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Chasing 20 Years in an Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400

I recently had the opportunity to borrow a 2018 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 AWD for a week, and I took it on an unexpected journey full of driving fun and a bit of reflection. I graduated college 20 years ago this year, and I was brought back home this August not for homecoming, but for other reasons. Instead of my first car, a 1988 Nissan Pulsar NX, I got to drive a much different 2-door Nissan product.

I piloted the actually red 400-horsepower Red Sport coupe out of DC three hours across the Chesepeake Bay Bridge through beach traffic to my hometown of Salisbury, Maryland. The visit started with the viewing held in memory of an old friend who passed away at age 46 from a very long illness. So you can forgive me if that led down a literal and figurative road of nostalgia and reflection. Todd was about five years older than I am. He acted as both a friend, a coworker and a mentor when I was in my late teens, having just enough additional life experience to occasionally give me that “dude, I wouldn’t do that” look at just the right moment. I reconnected with him several years ago but had to cancel our lunch plans one day and never rescheduled. Don’t do that, always reschedule; you never know when you’ll have the chance to reconnect with someone.

Back to the car: The Q60 continues the lineage of the Infiniti G-series, specifically the coupe, as the Q50 is now the nomenclature for the sedan. I owned a 2007 G35 in sedan form, and it was a great car. I already bored you in that article with the lineage of the G, so I’ll focus on this new thing, the Q60 Red Sport 400 AWD, which was my partner in this little journey.

The Catch

My first stop was a nondescript patch of grass in a residential neighborhood. It doesn’t look like much, but it was the site of one of the most dramatic plays in the history of the game of baseball. OK, probably not, but when I was in elementary school I played ball in that field every weekend. In proper Sandlot-style, sometimes we needed to use a tennis ball rather than an actual baseball. I was playing left field and the batter got ahold of the neon green target and hooked it down the line. I made a flying dive over the small fence that’s no longer there, catching the ball and ending the game. I don’t recall if we won. Probably.

Which brings me back to the Q60’s styling. It’s also winning in the grand scheme of automotive aesthetics. I’d say it’s as handsome as just about any coupe on the market. I was there when Carlos Ghosn unveiled it in Detroit a couple of years ago, and even then I was impressed. The overall design is strong without being too overdone (see Civic Type R), and the proportions are just right for a luxury, performance coupe thing. The color, “Dynamic Sunston” (really), is pretty spectacular, and adds $800 to the MSRP. It elicited several unsolicited compliments along my journey.

The Spot

So it’s a handsome car — but how does the interior stack up? Well, it’s lightyears beyond my $6,500 Pulsar, which it should be. It’s even an impressive evolution from the inside of my old 2007 G35. I immediately liked the 2-tiered touchscreen, as it is quite functional — and I loved the redundant buttons for most functions. The fact that it has an actual volume dial is amazing these days. The silver carbon-fiber-looking trim is an acquired taste, but at the end of the week, I was firmly in the “liked it” camp. I found it was a nice contrast with the ivory leather and black across the interior; it keeps up from looking too hum-drum and German.

The steering wheel isn’t a standout from a visual perspective, but it has all the buttons you would expect, plus a few more for the safety systems. The gauges are simple and easy to read, nothing incredibly fancy, and there is a small LCD screen in between. They did feature some nice touches like a bezel surround, which was very Lexus-like.

Overall, it’s a very nice interior, and it felt on par with the price of the car. More on that in a bit. There was even a decent amount of room in the back, and I could actually sit behind my own driving position.

The Curve

It was 1992, and I was three months into enjoying both my newly-printed driver’s license and the Pulsar NX coupe that was my first car. Sure, it was front-wheel drive and an automatic, but it had T-Tops, a great chassis and a practical hatchback. I would take the long way home from high school on a daily basis, and today was no different.

As I entered the hard, near 90 degree left-hander, the right tires caught some loose gravel on the shoulder. The rear started to let go — and since they don’t teach you vehicle dynamics in driver’s ed., I froze. No turning into the skid, nothing. Well, perhaps some extra braking — but we all know how this ends.

I careened through the corner facing the wrong direction and impacted the drainage ditch on the other side initiating one of the car’s several rolls. It finally settled on the driver’s side like something from a movie. I didn’t know which way was up and contemplated exiting via the T-Tops. I finally made my way up to the passenger door, flung it open and carefully jumped down, grabbing my backpack, which was hanging out the window. Other kids had shown up on their route home from school, and we all ran and hid behind nearby vehicles. It was clearly going to explode. Well, it didn’t, and a few months later it was back on the road. Never quite as good as new.

The Q60 handled this same corner with grace and balance, the AWD system exhibiting just a hint of understeer. I easily could have gone through the same corner carrying another 10 or 20 miles per hour than I dared without too much drama. The Q60 isn’t a sports car, but it’s a pretty decent sports coupe. With 400 hp coming from it’s 3.0 twin-turbo, it gets moving quickly.

The paddles and redundant shift lever worked relatively well with the 7-speed auto, although occasionally — even in sport plus mode — the car decided it didn’t like the gear I had chosen and shifted up. For example, driving through a underground garage in first gear to hear the exhaust was a chore. And if I’m honest, it was difficult to hear anyway — definitely a far cry from the Lexus “F” line, which pops and burbles like a real performance car should.

The advanced multi-directional radar system worked incredibly well on the highway, and it actually wasn’t all that intrusive compared to some other cars I’ve tested recently. However, when I was driving in a spirited fashion I found that the distance in which it determined a vehicle ahead of me to be “too close” was a bit off and hard to adjust. But these systems are built with safety, rather than performance, in mind.

The Reunion

Then it was off to a family reunion, which is where I got time to think about where the Q60 fits in the automotive world. The regular old Q60 with a 2.0T 4-cylinder starts just under $40,000, but the base MSRP for the Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 is $54,000. There’s a $2,000 premium for AWD, if you’re into that sort of thing. This tester came with a ton of options, including the Sensory Package ($2,250), the Proassist Package ($2,250), the Proactive Package ($2,850), the Carbon Fiber Package ($2,250), illuminated kick plates ($400) and the aforementioned red paint ($800). That brings the grand total to $65,795.

For reference, the 354-hp Audi S5 starts at almost exactly the same MSRP ($54,600) and will also easily rack up the optional extras just as quickly. The BMW 4 Series, specifically the 440i xDrive, rings in at $53,200 with 320 hp but only a slightly slower 0-to-60 time. So the Q60 Red Sport AWD is pretty evenly matched across some of the sportier luxo-coupes on the market. The question is whether or not Infiniti will steal some buyers away from the Germans?

Personally I was left with overwhelmingly positive feelings about the Q60 Red Sport — and it was a great partner on my journey home.

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  1. Hi William,

    I was curious if you were the same William Byrd who used to frequent the Car and Driver and Triple Plate forums and drove a Subaru.
    I’m also sorry for your loss, and likewise I’m sure he would’ve loved your reflections.
    Anyway, I’m considering the Q60 Red Sport as well, to replace my 2004 GTO, so I decided to check here to see if there were any articles about it.  I saw this and decided to take a look.  I’m glad I did, because now I’m really considering a test drive.  What comes from it nobody yet knows, but I do want to drive one.
    Thank you!
  2. Sorry for the loss of your friend, and I’m sure he would have appreciated the mention in your article.  Nicely done. 

    That’s a beautiful color and design, completely agree.  Could you describe the road-feel and driving experience a little better?  As firm as a BMW or Audi, or a little softer like an MB?  Thanks.

    • Hey Mark, thank you, and good questions.  

      It’s probably closer to an “S” Audi like the S5 if I had to ballpark it closest to another car I’ve spent a lot of time in.  Definitely bounces a little on bad surfaces, but overall it’s errs slightly towards comfort vs. sport.  
      I wish the various settings changed the car more obviously.  In an RC-F, comfort vs. Sport+ is a big difference.  The car sounds angrier and feels tighter, in the Q60 it wasn’t much of a difference.
  3. You didn’t mention the steering feel… Every review I have seen on the q50 and this complain about the steer by wire setup, what did you think about it? I haven’t driven either so I can’t say for myself

    • Ah, good call.  It’s not better or worse than most of the new systems honestly.  Under hard cornering load it went where I wanted it.  It’s not Porsche, and it’s probably not quite BMW unfortunately, but for what most luxury sports coupe buyers are looking for, it’s solid.

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