BAKERSFIELD, California — When the keys to our Four Seasons 2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport landed in my hands for a weekend, I did not anticipate the adventure I would embark upon. As I approached the QX30 Sport at our headquarters parking lot it was in dire need of a wash.
Driving the Liquid Copper QX30 Sport down Gaffey Street in San Pedro was like walking on a fashion show runway, and the presence of a young woman behind the wheel certainly added even more flavor to the vehicle’s appeal. The rubbernecking and expressions from male drivers complimenting the attractive compact crossover were plentiful.
To get the most out of my time with the Infiniti, I refused to stay in Los Angeles to simply drive to the beach and the grocery store. After a little contemplation, I decided to take this fine chariot on a small adventure to the Central Valley city I was raised in and where most of my family still resides.
“Where in the universe is Bakersfield?” you may be asking yourself. Roughly two hours north of Los Angeles, it boasts a population of more than 360,000. Prominent industries include agriculture, oil, and construction.
One of my favorite musicians, Merle Haggard, was born near the neighboring town of Oildale. (Haggard and Buck Owens helped create the Bakersfield sound in country music, shining the spotlight on the city many years ago.) Haggard’s childhood boxcar home recently opened for public viewing at the Kern County Museum. Bakersfield is also the home of some race tracks: Kern County Raceway Park, Bakersfield Speedway, and, a few miles to the north, Auto Club Famoso Raceway.
In the 1950s drag racing was a rapidly growing sport in Bakersfield, leading a group of drag racers to form Smokers, Incorporated. In 1959, they launched the biggest drag-racing event of its time, the U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships. It was held at Famoso Raceway, and Don “Big Daddy” Garlits of Florida was invited to participate. Thousands attended the event, and Garlits’s presence — although he did not take first place — propelled drag racing beyond California. Today, that drag event is known as the March Meet.
Entering Bakersfield I left Highway 99 for a quick dinner at In-N-Out Burger. My timing turned out to be impeccable as I immediately found the rare parking space despite arriving during evening rush. As I sat in the QX30’s driver seat, eager to enjoy my Double-Double combo, my attention was caught by a loud conversation. For me, eating In-N-Out in the car is a ritual, and the excess volume was breaking my concentration. I rolled up the windows, increased the volume of Bose stereo, and took a satisfying bite in splendid isolation.
Cruising around downtown Bakersfield after dinner quickly built my relationship with the voluptuous crossover and produced a wonderful photo opportunity. The QX30 Sport’s exquisite exterior design consists of lines and geometric shapes, and as a photographer who appreciates the automobile, I wanted to show it off in the night light. I found three places in downtown’s dark streets that gave life to the motionless compact crossover.
The sprinklers at home were being repaired, and I needed to park the compact crossover at a tricky rounded curb to avoid giving it a bath. I utilized the Around View Monitor, which gives you a virtual 360-degree bird’s eye view. I was amazed at how precise this parking feature proved itself to be. Stationed at the corner of two small residential streets the QX30 Sport in its radiant color under the morning sun only attracted more attention.
While I polished our long-term for a lunch outing at Noriega Hotel, a woman walking her dogs stopped to compliment the QX30 Sport’s color. Driving the Liquid Copper Infiniti QX30 Sport in a smaller city is what made it special. Bakersfield was a showroom floor where endless compliments rained on the compact crossover. From the passerby shouting “nice car don’t wreck it!” at the River Walk shops in Stockdale to the clerks’ astonishment at Cruz Thru Express Car Wash and Taco Bell drive-through our long-term QX30 Sport quickly developed a fan base.
It was past noon when I pulled up to Noriega’s, one of several Basque restaurants in Bakersfield. Established in 1893, Noriega’s — also known as The Basque People’s House — originally served as a boarding home for Basque shepherds. Expanded in 1940 to include a bar and dining room, Noriega’s is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award, which was presented to the restaurant’s owners in New York by Andrew Zimmern. I ordered the beef brisket with fries, chicken, and a side salad. Their specialty drink is a Basque punch called Picon — a blend of Amaro liquor, grenandine, lemon, brandy and soda water — and I couldn’t resist trying one. Being a history buff, I was fascinated by the environment.
While I finished my lunch at the bar counter, several patrons stepped outside to check out the QX30 Sport. “Is that rose gold?” one asked. Even restaurant co-owner Linda McCoy had to have a peek at the pretty lady in Liquid Copper. This is a restaurant where luxury cars are regulars, but the QX30 still stirred things up.
After lunch, I recruited a friend of mine to join, and we headed east toward the mountains near Kern River with the goal of having as much fun as possible. Our detour led us to discover back roads to the oil reserves in rural Bakersfield. The unobstructed landscapes suited the compact crossover very well. Every turn down these majestic, empty roads was an opportunity for an Infiniti commercial. The clear sky, mountains, growing fields, vacant roads, and calm wind were the perfect props for a production, and I absorbed every moment. We stumbled upon a dirt field in an enclosed area and conducted a session of miniature off-roading.
After the mischief, the layer of dirt covering the QX30 Sport was a well-earned accessory. I directed the Infiniti back to the city as the sun called it quits. Before returning to Los Angeles, I visited to my mother and gave various members of my family a ride around town. It was the perfect timing for Snapchats of the QX30 Sport. The teenagers adored the color and thought it was a cool car. My niece asked what I would do if Infiniti gave me the car. I told her I would drive it to all four corners of the United States, beginning in San Diego.
As I wrapped up my weekend escapade, I took the QX30 Sport for another wash — and was once again struck by the uniqueness of its Liquid Copper paint. This color choice was a daring move and a successful one, in my eyes.
I wanted a fun driving experience, and the QX30 Sport delivered. How boring it would have been to just drive around Los Angeles for errands and do nothing adventurous. After three car washes, a solo night driving session, some fun in the dirt, and 500-plus miles overall, I would do it all over again in another small city deserving of such a cool visitor.
Our 2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport
|MILES TO DATE||8,758|
|ENGINE||2.0L DOHC turbocharged 16-valve I-4/208 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,200-4,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||24/33 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||174.2 x 82.0 x 58.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.2 sec|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|