Seattle is a city perpetually on the rise. From its port-city beginnings to its current tech industry boom, the city’s shape, culture, and people are constantly evolving. It gives the impression of always up and coming, never wanting to be complacent. As such, the location was perfect for the introduction of the new 2017 Infiniti QX30 as it attempts to pull the rest of the brand upwards.
Infiniti, like Seattle, is always looking towards the future, or so they now say. Decades of futile Nissan stewardship has pointed the premium automaker to the brink. Lackluster cars with barely indistinguishable interiors to their Nissan counterparts felt as if Infiniti would become just another mid-2000s Lexus, when its Toyota brethren were barely different.
The new QX30 aims to correct those dark years. It’s a breath of fresh air in the stale air of the brand, and this is largely thanks in part to the bones of the QX30 being of not Nissan descent, but Mercedes.
Haven’t We Seen You Before?
While the artsy sculpture of the body is defiantly Infiniti, the basic shape comes from Mercedes’ GLA crossover. To look its part, however, Infiniti’s designers have breathed upon the QX30 to shed its less-than-appealing roots, creating a shape that’s more evocative and speaks to the younger clientele the brand is going after. Standing just a few feet from the QX30, you get the impression that the designers saw the GLA, and thought, “God, that’s unfortunate. But it has the right architecture to build something sort of beautiful.”
The flowing haunches, subtle curves, and even the divisive trademark Infiniti grille work. We know as a matter of principle, we should hate the crossover design given that it’s just a high-riding car with little more space than its lower-to-the-ground car cousins, and that a wagon or a full-size SUV are more practical. But Infiniti’s designers did such a superb job that those nagging opinions can be shooed away. It’s a damn pretty car. Maybe it doesn’t have the beauty of a pageant queen like a Ferrari, but unlike most in this segment, it has a unique shape that’s both wonderful and distinct. The interior, though — that’s a little less incomparable.
Seriously, Haven’t We Seen You Before?
Infiniti will tell you until the company is blue in the face that the interior is its own. It isn’t. Pull the QX30 up next to its Mercedes cousin, jump from one car to the other, and you’d be hard-pressed to find many differences.
The steering wheel, the door window switches, the central speedometer screen that literally uses Mercedes graphics, the door locks, the center infotainment stack, and even the car’s key are all from the GLA. But you know what? You shouldn’t care, because it feels like a Mercedes product should feel. Those pieces of trim are weighted properly and the leather supple, giving them a far more expensive feel, even though you’re in an entry-level premium car.
There are, of course, areas where the QX30 has obvious Infiniti parts, such as the more premium leather inserts and some of the design flourishes. But for the most part, the interior is pure Mercedes.
The seats, which are also from Mercedes, are comfortably plush. The wonderful memory foam padding did the job so well that, while our driving partner pootled along our route, we almost immediately fell into a deep, calm sleep. Even the sporty AMG-derived seats in the Sport trim are comfortable despite their bolstered thigh and mid-section padding.
We’re glad Infiniti didn’t do much to make the interior more its own. As it sits, the QX30 is the perfect tool to entice new buyers. Where the QX30 slightly missteps, however, is in the transmission calibration.
We Recognize You, But Something Is Different…
Seattle and the surrounding area are staggeringly beautiful. It’s an explorer’s dream, with deciduous rain forests, babbling estuaries, and plant and animal life galore. Within minutes of the heavily populated city, you’re transported to another world — one of adventure, sparse accommodations, and Mount Rainier greeting your gaze. The gorgeous tree-lined back roads necessitate frequent stops, not because you’re fatigued from driving treacherous roads, but due to their sheer beauty.
Yet, as the outside world was perfect and surrounded us through the panoramic moon roof, the mechanics of the car were not.
For the QX30, Infiniti still uses the same turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 as the Mercedes. It develops the same 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and is coupled to the same seven-speed dual clutch transmission, which is where things go wrong. With access to the transmission’s computer, Infiniti’s engineers felt they could do better than Stuttgart. They couldn’t. As such, when under harder acceleration, the transmission hangs near redline for entirely too long. When it finally shifts, and there’s no preordained pattern for how long you wait, the resulting shift in power jerks the car rather abruptly and reduces the luxury feel they so adeptly obtained. It is important to note that what we drove was a pre-production vehicle, which gives Infiniti ample amount of time to devise a solution before the car goes on sale.
Inside the city limits, Seattle is remarkably hilly, closely resembling San Francisco. Here however, and along the waterfront and historic Pike Place market, the transmission feels perfectly adept. The shifts are smooth, and almost unnoticeable. And even when you encounter uneven pavement, the ride remains pleasant as this is where most of this car’s buyers will spend their time, just scurrying around a city center.
A Premium Crossover For Broke Millennials
According to Infiniti, the company’s target demographic is under 40 and aspires to have an active lifestyle. However, those buyers are trending younger and younger each year. And buyers want something premium without the premium price tag, as most don’t make enough yet to afford a more premium car. Infiniti is set to capitalize on this trend with the QX30, as it will likely become the brand’s most popular offering.
As the QX30’s on sale date draws closer, Infiniti will likely release the car’s final pricing. When pressed, the company stated that the base model will start near $29,950, making it an absolute bargain for those wanting Mercedes-level comfort at Infiniti prices. And it’s not like Infiniti skimps on the premium feel, either. Leather is standard, there are wood flourishes throughout, and it’s equipped with plenty of other creature comforts and safety systems that would have you believe you’re in a car that costs twice as much. For further levels of safety, Infiniti’s Technology Package offers Mercedes levels with forward emergency braking, high beam assist, intelligent cruise control, forward collision warning, blind spot detection, and lane departure warning.
Even a well-equipped QX30 Sport will come in under $40,000 before tax, license and destination. One option we highly recommend to audiophiles is the premium 10-speaker Bose stereo.
For a time, Bose was everywhere and it was the class leader in audio systems. However, in subsequent years, other makes such as Bang & Olufsen or Meridian have become the dominant makers of high end, quality stereos. In the QX30, the Bose unit is nearly flawless, with clear fidelity, and only becoming muddled at the very edges of eardrum injury. In short, it’s banging, and a clear bright point inside the car’s cabin.
A Company Once Again on the Rise
When Renault-Nissan announced its technical partnership with Daimler Mercedes, we were very much interested in what would come out of the relationship. Seeing and feeling the finished product gives us hope that, like the city of Seattle, Infiniti is on the rise. The 2017 QX30 is a car that, as gearheads, we shouldn’t like on principle. But as people who appreciate a brilliantly executed vision, this is a high point. The Mercedes DNA makes this car feel more premium than its price tag, and the uniquely Infiniti touches add personality to the Germanic neutral undertones found in the GLA.
This car has potential energy. Energy that’s stored, waiting to be unleashed. When Infiniti finally does unleash this car to the public, it could be the car that propels the company forward into the future, shedding its apathetic history for something bold, and exciting. It also doesn’t hurt that it will likely sell like gangbusters.
2017 Infiniti QX30 Specifications
|On Sale:||Fall 2016|
|Price:||$29, 950 (est)|
|Engine:||2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4/208 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,200-4,000 rpm|
|Transmission:||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD crossover|
|L x W x H:||174.2 in x 71.5 in x 60.2 in|
|0-60 MPH:||6.9 sec (est)|