September 27th, 2016 at 2:47pm
Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.
Reviewer: John McElroy
Vehicle: 2016 Infiniti QX60
Price: $59,345 (as tested)
You’ll notice it as soon as you slip into the driver’s seat and close the door behind you. There’s a solidity to Infiniti’s these days. They feel crisp, purposeful, taut. This is the kind of feeling you get in a car designed for those who take their driving seriously. Everyday commuters are invited to look elsewhere.
Infiniti is a brand that’s still trying to define its image but there is a personality that starting to shine through. And you can probably trace the change to Infiniti’s sponsorship of the Red Bull Formula One racing team in 2011. Infiniti even named Sebastian Vettel, then Formula One world champion, as its director of performance and he consulted with the company on how to improve the dynamic performance of its cars. Last year Read Bull and Infiniti decided to part ways, but the seeds had been sown. Some of that Formula One DNA rubbed off on Infiniti.
You feel it in simple ways such as the firmness of the foam in the seats, the grip of the small steering wheel, and the closeness of the cabin. Even though the QX60 is a decent sized SUV it feels fairly compact.
Once underway, the steering effort, the suspension settings, and the brake effort all impart a sense of confidence in the driver. This car feels like it knows what it’s doing. It encourages you to pick up the pace. And yet unlike so many other premium SUVs the QX60 doesn’t feel heavy or overly-muscled. It has the build of an Olympic sprinter, not an iron-pumping gym rat.
You see it in the styling as well. Infiniti’s are starting to mature into graceful looking cars with interesting details. Thanks to the guiding hand of chief designer Alfonso Albaisa they’re shedding the overly busy lines that gave them a jarring appearance. They still very much look like Infiniti’s, but much better than they looked before.
BMW should take note of what Infiniti is doing. Though the Japanese brand is in no position to challenge its German counterpart on the sales charts, its cars seem to be more in tune with the public’s taste in the premium segment. You could say the difference is in being svelte, not swarthy. Infiniti is delivering a delightful driving experience without resorting to big doses of testosterone. I think that approach especially resonates with women, and they account for more than half of all car purchases.
Now if only Infiniti would unbundle some of its option packages. If you want its suite of safety technologies get ready to pay through the nose. Oh, they’ll throw in some maple wood accents and heated rear seats, but the package will set you back by $6,900. Seems to me they’d do a better job of selling these options by offering a la carte pricing.
There’s a great precedent for doing this. Ever since Johann de Nysschen took over at Cadillac it started unbundling its option packages and instantly saw a big jump in take rates and transaction prices. You remember Johann. He’s the guy who used to run Infiniti.