Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

Give it the beans from a dig, and the Infiniti QX30’s driveline does a couple of things that are pretty swell.

The QX30 fires ahead as if it was rear-ended by a rocket-propelled rhinoceros.

The all-wheel drive (AWD) system pre-engages all four wheels, so there’s full traction from the first inch of movement. The turbocharger gets up to speed in a jiff, cramming the intercooler, manifolds and cylinders fully with cool, compressed air by time the tachometer reads 1,200 rpm. From just off idle, this sends nearly 260 lb-ft of torque to the road, and the QX30 fires ahead as if it was rear-ended by a rocket-propelled rhinoceros.

Gear changes come quickly and precisely, via the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. All the while, the engine’s loud, proud and hard-working howl floods the cabin generously as you get it spinning fast.

All that torque – not long ago, this was output reserved for a V8 engine. Here, it’s online, at much lower revs, in a small and light and nimbly-bimbly little crossover that shifts its gears giggly-fast, and an AWD system that knows what it’s doing. She rips something fierce, fellas. She rips real good.

This is all a great foundation for a pleasing performance experience – which may be the QX30’s most valuable asset. It’s an authentically sporty little posh-ute to drive, and an absolute little demon in the snow, too. More on that later.

With shoppers shifting rapidly towards smaller, more maneuverable and more efficient little crossovers, Infiniti is sure their latest little ute is going to be a big deal. The sticky? QX30 blends compact luxury car dimensions and goodies, as well as the added ride height, commanding driving position, added space, and AWD traction that more shoppers find on their list of luxury vehicle must-haves.

The result is a frisky, comfortable and authentically energetic little five-door that hits the mark in many areas, but misses it in a few others.

The QX30 is compact, and they mean it. If you’re much taller than your writer (about 5'11" on a good day), you’ll need to duck intentionally when hopping on board to avoid contacting the door opening with your noggin’. Once seated, you’re comfy-snug: it’s adequately spacious for two average grown-ups up front, and shoppers coming into the QX30 out of a sporty little sedan, or a larger coupe, will feel right at home. Rear seats pack more legroom than expected, though headroom tightens up quickly for those passengers approaching six feet tall.

The cargo hold will easily accept four adult-sized bags or suitcases, and sits low for easy access, but a lip at the rear edge of the cargo hold will complicate things for the family canine slightly, should he be hopping in for the ride.

Inside, QX30’s cabin ticks most mandatory luxury crossover boxes, with leather, stitching, wood, and Infiniti’s signature playful richness all flaunted. High-end materials are used subtly, and the overall atmosphere in the tester was dark, slightly techy, and highly formal. As the QX30 is a joint venture with Mercedes, fans of the latter brand will notice numerous familiar elements, including the stubby metal shifter, all door-mounted controls, the climate control console, and even the key.

With AWD, the QX30 starts around $38,500. The tester, with both the Premium and Technology packages fitted, bumped that figure to the better part of $47,000. That’s a big sticker for a little machine, so you’d expect it to be pretty stellar.

And you do get plenty of stuff: intelligent all-wheel drive; the around-view parking monitor; memory seating in Nappa leather (not Napa cabbage, as that’s for bunnies); automatic climate control; a big Bose stereo; and navigation. There’s a nearly full suite of connected car apps, and a full suite of outward-looking hazard-detection and safety systems that allow the QX30 to alert you of potential hazards in your driving environment, and even brake automatically to prevent or mitigate certain types of accidents. Powerful LED headlights with bright, vivid output and automatic high-beams help round out the package. Here’s one of those machines you’d have to try pretty hard to hit something with.

But it’s still a few features and touches short of its price tag. The panoramic sunroof doesn’t open, or even vent, so it’s just a decoration. And this is the first vehicle I’ve driven in years, anywhere near this price point, which required inserting and turning its key for engine start-up. Further, I’ve driven heaps of $47,000 vehicles lately with fancies like remote start and Android Auto and ventilated seats, which aren’t present here either.

Feature content for the money, with this particular tester, is focused more heavily on preventative safety systems you hope never to use, as opposed to gadgets you’ll want to use on the daily.

Other minor complaints include the positioning of the climate control console, which is shoved down to the bottom of the centre stack, and the placement of the windshield wiper controls on the end of the turn signal lever – an awkward carry-over from the Mercedes parts bin.

Ultimately, and again, the QX30’s driving experience is its hardest-hitting asset, especially in nasty winter weather.

Brakes operate with sports-car urgency and precision. Even challenged with an emergency stop-and-swerve maneuver on an ice-striped road, the brakes work fast and smart, on a wheel-by-wheel basis, to keep the QX30 on course, tidy and decelerating hard. Driven thus, drivers will appreciate the system’s ability to extract maximum traction from the surface beneath. More importantly, the squirming and shifting and tail-sliding typical in panic stops on split-traction surfaces are all but totally neutralized.

Further, and this is the big thing: they’ve done a good job of dialling the suspension in for engaging handling and an authentically sporty feel, without compromising comfort and refinement and a feel of durability. The ride, in most situations, is nicely dialled in – sporty and firm to be sure, but not jarring, uncomfortable or rough or noisy, unless road conditions deteriorate. Highway cruising noise levels are kept nicely in check up to cruising speeds too.

The QX30 often feels more sporty than comfortable, but doesn’t dip too far into one side of the equation or the other. Slightly rough roads do little to knock back the machine’s composure, though the nastiest surfaces can see ride quality and noise levels degrade rapidly. Put another way, if you’re moving from a little sports car into Infiniti’s little sports luxury crossover, you’ll feel right at home where the ride quality is concerned.

Let’s talk traction. Fitted with a set of (fantastic) Michelin X-Ice tires and the Intelligent AWD system, the tester never missed a beat in the slippery stuff. On filming day, on an empty backroad, we spent more time stopping in deep snow and finding hills and snow-heaps to try and get the QX30 stuck in, than we did driving. Even in situations where I was sure we’d need to dig and push the QX30 out, it kept on keepin’ on – often without any significant wheelspin.

Stop on a steep hill in deep snow? Half a pedal’s worth of throttle is met with minimal traction control intervention, near-nil slippage, and instant forward momentum, sans fuss. Jam the throttle in a pile of knee-deep snow? The AWD system spends about a quarter-second trying both axles for traction, before enabling plenty of wheelspin to fling the tire treads clear of snow, and pull the machine out. Stop on a hill so icy that there’s no way you’ll get moving again? Hill Hold Assist automatically prevents rollback, and you get moving again at the first touch on the throttle.

Engage sport mode and go for a bit of play? Thanks to expert tuning of the stability control system, and the short wheelbase and slim weight, the QX30 is delightfully responsive to all inputs. This one’s easy to fling, steer and whip around via the throttle, steering, brakes, whatever, should you feel like a bit of a hooligan. So, when desired, the effective AWD system and winter tires enable enjoyment of more of the engine’s performance, more of the time.

As such, QX30 is as playful, or as confidence-inspiring, as you like – it’s all up to your right foot and the presently engaged drive-mode. When appropriate, QX30 uses its generous torque, strategic relaxation of traction control intervention, and some pretty aggressive shifting of power from one axle to the other to ensure you keep moving. Best of all, as clutches clamp and brake calipers fire to enhance traction and power delivery, you detect virtually nothing from the driver’s seat.

It’s a proper winter busting little sports ute – and a worthy luxury utility offering for the shopper after compellingly easy access to all-surface traction and performance, in any situation.

Also notable? The QX30 is easily maneuverable, especially with the around-view parking camera system providing full-perimeter camera coverage on a single screen. Fuel mileage impressed too: I put away 10.1 L/100 km, despite frequent enjoyment of the turbocharger and AWD system.

Ultimately, this machine might prove a more compelling value for some shoppers if the $2,500 in hazard detection systems are skipped. Do that, and at $44,000, QX30 sums up easily: it’s a compact luxury sport ute that’s heavy on the sport, great on fuel, decent on the luxury, and a feisty little demon of a thing to drive in the snow.

Engine Displacement 2.0L
Engine Cylinders 4
Peak Horsepower 208 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Peak Torque 258 lb-ft @ 1,200–4,000 rpm
Fuel Economy 10.6/8.0/9.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 543.7L
Model Tested 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD
Base Price $38,490
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,995
Price as Tested $48,735
Optional Equipment
$8,150 – Premium Package $5,000; Technology Package $2,500; Metallic Paint $650