Lebanon was the perfect destination for the Middle East launch of Infiniti’s hottest new entry level model – the 2017 Infiniti Q30 last month. Automan was invited by the regional office to witness the lavish launch and attend the first drive of the new arrival in that country
Author: Chandan B Mallik | Photography: Author and supplied
What is Infiniti, the luxury premium brand of Nissan up to these days? Well, quite a lot as the aspiration levels have moved up and it has indicated clearly that wishes to become a major global luxury market player with core focus in US, Europe, China and other global regions including Middle East. To do that, Infiniti also realises that it also has to bring in new customers to its fold and also widen its product offerings in order to achieve this ambitious objective. And given the current global economic scenario, the million-dollar question is how to go about this dual business objective?
Firstly, the advantage Infiniti now has that it besides enjoying the Nissan Alliance synergy it is also able to tap in resources from technical partner Daimler with whom there’s an interesting business arrangement. Secondly, with just a few models available in the category, it’s hard to call compact luxury hatchbacks a growing category. But as luxury automakers increase the size of their bread-and-butter cars and crossovers, newer, smaller models make a more affordable entry point for many buyers. This aspect has been established by the success of models like the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class which are car blending sport, luxury and premium interior features into a mini-crossover package.
In the current line-up, according to Infiniti, an entry level model was very much in order and this is where the all-new Q30 is expected to make its presence felt along with its QX30 sibling [essentially a taller Q30] in the crossover category.
Using the successful platform of the recently launched Mercedes-Benz GLA, Infiniti has been able to create two entry level derivatives – the Q30 and QX30. The latter which is more of a crossover SUV will join the line-up in 2017, according to Juergen Schmitz, Managing Director, Infiniti Middle East, while the Q30 goes on sale this month in the region.
The Infiniti QX30 is a new luxury compact crossover designed to convey a sense of what might be termed elegant aggression. The QX30 shares its platform and powertrain with the recently launched Mercedes-Benz GLA250
So, what exactly is the Q30? At first glance it could safely be considered as a premium family hatchback more than a crossover SUV due to its specific packaging and the way the portfolio has been conceived. Designed in Nissan’s Paddington studio in London, engineered in Cranfield and manufactured in Sunderland, UK, using the Mercedes-Benz W176 platform, this 5-door hatchback styled Infiniti attempts to exhibit global values.
Dimensionally it stands at 4,425mm in length, 1,805mm wide, 1,495mm in height on a 2,700mm wheelbase and these figures mean that it is very close to the GLA but definitely not identical including wheelbase. Although, dimensionally they may appear close, but subtle differences and ride height differences are obvious when both are seen together. So, that clears who’s who and cut out for what role and responsibility.
At first glance, it is clear that the Q30 has been adorned with the brand’s latest design language and detailing like the 3D mesh grille and double wave effect on the bonnet. The core design DNA consists of sharp angles and sweeping curves which together lend an organic feel with a pleasant combination of elements of French and Japanese influence. Evidence of these includes a long front end, angular nose, a sharply raked windscreen, roof line that tapers towards the rear. Bulging mudguards surround huge wheel wells and add to its overall presence and personality. Infiniti’s familiar reverse-crescent C-pillar complements the low greenhouse and ends up with a steeply-sloped window. The result is a profile unlike any competitive model including the Mercedes model which it is mechanically based on. The feature detailing in this car ensures it’s not just a rebodied GLA, but much more, if not better in some respects as it has been able to avoid totally the quirkiness associated with the equivalent Merc variant.
Considering the entry level pricing which stands at AED105,00 in UAE, it soon becomes evident for the hawk eyed individuals who are familiar with these brands of things that have been shared. Inside the cabin, there have been attempts to give the car its own character where the results in my view are a mixed bag and here’s why. The obvious are the door mounted switches, stalk gear and instrumentation that come from the donor partner but its asymmetrical dashboard is the key element that offers notable contrast to more austere, down-to-business cabins in rival German models. The infotainment system and central-console located controller are from Infiniti as they are designed to work with Infiniti’s safety systems, like the Around View Monitor bird’s eye camera.
The cabin appears cosy for occupants with good legroom in both rows who also enjoy the benefits of entering or exiting the car through its carefully planned high hip points.
While, the low roofline gives the car a nice profile and visual balance, the flip side is that headroom for tall occupants is not so generous, especially at the rear. Tall occupants will find head and shoulder room a bit crampy.
Irrespective of variants, the build quality, fit finish, touch points and materials used in the UK-built vehicle are quite good and are able to represent its class ambitions clearly.
In terms of feature packaging, it as expected varies from premium to average depending on the trim level selected. Top trim cabin features panaromic roof, soft, leather-wrapped surfaces, Infiniti InTouch system which is the automaker’s bundled package of navigation, entertainment and smartphone-connected features, and includes a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and 10-speaker Bose audio system and 19in wheels. 18in wheels are also offered.
In terms of performance and handling, Infiniti engineers sought to develop steering that maintains a consistent feel, regardless of speed, and they appear to have succeeded. Not only is steering precise, it’s neither excessively heavy at higher speeds nor overboosted in parking-lot driving
The Q30 in Middle East will be offered will be offered with a choice of powertrains, trim levels, FWD and AWD. The AWD variant features raised ride height and as expected the system can transmit up to half of engine power to the rear wheels, whenever sensors detect traction loss.
The smallest engine is a turbocharged high output 1.6-cylinder four cylinder which belts out 156hp and 250Nm of torque and powers the FWD variant only. The larger engine is also a forced fed turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder offering 208hp and 350Nm of torque and is offered in both FWD/AWD variants. In a pleasant surprise for all of us, both engines are mated to 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions with manual Tiptronic feature. It may be noted at this point that the powertrain set-up is of German origin. New engines from Nissan’s stable will be introduced phase wise later.
The suspension package is pretty much of what the segment offers which means independent links and hydraulic dampers tuned by Infiniti. At this point there’s no provision for active suspension set-ups for sportier performance as there are no plans to offer AMG-type models as of now.
Instead, Infiniti have provided driver selectable mapping for engine and transmission and also paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
On the safety front, Infiniti says that crash-test results have not yet been issued, but safety takes precedence and the car comes equipped with a number of active-safety and driver-assist features. They include blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with emergency braking assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. Available Park Assist can guide the QX30 into an open parking space. The available surround-view camera system includes moving-object detection.
In a day long driving session we were able to experience most trim and powertrain variants in various driving situations ranging from city driving, expressways, B-roads, mountain roads and also a stint with the car on a go-kart track.
While settled in the cosy interior, one has to get used to some of the design-led limitations in this car. The biggest issue for the driver is side and rear visibility due to the C-pillar.
Of the two engine variants driven, the bigger 208hp 2.0-litre turbo engine is quiet and smooth. The seven-speed Mercedes derived double clutch transmission is silky smooth. Gear changes are seamless and the best part there is no lurching or crunchiness feel at low traffic speeds.
Unlike the CVT enabled machines which are more economy oriented and often appear boring, with this set-up it is possible to dial in some extra performance, thanks to the availability of a decent torque band which allows the engine to be prodded more without sacrificing performance.
The capital city of Beirut is notorious for being slow with traffic gridlocks and expressway speeds rarely go beyond 100km/h, the car appeared comfortable and mostly stress free. We did note that the transmission is quite eager to stay in a high gear when overtaking until one really pushes the pedal.
With 156hp available at 5,000rpm from the 1.6-litre version, this variant of the Q30 isn’t as fast as the 2.0-litre, but the engine note isn’t too harsh and the sound deadening means it’s not unpleasant accelerating up to speed, thus it makes it a decent city cruiser where going extremely fast is not the core criterion. In fact, it feels lighter on the wheel too.
While the chassis and steering are tuned to be on the luxury side of the premium small crossover class, but at the go-kart track we are reminded that despite soft suspension settings, it is possible to extract a bit of driving aggression. In general, we noted on the track that body motions were controlled and the electric power steering weights up nicely through the sharp corners. However, on track we do note the obvious performance differences between the FWD and AWD models. The AWD model behaves, in most circumstances, just like the FWD does, sending power primarily to the front wheels as and when required. In the 1.6-litre variant, only FWD is available and in a track event type of set up one can actually feel the weight and occasional torque steer in the 2.0-litre. We observed the electric steering, tends to be slightly heavy at low speeds and while holding the same weight throughout the driving experience ensuring an overall pleasant drive.
Braking is supported effectively by all round discs and while the pedal pressure is soft, it doesn’t reflect sponginess even after repeated usage.
A compelling entry for the brand which offers punters best of both worlds — German premium engineering at an exceptionally attractive starting price of AED 105,000.00 in UAE. The 2017 Infiniti QX30 goes against such well-executed rivals as the BMW X1, as well as the GLA250 itself.