Infiniti adds to its volume-chasing Q30 range, with a high-riding, all-wheel drive variant that brings off-road potential.
WHAT IS IT?
A higher-riding, all-wheel-drive variant of Infiniti’s recently launched Q30 premium compact front-drive crossover. Like that car, it shares its platform, drivetrain and some interior architecture with the Mercedes-Benz GLA.
WHY WE’RE DRIVING IT
Infiniti is desperate to build a brand presence in Australia, and a model in this segment is the company’s best hope of improving sales, even if they are likely to remain tiny against the likes of Mercedes and Audi.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The QX30 meets its brief of offering more light-duty off-road ability and improved traction over the Q30, and in the top-spec Premium model, comes loaded with equipment which would add many thousands when optioned on a Mercedes-Benz GLA. However, the occasions where its hardware changes can be exploited will be rare, for most buyers.
PLUS: Rides with more compliance than Q30; can theoretically better handle unmade roads
MINUS: Higher ride height and SUV tyres means slightly mushier handling; commands a premium of around $4K over regular Q30
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THERE are plenty of things capable of causing sleepless nights to executives of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, but it’s unlikely Infiniti’s presence in Australia is one of them. Nissan’s luxury arm is a sales minnow in this country, selling just 574 cars last year. Mercedes moves a similar number every week.
But optimism runs deep at Infiniti, and the company is confident that this QX30 model, combined with its Q30 sibling, will bolster local sales to the tune of 30 percent.
Like the Infiniti Q30, the QX30 is essentially a rebodied and re-specced Mercedes-Benz GLA, but aims to bring greater light-duty off-road ability over its in-house sibling thanks to all-wheel drive, 30mm extra ride height and a bit of additional body cladding. And, like the Q30, it aims to seduce would-be Mercedes buyers with either a much sharper price tag, or loading in extra equipment, or a combination of both.
There are two spec levels to choose from: the entry-level GT, at $48,900, or the top-spec GT Premium at $56,900. Both are powered by the gutsiest (sub-AMG) petrol engine Merc offers in the GLA; the 2.0-litre turbo punching out 155kW/350Nm. Both are capable of sending 50 percent of torque rearward on that blue-moon occasion where the fronts are incapable of finding traction. In terms of value, that pricing puts both models around $4k more expensive that the lower-riding, front-drive equivalents in the three-tier Q30 range. So far, so predictable.
Assessing their value against opposite numbers from the Mercedes GLA line-up becomes far more convoluted, because the base-spec GLA 180 is powered by a far more meek engine, while loading a GLA 250 (which does have this powertrain) to the level of the GT Premium requires expensive option packs, yet still leaves the two cars far from line-ball. Let’s just agree that losing the three-pointed star, as you’d expect, saves money and adds equipment, some of it more useful than others. We give grudging kudos to the product planners for making it all so blurry. However, factor in the pricing vagaries of floor-stock deals at your Merc dealer and you may need a spreadsheet and stiff scotch to sort it all out.
But enough of the sideways glances at the GLA; more relevant is what the QX30 gains over the Q30, and whether that extra $4k is money well spent. We drove the QX30 on sealed roads and fire trails in Victoria and found torque steer was still evident when belting it on dirt despite some drive being sent the rears. Secure and predictable, yes, but it was hard to imagine the regular Q30 being troubled in these conditions.
On road, the extra ride height is most noticeable in tight cornering where the QX rolls a little more obstinately onto its inside front corner, and in the slightly lower grip levels offered by its more dual-purpose 18-inch Yokohama rubber. The upside is a less reactive, slightly more pliant ride than the Q30. Overall, though, it’s satisfying, rather than sizzling. Oh, and official consumption rises by 0.6l/100km against the Q30 to 6.9L/100km, for what that’s worth. Our trip computer claimed low 13s.
So there’s no doubting the QX30’s core competency, but is that enough? Even in this more affordable end of the premium market, a car purchase is still an emotive buying decision; one influenced by a complex matrix involving perceptions of quality, implied status, brand association and intangible feel-good factors. Which is where the QX30 starts to drift off course. It’s well engineered, well equipped, and, against Benz’s GLA, appears reasonable value. The question is whether that’s enough to tug at the heart strings, which, in this business, tend to be connected to the pen that signs the purchase agreement.
The end of option angst
In stark contrast to Mercedes-Benz and the other premium Euros, Infiniti limits options for the QX30 to just one: metallic paint for $1200.The most notable lifts in equipment for Premium over GT are the Nappa leather, electric seats, dual-zone climate, intelligent cruise, lane departure and blindspot warning, park assist and rear camera, and fixed glass roof.
Model: Infiniti QX30 GT Premium 2.0t
Engine: 1991cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 155kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1200rpm-4000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 7.8sec (estimated)
Fuel consumption: 6.9L/100km
On sale: now