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First drive: 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport [Review]

We check out Infiniti\'s latest sport coupe.

You might not remember it, but the M30 coupe was one of just two vehicles that launched the Infiniti brand nearly three-decades ago. And although the M30 turned out to be little more than a footnote in Infiniti's history, it's coupe DNA somehow managed to become deeply ingrained within the brand.

The spiritual successor to the M30, the G35 coupe, arrived in Infiniti showrooms in 2002 and fast became one of the brand's most iconic vehicles. The follow-up G37 coupe (which was later renamed Q60), launched in 2007, enjoyed much of the same success.

That means Infiniti's newest coupe, the 2017 Q60, has some pretty big shoes to fill. So does the glass slipper fit, or has the clock struck midnight on Infiniti's coupe ambitions? Come with us as we find out.

Better late than neverIn the past, Infiniti has typically introduced its coupe models alongside their sedan counterparts. However, that's far from the case with the Q60.

Infiniti replaced the G37 sedan with the Q50 way back in 2013 as a 2014 model. The Q60 is just now arriving as a 2017 model. Infiniti hasn't offered an official explanation as to why the Q60 is lagging behind the Q50 by about three years, but company representatives indicated to us that funds were being allocated to other projects.

That explanation makes some sense if you look at the global premium D-segment on the whole. Whereas sedans account for 38 percent of the segment, coupes represent just 5 percent of total sales — falling behind wagons (8 percent) and just ahead of convertibles (3 percent). SUVs now dominate the segment with a 46 percent market share. Needless to say, Infiniti isn't expecting big sales from the Q60, even if the company is setting it up as its halo vehicle.

Pick your poisonUnlike the last-generation Q60 coupe, which was offered with a single drivetrain, there are several different flavors of the 2017 Q60 on offer. The lineup starts with a Base model, which is paired exclusively with a new 208-horsepower 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. One step up is the Q60 Premium, which comes standard with the four-cylinder but can be upgraded to a 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 producing 300 horsepower.

Although not quite the Eau Rouge model Infiniti has been dangling in front of us for the last several years, the Q60 range is topped with the Red Sport. It offers 400 horsepower from its 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6. The Q60 Red Sport also boasts better driving dynamics thanks to its Dynamic Digital Suspension and upgraded brakes.

All Q60 models ship standard with a seven-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Infiniti's all-wheel drive system can be added to any Q60 model.

Signature InfinitiWhile many vehicles in the premium segment take a conservative approach to styling, the Q60 certainly does not. The Q60 features creases and flowing lines from every angle, giving it that 100mph-while-standing-still look.

Up front that starts with a version of the company's double-arch grille lifted from the Q80 concept. Headlights feature LED accents intended to give the Q60 human-like eyes. A downward slant to it all gives the coupe an aggressive look.

The flanks of the Q60 are just as expressive, with pronounced curves and lines that remind us of flowing water, particularly on our blue test car. The Q60 uses a fastback roof reminiscent of the Ford Mustang.

The rear of the Q60 is pretty much an evolution of the previous Q60 coupe. Designers have tightened up the lines and given the car a more modern look with thinner LED taillights. An integrated ducktail spoiler adds just the right amount of sport and style.

Slip inside the Q60 and you'll be greeted by the same general interior used in the Q50 sedan. Like the Q50, the highlight of the Q60's cabin is a dual-screen setup in the center dash — the lower screen is used mainly for controls while the upper unit is reserved as a display. Love it or hate it, the twin-screen setup does give the Q60 the feel of a high-tech ride.

In contrast to that all-digital dash, the Q60 still relies on a set of analog gauges. Those units are easy to read, but seem out of place in a vehicle that puts such a heavy emphasis on technology. A full LED cluster might make some sense here, especially on higher-end Q60 models.

Our test car came decked out with a unique aluminum trim intended to look like a lighter version of carbon fiber. We're not huge fans, but your tastes might differ. A carbon fiber appliqué is also available. Unfortunately, Infiniti doesn't offer its fantastic matte wood trim in the Q60 Red Sport, though wood trim can be had on lower-spec models.

Likewise, our test car's cream color seats make a bold fashion statement, but we'd worry about their long-term longevity. The fact that Infiniti supplies a leather cleaning kit in the glovebox seems to affirm that suspicion.

The front seats themselves are rather comfy, with good thigh and back support. Bolsters are large enough to keep you in place during spirited driving but aren't obtrusive otherwise. The seating position in the Q60 is a little higher than we expected, but we soon got used to the slightly elevated feel.

Coupes aren't known for spacious back seats, and the Q60 doesn't change that narrative. If you're of normal size and want to ride in the back of the Q60, you'll have to first remove your head as it simply won't fit beneath the coupe's sloping roofline. You'll also have to be quite the athlete to shimmy between the narrow opening between the B-pillar and front seat. Ironically, Infiniti says it didn't include cooled seats in the Q60 because the required fans would eat into rear seat legroom, as if that would have mattered.

The Q60's trunk is at least relatively spacious, with Infiniti claiming enough space to haul around a golf bag.

On the roadOur drive time was limited to the Q60 Red Sport model, both in rear- and all-wheel drive forms. That means we got the full boat 3.0L V6 with 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.

After just a few minutes behind the wheel it became abundantly clear that Infiniti's new VR engine range is a whole different animal compared to the Q60's outgoing 3.7L VQ engine. While the old VQ actually made decent horsepower (330), its 270 lb-ft of torque pales in comparison to amount of twist provided by the new VR motor. Moreover, 100 percent of the Red Sport's torque is available from just 1,600rpm.

The result of that added torque is significantly more grunt off the line. The Q60 isn't a rocket ship like the BMW M4, but it should have no problem outrunning a 440i. Higher-speed passing maneuvers are also a breeze in the Q60 Red Sport.

Although many automakers have made the jump to eight-speed transmissions, Infiniti is sticking to its tried-and-true seven-speed auto. Gearbox envy aside, the seven-speed unit in the Q60 is more than up to the task, providing smooth and quick gear changes. Unfortunately for the few enthusiasts still shopping the segment, Infiniti has no plans to offer the Q60 with a manual gearbox.

Infiniti started the shift to Direct Adaptive Steering a few years ago, with the Q60 boasting the latest version of that system. Billed as the world's first production drive-by-wire system, the only thing linking the Q60's front wheels with it steering wheel is a computer. That fact inherently zaps all road feel, but that doesn't mean the Q60 isn't a joy to pilot down a twisty road. Steering is incredibly sharp in the Q60, with a surprisingly good on-center feel. If this is the future of steering systems, we're OK with it.

In top-spec Q60 models Infiniti has paired its DAS with its Dynamic Digital Suspension system. Essentially a conventional suspension system with the added benefit of adaptive dampers, Infiniti's DDS system is able to provide a more supple ride during normal conditions and then firm up when the dials are turned to sport. The ride quality in normal mode is compliant, if on the stiffer side. The system is excellent when switched to its most aggressive mode, limiting body lean and providing loads of grip. In fact, the Q60 handles with such aplomb that you might mistake it for a vehicle with four-wheel steering. It should be noted that we didn't notice much of a difference between the rear- and all-wheel drive models, but Infiniti says the lighter Q60 RWD should be a tick faster.

Although we stuck to the Q60's factory modes, there are a myriad of different settings available via the car's onboard computer. Just how many? Infiniti says there are 336 different ways to setup the suspension, steering and drivetrain in the Q60.

But even if you're not really interested in driving, the Q60 still has you covered. Available features include adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and even a blind spot intervention system that will pull you back in your lane if another vehicle is detected in your blindspot.

As you'd expect of a luxury vehicle, the Q60 has a solid overall feel with a quiet cabin, although we did notice some road noise from the Q60's larger 19-inch wheels on some stretches of tarmac. Noise levels never raised to anything more than a slight annoyance, though, and the trade-off is probably worth it for the Q60's handling prowess.

The rear-wheel drive version of the Q60 Red Sport is rated at 20mpg in the city and 27mpg on the highway, netting a 22mpg average. Opting for AWD drops economy by 1mpg across the board. Even with plenty of spirited driving and limited highway miles, we still averaged better than 20mpg during our day-long drive.

The base model Q60 is reasonably priced at just under $39,000, undercutting its main rivals. However, the bill can quickly rise, with a loaded Q60 Red Sport carrying a price tag of about $60,000.

Leftlane's bottom lineA competent coupe that blurs the line between GT and sports car, the Q60 is a worthy alternative to vehicle like the Lexus RC, BMW 4-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe. We still wish that Infiniti would still pull the trigger on a full-on Eau Rouge, but the Q60 Red Sport is still capable of being the the belle of the ball.

2017 Infiniti Q60 base price, $38,950. As test, $59,555.

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