New York — “A gigantic mall for rich people,” is how one friend describes SoHo. Painstakingly primped men with elegantly disheveled side-parts saunter by with exquisitely chic women on their arms, as Bentleys, Porsches, and BMW M cars circle the city blocks in concert like horses on a carousel. A woefully round peg in a stylishly square hole, I step out into the cool Manhattan night from the expansive back seat of a new 2015 Infiniti Q70L, which looks every bit at home under the city’s lights, surrounded by its brightest automotive stars.
New York is a tough place to launch a luxury car given the stiff competition around every corner, but Infiniti is confident about the 2015 Infiniti Q70. Formerly known as the Infiniti M, the mid-size sedan historically has blended into the luxury landscape despite being a sound and well-rounded car, as customers consistently overlooked Infiniti in favor of German nameplates. But Infiniti’s striking new long-wheelbase Q70L could be the missing piece of an overall well-executed package, shaking up the mid-size luxury segment with something different, attractive, and still relatively within reach.
Bigger is Better
The 2015 Infiniti Q70 emerges from its update with new styling and a slightly modified suspension, but the car’s 330-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and beefy 420-hp, 5.6-liter V-8 stick around, both mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive. The car’s modernized look places it in step with the dramatically styled Infiniti Q50, but the larger Q70 serves as a much better canvas for the deep, flowing lines and optional 20-inch wheels. The Q70L exudes the strongest curb appeal, as its extra 7.3 inches of length and 5.9 inches of wheelbase impart an additional level of stateliness.
One of our only concerns with the outgoing Q70 was its less-than capacious rear seat, and clearly Infiniti got the memo. The 2015 Infiniti Q70L enjoys an additional 5.9 inches of rear-seat knee room and 5.6 inches of rear legroom, and the added volume makes the interior feel more spacious than most New York studio apartments. Your sheer distance from the driver heightens the chauffeur-like experience, particularly when you’re swaddled in the available semi-aniline leather and fine ash trim. The upgraded appointments are sure to please Infiniti’s Chinese customers as much as they would a Manhattan executive.
Feeling Upmarket Headed Upstate
The city fades into the rear-view mirror as I crawl in traffic off the island and into New Jersey. The destination is north toward upstate New York, but pockmarked highways demand my attention before the smooth back-road pavement arrives. Nothing major has changed since the car debuted as the third-generation Infiniti M in 2011, and the 2015 Infiniti Q70L is as comfortable, quiet, solid, and intuitive as ever even on the decrepit New Jersey highway and through the occasional traffic jam.
In a world where turbocharging is fast replacing displacement, I’m savoring every chance I get to lay into the 5.6-liter V-8. Infiniti retuned the Q70L’s throttle response for 2015, and the linear power delivery from the 420-hp engine and its competent seven-speed automatic make for confidence-inspiring acceleration. Although when I later drove the V-6 its 330 hp seemed to be more than enough, the Q70 really deserves the effortless low-end thrust of the V-8.
Once out into the forested hills 85 miles northwest of New York City, the Q70L demonstrates a marvelous ride and handling balance that straddles athleticism and refinement. Rolling over the steep hills near beautiful Bear Mountain State Park, the 2015 Infiniti Q70L handles like a smaller car while deftly minimizing impacts. Infiniti’s newly tuned steering, however, is uncommunicative and artificial feeling in either standard or sport mode, despite its precision.
A Luxury Bargain, if There Is Such a Thing
Infiniti claims to be targeting the Lexus GS as its primary competitor, with which the Q70 is cross-shopped more frequently than any other vehicle. The base, V-6, rear-wheel-drive 2015 Infiniti Q70 will be priced slightly higher than the GS at $50,755. The Q70L, however, is a no-brainer at $1500 more the standard Q70 (with either the V-6 or the V-8), adding only 140 pounds and suffering no fuel economy penalty. At $67,755, the V-8, all-wheel-drive Q70L makes a compelling alternative to many full-size luxury sedans.
Time Will Tell
Returning to SoHo and re-acclimating myself to the dense city air, I remain convinced that the 2015 Infiniti Q70L has a shot to turn things around for a model that sold fewer than 3000 units through July 2014. Infiniti of America Vice President Michael Bartsch expects that the initial sales will show a 15 percent take rate for the long-wheelbase Q70, but that figure could eventually shift to as much as 70 percent. It might not seem like the Q70 changed much for 2015, but the addition of a long-wheelbase model—the only one in its segment—might finally raise the Q70’s profile amongst the next generation of SoHo fashionisti.