, the car feeling planted, predictable and ultra-responsive on tight, twisting backroads.
Braking power is professional grade with six-piston calipers at the front and single piston rear, on vented and perforated rotors all around. Even following session after session on the track there wasn't a hint of fade.
The Q60 is yet to be rated by ANCAP, although it's good to see AEB with pedestrian detection is standard, even on the base grade GT. That said, it would be good to see blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance fitted as standard (as you'll find on the Benz C200 Coupe). It's not a lot to ask considering these comes standard on higher grades of the Nissan X-Trail.
There are two ISOFIX mounts in the back and two top tether anchor points.
Although final Australian spec is yet to be finalised, you can expect a host of active safety tech including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), 'Active Brake Assist' (Merc-speak fo AEB), 'Adaptive Brake', 'Attention Assist', 'Blind Spot Assist', 'Cross-wind Assist', 'Lane Keep Assist', a tyre pressure warning system, the 'Pre-Safe' accident anticipatory system, 'Traffic Sign Assist' and 'Adaptive Highbeam Assist'.
If all that fails to prevent an impact you'll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver's knee bag), and the 'Active Bonnet' automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries. A first-aid kit and hi-vis vests in the boot are thoughtful additions.
The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with isofix anchors on the two outer positions.
The Mercedes-AMG range is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty, which, like Audi and BMW lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is likely to be scheduled (as per the out-going CLA 45) for 12 months/20,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an 'Up-front' or 'Pay-as-you-go' basis.
For the first-gen CLA 45 pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three services set at a total of $2950, compared to $3650 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.