2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport


Infiniti appears to be finding its voice again as a brand ostensibly focused on performance. As evidence, we present-of all things-its newest small crossover, the QX30, which was derived from the Mercedes-Benz GLA-class platform, itself a derivative of Benz's CLA sedan. During our first drive of the 2017 Infiniti QX30 last year, we were particularly impressed by the more athletic QX30 Sport. Now that we've gotten a chance to strap our test equipment to one, we have the numbers to support those initial impressions. This represents a bit of redemption for the QX30 after the all-wheel-drive model finished fourth out of five in a comparison test of baby luxo-crossovers.

While this model uses Mercedes structural and powertrain bits, Infiniti deserves some credit for making the $39,495 QX30 Sport model look and drive differently from the more lumbering QX30 AWD. The Sport label encompasses more than just spoilers and fancy wheels, as well it ought to for its hefty $8550 upcharge over the entry-level model. It gets the same 208 horsepower from the same turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four as other QX30 models (and GLA250s), but our front-wheel-drive Sport weighed nearly 200 pounds less than the all-wheel-drive edition that underwhelmed in the comparo. It also rides 0.8-inch closer to earth than the base front-drive version. That lowers the center of gravity enough to make it feel more like a hot hatchback than a shrunken SUV. Wheels grow from 18 to 19 inches in diameter and are shod with more aggressive Goodyear run-flat performance tires versus the AWD model's all-season rubber. As in all QX30s, the transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. While none of the Sport model's cosmetic touches nor its aggressively contoured sport seats make it a better performer, each adds a measure of engagement to the experiences of approaching, entering, and interacting with the car. It's a different animal.

Frisky Critter
For one thing, it's a quicker animal. Compared with the AWD model, the QX30 Sport's acceleration from rest to 60 mph dropped by nearly half a second, from 6.6 to 6.2 seconds, with 100 mph arriving 1.3 seconds sooner, at 16.8 seconds versus 18.1. The 5-to-60-mph rolling start time fell from 7.2 to 7.0 seconds while the 30-to-50-mph and 50-to-70-mph passing times are down by half a second each, to 2.9 and 4.2 seconds. It handles and stops better, too, clinging to the skidpad with an impressive 0.90 g of lateral grip, up from the AWD model's ho-hum 0.83 g. Braking from 70 mph took 157 feet, six fewer than its more rugged counterpart.

Incidentally, the QX30 Sport beat the last Mercedes-Benz GLA250 we tested nearly as handily in every measure excepting the sprint to 60 mph, which the all-wheel-drive Benz performed 0.1 second quicker, thanks in part to a launch-control function not available on the Infiniti. Another competitor, the 10Best Cars?winning Volkswagen GTI, is about a half-second quicker in most acceleration measures, but the Infiniti nearly matched the GTI's tenacious 0.91 g on the skidpad and beat the GTI's braking distance by two feet.

But numbers tell only part of the story: On the road, the QX30 Sport feels frisky and eager. The steering could use more feedback but is quick and direct, with linear responses and weighting that increases in concert with the driver's ambitions. Stability at triple-digit speeds is remarkable for a small hatchback, and at lower velocities, torque steer has been effectively quashed. And the brakes-upgraded with cross-drilled front rotors-are utterly spectacular. All the while, the suspension is firm, if occasionally harsh.

Tuned to Play
While Mercedes-Benz provided Infiniti with quality bones, Stuttgart can't be credited with bestowing the QX30 Sport with the sum of its dynamic competence. Infiniti claims responsibility for the final tuning of pretty much everything tweakable, including dampers, bushings, springs, electrically assisted power steering, brake-pedal feel, wheel size and design, tire choices, and more.

Even the Benz-sourced powertrain was subject to Infiniti tailoring its throttle and transmission calibrations-much to our liking, too. It can feel a bit prone to lag in Eco mode, but the wild personality swings we called out on our first drive when switching between Eco and Sport modes appear to have been tamed. Sport mode still perks things up considerably and delivers barking, rev-matched downshifts, but the car no longer acts like a bucking bronco in Sport and a lazy sloth in Eco.

For visual pizzazz, Infiniti gives Sport models distinct bumpers and dark-chrome exhaust tips in addition to the aforementioned 19-inch wheels. Inside, the QX30 Sport's ergonomically straightforward and subtle interior design lends itself well to sportification, including the fitment of handsome and supportive sport seats and liberal use of contrast-stitched faux suede on the seats, armrests, and dashboard. Automated parking assist, front and rear parking sensors, and a flat-bottom steering wheel are also standard fare. Car aficionados may amuse themselves hunting for components shared with the baby Benz-some are obvious, such as the engine start/stop button, the steering wheel, and the HVAC controls. Most non-car folks likely won't notice nor care about those things, let alone the less evident sharing of seat frames and button backlighting, so long as it all looks and functions harmoniously. Which it does, mostly*-the weak points of the interior are conspicuously cheaper plastic used on the lower door and dash panels, plus the modest size of the cargo hold and the rather tall and upright rear seatback.

While our test car was a stripper, lacking even the no-cost options of a sunroof and navigation, we also had some seat time in one loaded up with the $1500 Sport Leather package (seats and dashboard trimmed in nappa leather, heated seats, black faux-suede headliner), the $1000 Sport LED package (LED ambient lighting, adaptive LED headlamps), and the $1200 Sport Technology package (blind-spot and lane-departure warning, forward emergency braking, automatic high-beams, adaptive cruise control). The no-cost sunroof and navigation options will appear on nearly every QX30 Sport coming to the U.S. from Infiniti's Sunderland, U.K., assembly plant, according to an Infiniti spokesman. They were also on the QX30 we photographed for our earlier first-drive story.

Snappy as the Sport model is, we know the QX30 chassis can handle more power-witness the nutty, 355-hp Mercedes-AMG GLA45, which has gained 20 horsepower since our last test. We're hoping Infiniti eventually trots out, say, a QX30 Red Sport model of similar potency. Remember, this is the company that brought us the trailblazing FX, and while the QX30 Sport may not be a purebred Infiniti like that model, it does seem cut from a similar cloth, Benz architecture or no.

Text Source: Car and Driver