Infiniti is finally in the game. After years of watching helplessly as nearly every one of its rivals cashed in on the compact crossover boom, the Japanese automaker has at last entered its own premium competitor in the form of the all-new 2017 QX30.

Bright lights first glistened off the QX30 during its reveal at the Los Angeles Auto Show in late 2015. The very attractive five-door liftback - the design team deserves applause for delivering visual excitement while aligning with current Infiniti sculptural themes - debuted as the company's smallest offering, only marginally larger in physical stature than the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, its genetic twin (think Audi Q3 and BMW X1 to further understand its relative size). Nevertheless, the four-door will seat a quartet of adults in relative comfort and a child may be shoehorned into the middle rear seat in a pinch, without a tantrum.



Before giving Infiniti credit for a clean-sheet design, full disclosure reveals that it's not an entirely homegrown entry. The Daimler and Renault-Nissan Alliance is credited with supplying a German donor for massaging and the vehicle will be assembled in Sunderland, United Kingdom, at a Nissan plant. But don't let any of that dissuade you, as the QX30 is a fine example of the good that often emerges from a well-executed healthy relationship - this crossover is a winner.

Mirroring the powerplant of the GLA250, all variants of the QX30 are fitted with a standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline-fed engine (rated at 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque) that is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox. Front-wheel drive is standard, but four-wheel drive (Infiniti's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system) is available for those wishing to give up some sportiness while chasing all-season capability.

Variety is appealing, so Infiniti is offering the QX30 in several different flavors: QX30, QX30 Sport, and QX30 AWD. Standard front-wheel drive QX30 models have a 6.7-inch ride height - let's consider that a baseline. The QX30 AWD sits 1.2 inches taller than the standard model, has three percent stiffer springs, 85 percent stiffer rear roll bar, and a slower steering ratio for its more utilitarian operating environment. The QX30 Sport sits 0.6 inches lower than the standard model, has lower profile tires, 7 percent stiffer springs, and sport-tuned steering to keep enthusiasts entertained.

Drivelines, ride height, suspension, wheels, and a steering ratios aren't the only differences between the models, as there are cosmetic variances inside and out, too. The QX30 and QX30 AWD are more visually "luxurious" with additional bright aluminum appointments and slightly softer lines, while the QX30 Sport models are "edgy" with darker trim treatments and aggressive front and rear fascia sculpting. Stand face-to-face with each of the models side-by-side and the differences in appearance and ride height are much more dramatic than they sound - the sport model (pictured in red in the accompanying images) rides much lower.

The cabin is luxurious, nicely appointed, and inviting - yet there is an interesting mix of cultures within. Infiniti thoroughly redesigned the interior, yet cost concerns meant that many of the original Mercedes-Benz parts, such as the seat controls, window switchgear, instrument displays, etc., remain intact (or only thinly disguised). The Japanese execution of the dashboard is warmer and softer than the business-like cabin of the donor Benz, but moving the transmission lever from the steering column to the lower center console, as Infiniti has done, does nothing but eat up valuable storage space. I'm six-foot two-inches tall and my frame isn't cramped in either front seat - both are very comfortable with accommodating shoulder, leg, and headroom.

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