Coupe On Point

words by BOBBY ANG


Both are big V8 luxury sedans, but the LS400s were land yachts that were extremely comfortable, while the Q45s were 4.5 litres of screaming octa-cylindrical mechanical Pavarottis. Galvanising every sporting bit of the Q50 in an unapologetic manner, the Q60 Coupe fits into a segment that’s crowded with the BMW 4-Series, Audi A5, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe. Styling takes precedence here, and substance carries a very different meaning. The ability to break the speed limit and triggering AES flashes is an actual quality here as opposed to rear seat headroom. Not that it doesn’t matter, but the core purpose of a coupe is to look good, and buying a coupe means you get to look great every single day. As opposed to a sedan’s core purpose of ferrying 4 passengers - not exactly something a sedan gets to do often in a week. So who’s being practical here?

“While Lexus began with pursuing Mercedes-Benz’s stately diplomatic flag bearing comfort cruisers, Infiniti instead went after BMW’s chequered flag flinging diabolic autobahn stormers.”

he name’s Crimson Red, so radiant it almost dyed a shade of vermillion over that of the QX70’s glossy black metal work. With the sun’s ray reflecting off its organic shape, the coupe presents itself like a rich and luscious sheet of Kashmiri silk suspended in gusts of wind. Not an Italian coach maker’s masterpiece, but this is a Japanese sports coupe with an exterior so flamboyantly elegant that it should sit pretty comfortably within the thick cosseting carpet grass of Concourse d’Elégance without triggering whispers of “sacrebleu” from the connoisseurs walking by.

This is the Infiniti Q60 Coupe, and it culminates with it Infiniti’s brand message in a way its current lineup has never been positioned to do - that of a luxurious sporting proposition - the very reason why Infiniti was started back in the late 80s. You see, the two famous luxury arms of Toyota and Nissan - Lexus and Infiniti, were both started in the late 1980s for the American market. While Lexus began with pursuing Mercedes-Benz’s stately diplomatic flag bearing comfort cruisers, Infiniti instead went after BMW’s chequered flag flinging diabolic autobahn stormers.

The Q60 is an offshoot of the Q50 as evident from its carbon copy interior, but unlike the segment it contend in, there are zero suggestions of this from the exterior. There isn’t a single sheet of metal carried over from the Q50 which it shares its mechanical bits, yet on the surface it has to be as close to the initial concept as possible. By committing to the latter, it is therefore one of the prettiest sports coupe on sale now. Stepping inside though, the story takes a very different path. The selling price of the Q60 and the global volume for its segment would meant that its interior would have to be shared with its four door sibling - much like its German Trio rivals - the Infiniti Q50’s interior was applied onto the Q60 without a hair of change.

Functional no doubt, and very well build in terms of fit and finish quality. But there are idiosyncrasies that were inherited by Infiniti’s classic interior design architecture and ideology. First of all, is the presence of two huge touch screens on top of one another. One sits indented from the dash, one sits flushed below. While both have vastly different interface designs and was intended to control different functionalities within the car, there are certain aspects where they overlapped each other to start the road of ergonomic confusion. To understand Infiniti’s interior orientation, one has to trace back to their older cars that predates the current touch screen craze. With a top screen that is dedicated for satellite navigation, there’s a separate control panel with dedicated soft keys for navigation controls. The CD player then sits below with its own set of buttons, and then only we come to the climate control unit. It’s a logical placement, where the Sat Nav screen has to be in the line of sight of the driver, and then the second most fiddled with should be that of the radio controls, and lastly the climate control.

“The ability to break the speed limit and triggering AES flashes is an actual quality here as opposed to rear seat headroom.”

But when it comes to the modern rendition of utilising a screen to unify various controls, Infiniti retained the top screen for Sat Nav, and regrouped the bottom panels all into another screen that displays the climate control and stereo / entertainment use. This meant that we now have two screens that often confuses anyone coming from other luxury makes. But think about it - when you’re using your satellite navigation for guidance and your passenger wants to fiddle around with song selection - that would’ve meant a limited screen real estate for two usage at the same time - no such issue here as one screen mainly serves as information output, while the other serves as a panel for input.

It’s a very logical and modest intention, but ultimately defeated by the usual case of Japanese being very much lacking in terms of UI/UX design (just look at Lexus); both screen’s un-unified UI design and the physical buttons on the sides for shortcuts as well as the rotary dial that was placed next to gear lever meant that the availability of multiple input and output options throws the linear thinking path of most users into a web of convoluting user experience. More often than not, their UI design contradicts itself with both screens entering a completely different set of menus with different designs but reaching depth of menu that controls the same function - yes, the driver and passenger can have a game of argument with one poking the top screen and the other the lower screen perplexing the system on the same function, one disabling it while the other enabling it at the same time, on different screens, with a different set of user interface.

Driving it on the other hand, there’s very little argument about what this car intends to be. It’s a sports coupe with a heavier inclination to that of a small Grand Tourer than an all out sports car. It’s not as harsh and as manic as the C-Class Coupe in the way it drives, it’s quieter and more plush than the 4-Series, and it feels more organic luscious than the cold and clinical Audi A5. In terms of comfort, the Q60 does it better than its rivals in overall demeanour. It handles well, cruises comfortably, tracks easily.

“The Driver and the Passenger can have a digital argument each using different screens operating through a different set of user interface.”

The biggest drawback would only be that of the lack lustre steering feel that will rob pro-drivers off their capacity to explore the limits of the Q60. Compared to its rivals in a more detailed manner, the C-Class Coupe has a very fast and accurate steering rack, coupled with its harsh suspension, it is easily the sportiest of the lot. The 4-Series on the other hand, has a very balanced approach, eager to let the driver progress in a more linear manner and has a superior powertrain combination, but it also comes with a noisier, less luxurious cabin. The A5 grips and pounces and can be driven like a hot hatch, but the clinical styling inside out robs emotion away. Both BMW and Audi though dynamically trounces the Q60, has very little to match up in terms of the portrayal of a classy, beautiful and glamorous looking luxury coupe - which is the whole point of a coupe at the very first place.

Put it this way, imagine all four were invited to a party, Ms BMW came in svelte tight Golf apparel, Ms Audi came straight from her boardroom meeting, only Ms Infiniti and Ms Mercedes both arrived in a beautiful gown. When the time comes for a slow paced classical dance, Ms Mercedes opts out and prefers some fast paced Tango instead, Ms Infiniti might not be that good in dancing, but she’s ok to take slow and smaller steps, albeit graceful and beautiful.

The Infiniti Q60 is exactly the kind of car that Infiniti Malaysia couldn’t rely on for more sales, but it is exactly the kind of car that will help Infiniti Malaysia establish who they are, what they resemble, and what are their beliefs - to help sell their other cars better.