AFTER A WEEK WITH THE INFINITI Q70 3.5 HYBRID, WE CAN ATTEST TO ITS ‘PULLING POWER’ – THERE WAS NO SHORTAGE OF QUESTIONS FROM CURIOUS PASSERS-BY WHEREVER WE PARKED.
And, while there are views out there that Infiniti stylists should pack their crayons and look for a new line of work, the coachwork and premium finish to the big Infiniti certainly commands attention in the carpark.
It has, in fact, despite the high-tech hybrid drivetrain, a classic traditional feel of solidity and craftsmanship.
But, coachwork and tradition aside, the Q70 3.5 Hybrid is laden with technology, its performance is certainly brisk, and it is very much better than its sales would suggest.
Vehicle Style: Prestige Mid-Size Prestige Sedan
Price: $82,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 268kW/548Nm 3.5 litre 6cyl petrol/electric hybrid | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.9 l/100km | tested: 8.2 l/100km
On pole position this week in the TMR garage, the 3.5 Hybrid, at $82,900, tops the Infiniti Q70 lineup (the range starts at $68,900 for the 3.7 GT).
Benefitting from some styling and specification updates earlier this year, the Infiniti Q70 is a mid-size premium sedan and goes head-to-head with Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series and more particularly in the case of our 3.5 Hybrid version, the Lexus GS 300h.
So that means obvious quality in materials and manufacturing, a sumptuous interior and lots of technology.
And some rather slick, sporting driving dynamics to boot.
- Standard Features: Keyless entry and ignition; Leather-trimmed seats (10-way power-adjustable for driver and passenger), woodgrain trim highlights, memory function for system-settings including audio, climate control, seat and steering wheel settings, climate control air-conditioning with 'plasmacluster' air-purifier; active noise control (utilising sound-wave cancelling technology); rain-sensing wipers, light sensor; rear view camera and surround cameras with bird's-eye view
- Infotainment: Bose 16-speaker ‘Studio Surround’ includes front seat mounted speakers, 8-inch touch-screen display, 10GB music box, 30GB HDD navigation system, DVD playback, CD, MP3/WMA, Bluetooth hands-free telephone and audio streaming, AUX and USB ports.
- Cargo volume: 350-litres
The interior of the Infiniti carries an up-market feel, but one that now looks dated and fussy. The seats are generously padded, leathers are soft and sumptuous to the touch, and the unusual dashboard (which curves away ahead of the front passenger) adds to a feeling of spaciousness.
There’s 10-way electric adjustment for the front seats and electric adjustment (rake and reach) for the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
However for your average-height TMR correspondent, we found getting the wheel set for our preferred position and view of the gauges meant it was too upright.
Trim and materials are first-class, solid to the touch – in that traditional way – and with a robust built-to-last feel. Our test car was fitted with timber-look trim highlights which we don’t mind, but did not appeal to everyone.
There is also, naturally, no shortage of technology (the Bose audio speakers either side of the headrests in both front seats impressed the curious).
The high-resolution touchscreen is clear and easily read, and the clock below it looks very smart, but the operational part of the Infiniti Q70 3.5 Hybrid’s centre-stack is overly fussy with too many buttons and dials.
And while it works well-enough ergonomically, it takes a while to get comfortable with things. (You’ll find yourself hunting while you sort it all out.)
However, while the dashboard and instrument layout might not be the most handsome in this segment, there’s no denying it oozes a quality look and feel.
Like others in this segment, rear seat accommodation in the Infiniti Q70 3.5 Hybrid is on the ‘adequate’ size of ‘spacious’ (but there’s no doubt about the support from the bolstering according to feedback from the TMR juniors).
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/transmission: V6 petrol/electric hybrid/7-speed automatic with sequential manual mode
- Power/torque: Petrol: 225kW @6,800rpm/350Nm @ 5,800rpm Electric: 50kW from 1,700 – 2,000rpm/270Nm@ 1,770rpm Combined: 268kW
- Suspension: Independent MacPherson strut (front), independent multi-link (rear)
- Brakes: 320mm ventilated front discs/308mm ventilated rear discs
There are some surprises awaiting when you drive Infiniti’s mid-size range topper. The first is its driving dynamics – this prestige sedan punches along very nicely.
With the most recent model upgrade, Infiniti gave the Q70’s suspension a do-over searching for improved ride comfort. The previous generation’s firm European-style calibration may have been a tad too harsh for American and Chinese buyers.
As well, the Q70 3.5 Hybrid runs Infiniti’s version of four-wheel-steering.
So when the roads get twisty, the Infiniti Q70 3.5 Hybrid is an engaging drive – better than you will be expecting – but now with the more compliant and comfortable ride demanded by buyers in this segment.
And there’s a nice weight to the steering, but it’s a bit wooden and feedback is a little lacking at speed.
When pressing on hard, however, the Infiniti Q70 3.5 Hybrid is surprisingly fleet of foot and provides a nicely connected rear-drive feel that enthusiast drivers will like. The Hybrid’s claimed sprint time of 5.3 seconds to 100km/h is rapid in any language.
It feels a little heavier and ‘looser’ when cornering than the Germans, thanks to the Infiniti’s more compliant spring and damper settings (and you’re aware of the weight of the battery), but this is a well-worked compromise for a luxury saloon.
When giving it the beans, the V6 delivers plenty of urge even though the hybrid-propelled Q70 tips the scales at a not insubstantial 1785kgs (although that’s still lighter than the 1820kgs Lexus GS 300h). It also doesn’t sound too bad, though it lacks that crisp, involving rasp that Europeans do so well.
Where we can’t give the Infiniti Q70 3.5 Hybrid a ‘distinction’ is in the area of refinement.
On light throttle (and let’s face it for most drivers that will be the majority of time spent behind the wheel) the transition from hybrid to petrol power and back is not particularly smooth (unlike some rivals where one is hard-pressed to tell if you’re on petrol or electric power).
We’d also like a smarter response from the seven-speed automatic when changing gears manually. While there are no complaints about its smoothness in full ‘auto’, it’s a bit snoozy and slow to react to shifts, especially when down-shifting into a corner. Incidentally, in the Q70 3.5 Hybrid the electric motor is part of the transmission.
Like rivals, the Infiniti Q70 3.5 Hybrid runs on full electric mode at low speeds and always in reverse (with sufficient battery charge of course).
But that electric power does come at a price for luggage capacity (the batteries are located behind the rear seats) – down from 500-litres to 350-litres and with no folding for the seat back.
ANCAP rating: Not yet tested
Safety Features: Six airbags, active cruise control, traction control, dynamic and stability control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, lane departure prevention, blind spot intervention, forward emergency braking, predictive forward collision warning, back-up collision intervention, active front seat head restraints, reversing and ‘birds-eye’ camera systems, tyre pressure monitoring system
Warranty: 4 years/100,000kms (whichever comes first)
Servicing: Service intervals 12 months or 10,000kms (whichever comes first). ’Infiniti Service Assure’ fixed-price servicing available for the for the first 8 years or 80,000kms (whichever comes first)
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
When it comes to competition for the Infiniti Q70 Hybrid, clearly the spotlight falls on the Lexus GS 300h.
Lexus offers two models (‘Luxury' at $78,000, plus on-roads, and ‘F-Sport' at $86,000, plus) and we certainly like the looks inside and out. For driving dynamics, the pendulum swings in favour of the Infiniti – it’s just that little bit more dynamic and engaging.
Of course BMW now has its 330e, as well as the hybrid version of the 5 Series, but at $121,700 (plus on-roads) the ‘ActiveHybrid 5’ isn’t really in the same price league as the Infiniti Q70 3.5 Hybrid.
Closer is the Mercedes Benz C300 Hybrid, at $75,300 (plus on roads), soon to be supplemented by the C350 hybrid, expected mid-July.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Forget for a moment Infiniti’s low profile in Australia. If you’ve been to Europe, Japan or North America, you’ll know Nissan’s prestige division is doing brisk business
Here, Infiniti says it is laying the groundwork for the future, the brand is investing in high-profile sponsorships like F1 Grand Prix racing and plenty of all-new products are on the way.
In any case, and by any measure, the Q70 Hybrid is a formidable rival to the Lexus GS300h. It does the ‘speed with luxury’ thing quite surprisingly well.
It lacks however the involving sense of personality and style that so noticeably characterises its European, mostly German, competitors (if only it had more of the sound of the 370Z...).
But if a large prestige hybrid sedan is on your mind, take the Infiniti Q70 Hybrid for a test drive and you won't fail to be impressed with its coachwork and on-road verve. And, strangely enough, you will find the looks growing on you.
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