Infiniti has updated its one-time bestseller after a couple years dormant, restoring its only coupe to its growing lineup.
The 2017 Q60 Red Sport 400 is now the brand’s fastest coupe ever, at 400 horsepower, and is designed to compete directly with high-performance sports cars from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. Though the segment is not growing nearly at the rate of SUVs and crossovers, Infiniti says luxury brands still need a sports coupe to be credible.
Sales of luxury sports cars peaked at 99,516 in 2006, but last year represented a post-recession high, with 87,226 units sold, according to data from IHS Automotive. However, that represents less than 1% of overall new car sales.
Perhaps more than any other segment, sports car sales “directly correlate with the economy,” said Tom Libby, an analyst at IHS. “If the economy remains robust, sales will be strong.”
The decked out Q60 I drove in a 191-mile loop around San Diego last month was so quiet and smooth that at times, I nearly forgot I was in a car. The soft leather helped the Q60 feel as upscale as any of the models the coupe is challenging: Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz C-class, BMW 4-Series, and Lexus RC. However, the backseats don’t fit full-size adults, while the driver’s seat didn’t quite fit my 5’4” frame.
The car accelerated quickly and rode smoothly for most of the journey on surface streets and back roads, but the acceleration and braking could feel jagged in sport+ mode, especially when I missed the left-hand turn into our vineyard lunch stop and had to make a quick three-point turn.
The Q60, which reached dealerships earlier this month, starts at $38,950 for the base 208-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed automatic transmission. The Red Sport treatment, the high-performance badge Infiniti introduced earlier this year to compete with the Lexus F, BMW M, Mercedes AMG, and Audi RS high-performance lines, will cost extra. Two Red Sport versions use a 3-liter, twin turbo V6 to make either 300 or 400 horsepower. The Red Sport 400 starts at $51,300 for rear-wheel drive and $53,300 for all-wheel drive.
The coupe is a key component in Infiniti’s ongoing strategy to bolster its brand identity. In addition to the Red Sport badge, the brand is introducing five new or updated sedans and SUVs this year.
“The successful luxury brands right now are the ones with strong SUVs in their lineup – look at Audi, Land Rover, Jaguar with the new F-Pace and Volvo with the XC90,” says Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Autotrader. Sales for “some luxury makes, particularly BMW, would be down much further without the success of a few of their SUVs.”