Test Drive: 2015 Infiniti Q70

There I was, driving down some unknown street in Vancouver, blissfully following the Infiniti Q70’s route guidance, mindlessly registering block after block of modest homes on a busy thoroughfare, some stretches of more upscale residences, when something different caught my eye.

I love different. Especially when that different is spectacular modern architecture in a sea of bland. Vancouver is a city full of modern glass and steel, soaring bridges, the elegant majesty of a port city’s massive cranes and a sanctuary of old growth forest in the heart of the city that hints at the spectacular natural majesty only a short distance away into the mountains and temperate rainforest of mainland BC and coastal islands. But really, most of the city is just simple old houses and apartment buildings. Plain. Drab. The stuff of ordinary life.

But this building was like all the nice parts mentioned above. Pretty. Fancy. Spectacular.

Turns out, it was Visitor Centre of the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens, home to the Vancouver Supercar Show and the All-British Field Meet, and despite its devotion to plants, it was the building’s form itself that captured my attention, and how well it matched curving, fluid and, yes, organic lines of the Q70 I was driving. It was a perfect setting to shoot this car, so the next day I pulled our colleague Andrew Leslie away from his day job and put him to work capturing some photos for this review.

Infiniti concepts these days are some of my favourites, but the same can’t necessarily be said of their production vehicles. While nowhere near as offensive as the QX80, this current Q70 is still in an awkward teenager phase that the Q80 and Q60 concepts, and even QX30 concept, seem to be growing out of. The Q50, from the right angle, is tasteful and sleek, but the Q70 is a tad overinflated and upright, its body not as sharp as the curves and creases of the concepts I so admire or even the Essence Concept that inspired it. Where the building was inspired by a photograph of a native orchid, the Q70 derives its form from the fluid lines of, um, ocean proteins. The next generation can’t come soon enough.

That is a refrain that will come up again and again in this review as there is no getting around the fact that this is an aging platform, and there is only so far Infiniti could go with it at this point. This fourth generation debuted in 2010 as the M37/M56, with a hybrid added to the lineup for 2012. Q70s of any type sell in very small numbers (and Ms before it), overshadowed by the company’s mainstays in the Q50 and QX60.

Anyhow, enough with the background and wishy-washy stuff, let’s get on with this car review, and start with one of the high points, the interior. At its launch in 2010, the M won a Ward’s Auto Interior of the Year, and it is easy to see why. In here, the fluid lines and warm, brown Japanese ash wood trim with dark stained edges is gorgeous. The leather, materials and workmanship is superb and the features I look for in a luxury car were present and accounted for: comfortable heated and cooled power seats with memory positions, heated steering wheel, a quality stereo, proximity keyless entry and navigation. And let's not forget the 360-degree parking cameras with back-up and forward sensors.

Being in an unfamiliar city I made frequent use of the navigation, and while it was convoluted to enter destinations, with slow response times as you typed in letters on the screen, the route guidance worked relatively flawlessly, with well timed messages to prepare for turns. Perhaps in such a luxury vehicle, there should be an option to avoid stretches of rampant homelessness and shady areas just as there is an option to avoid tolls.

The interface is conventional and easy to grasp and operate, but there are a couple of ergonomic foibles. Having spent a substantial amount of time in a variety of German luxury vehicles, I’ve gotten used to the controller for the interface on the console ahead of the armrest. The Q70 has a knob there, but all it controls is the vehicle dynamic modes (more on that later). It is the knob farther up the centre stack that controls map zoom and menu navigation. Perhaps Infiniti owners like this. I did not. The steering wheel is substantial and well formed, but others do it better.

Rear seats are also comfortable, and although space did not seem overwhelmingly generous, it is on par with competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and handily outstretches the Lexus GS. Speaking of stretching, a long wheelbase Q70L version is available with an extra 140 mm of rear legroom and is the only way to get into the V8 in this car.

Dynamically this car falls in the fat part of the bell curve. It handles well for a large car, but neither stands out nor seems too far behind such favourites as the Lexus GS and Cadillac CTS. We aimed to pit this sedan in such a comparison, but the stars did not align.

In other applications, the 3.7L V6 has an endearing rasp, but it was appropriately subdued in the Q70, though subtly aggressive under hard acceleration. Rated at 330 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, it is a suitable match for the 1,752 kg, but only in the vehicle’s available Sport mode does it really shine. In normal mode, it is dialled back, and Eco mode is disturbing because of the severe throttle lag and the push-back pedal that reminds you to take it easy. Officially rated at 13.2/9.6 L/100 km city/highway, we rarely saw less than 14 on the indicated consumption. However, as much as the engine is willing and the chassis sufficiently competent, there is next to no visceral connection through the controls that invite one to explore its limits or even push it mildly.

But that’s okay. This is a luxury sedan, and more important is its serenity, comfort and poise, which it has. It is a quiet cabin and the ride is comfortable, so it really does do everything it is supposed to. Why then, do I still feel like overall it is a rather lacklustre product in this competitive segment? Aside from the interior, there is little that stands out, and despite safety technology such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention it just does not feel state of the art. Between the positioning of the scroll wheel for the infotainment screen, the bulky steering wheel controls and outdated monochrome LCD screen in the gauge cluster (in stark contrast with the crisp, colourful info screen in the Nissan Murano I sampled the same week) it left a lot to be desired as Infiniti’s flagship sedan.

Its saving grace may just be the pricing. Starting at $52,000 with a $1,995 Freight charge for the base AWD V6 model, this tester piled on features to just over $64K, when vehicles from the German brands and even Cadillac are into the eighties without even trying. Granted, there is far more customization available from those brands, but Infiniti is competing in this value space with Lexus and Acura, with Hyundai offering an even better value equation and V8 at the same price point if pedigree is not your primary concern. There is a lot of selection in this segment, and Infiniti doesn't stand out in any one area or as an overall best to be considered a leader or to draw interest in this crowded market.

Second Opinion: Jacob Black

Sometimes a car looks good enough to overcome its other flaws. Sometimes, the right friend, at the right time will tell you how much the sound of that car starting will make them feel warm and happy thoughts.

That was my standout from my week in the Q70. That and realizing there were speakers in the seat shoulders sending mad Aussie hip hop samples directly to my ear canals. The interior impressed Wards, and Jonathan, but left me a little cold. The lacquered wood was nice, but the shapes and curves seemed bulbous and overwrought to me.

It drives beautifully though. Easily on par with Hyundai Genesis and anything from Acura - but eclipsed slightly by Lexus. The engine for all it's beautiful noises fails to deliver significant punch, but if you take a beat and drive the car as a stately sedan it excels. The Q70 commands attention, respect and appreciation from onlookers. In traffic it is serene. In heavy traffic it is an oasis. The Infiniti Q70 is a wonderful car - but its age is showing.

NRCan 2015 fuel economy estimate: 13.2/9.6 L/100 km city/highway
Observed fuel economy: 17.8 L/100 km

Warranty:
4 years/100,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 7 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance 24-hour roadside assistance

Competitors:
Audi A6
BMW 5 Series
Cadillac CTS
Jaguar XF
Lexus GS 350
Mercedes-Benz E-Class

2015 Infiniti Q70 3.7 AWD
articles_PricingType 2015 Infiniti Q70 3.7 AWD
Base Price $52,000
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,995
Price as Tested $64,495
Optional Equipment Delxue Touring & Tech Package $5,500 (Bose Studio Surround 5.1 16-speaker audio, power rear sunshade, leather seats, ash wood trim, intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning & prevention, blind spot intervention, Forest Air conditioning, Eco Pedal, 20' wheels), Premium Package $4,900 (voice recognition, Infiniti HD navigation, Infinti Connection telematics system w/ 1 year of service incl., 8" touchscreen, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel)
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 6.8
5 Exterior Styling
6 Performance
9 Interior
8 Comfort
6 Fuel Economy