Globalization is on a lot of minds these days. To businesses, it means more markets to sell in and more opportunities to save money by standardizing and sharing products sold around the world. To consumers, it means more options but clouded by possibility of offshoring. In a world where anything can be made anywhere and sold anywhere else, the 2017 Infiniti QX30 is the car by and for the modern world.
Let’s start with what it is and what it isn’t. The QX30 is the new luxury compact crossover from Infiniti. It’s the result of what can be briefly summarized as globalization. A French-Japanese auto manufacturing alliance cut a deal with a German automaker to build a crossover in England and sell it in America, among other markets. (Infiniti had no comment on what effect, if any, Brexit may have on the QX30.) Although it’s an all-new product from Infiniti, it’s not entirely all-new; it’s based heavily on the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class crossover (and by way of platform sharing, also the A-Class hatchback and CLA-Class sedan). In fact, it not only rides on the GLA’s platform but also uses the GLA’s engine, transmission, all-wheel-drive system, and most of its electrical architecture and switchgear. Meanwhile, it both is and is not a Q30. It will be badged as Q30 in other markets, but in the U.S., it’ll be a QX30 to avoid confusion, as in modern Infiniti lingo, Qs are cars and QXs are crossovers and SUVs. Got it?
It may take a bit of careful inspection to straighten all that out. You see, although it’s badged and marketed as a crossover, you’ll have trouble discerning the base and Sport models from hatchbacks, as they ride only slightly higher than a car and do not offer all-wheel drive. If you’d like all-wheel drive, you must purchase a QX30 AWD, which will increase your ground clearance by 1.2 inches and create enough gap between the tires and fenders to convince people it’s a crossover. Infiniti officials readily admit this all-wheel-drive model is intended for inclement weather and not serious off-road driving.
We experienced neither on our jaunt around Seattle and the neighboring islands. Rather, we experienced a pleasant day of driving in a comfortable, well-mannered car. Infiniti people stressed repeatedly the QX30 is not a GLA in a Kimono, but anyone who’s sat in their neighbor’s reasonably new Mercedes will recognize all the Benz parts. Ignoring the window switches, seat controls, climate controls, instrument cluster, etc., we find Infiniti has actually put some real effort into making this car their own. Gone is the controversial Mercedes floating infotainment screen, replaced by an integrated Infiniti unit sporting the company’s latest InTouch operating system. You can touch the screen, which is a bit of a reach, or use the Infiniti controller installed behind the Mercedes gear selector. Some of the direct-select buttons, such as for the map, are near the controller; others, such as for the radio, are up on the dash below the screen. It’s not the most intuitive user interface, but it works well when you figure it out. Surrounding that screen is a new asymmetrical dashboard, which adds some flair with a stitched leather cover that looks and feels rich.
The Mercedes seats have been replaced with Infiniti-designed units featuring Nissan’s Zero Gravity foam and plush leather. They offer a nice balance of comfort and lateral support and can be upgraded to sport seats with the Sport model. The rear seats are tight, as you might expect looking at the size of it. Adults certainly fit, but neither headroom nor legroom are plentiful. Likewise, the cargo area is rather small thanks in part to that dramatically sloping rear hatch. You can get two medium-sized suitcases in next to each other and maybe another on top. The hatch features a very small rear window, and combined with the low roof and high rear seat backs, the view out the back of the car is seriously impaired. Otherwise, it’s easy to see out of, and thankfully Infiniti’s Around View 360-degree camera is an option.
Moving back to the driver’s seat, let’s hit the Mercedes start button and get driving. The Mercedes-sourced 2.0-liter turbo-four under the hood makes the same 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty for a car estimated to weigh between 3,200 and 3,400 pounds. Infiniti’s put their own tune on it, but we expect it’ll perform similarly to a GLA250, which hits 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. It’ll probably do the GLA’s 24-25/32-35 mpg (9.8-9.4/7.3-6.7 L/100km) city/highway, too. Infiniti’s tweaks to the engine and sole-option seven-speed dual-clutch transmission seem to be mostly refinements, smoothing out power delivery and shifting for a slightly more relaxed demeanor than the playful GLA.
The same can be said for the QX30’s driving behavior. It’s more mature and straight-laced than its German half-brother. The ride is smooth and unperturbed by most bumps and holes, but the suspension still returns moderately sporty handling when pressed. The steering effort is inexplicably heavy, but the QX30 otherwise takes a corner smoothly and predictably. The brakes are just right with good bite and smooth engagement. The engine has ample midrange torque, and the transmission fires off shifts to keep you in it, so with a heavy foot it feels quicker than it is. The interior is reasonably quiet by luxury standards, and the 10-speaker Bose audio system will drown out anything.
In a small but growing segment, the QX30 is a compelling alternative to the usual German cabal. It looks better than any of them and presents a more refined, mature experience luxury customers will appreciate. In a crowd trying to blend sport, luxury, and cost-savings as effectively as possible, the QX30 feels like smart, confident choice for someone less concerned with badges. At a starting price of just $30,900 USD with shipping and well under $50,000 USD loaded, it’s likely to be friendlier to the wallet than the competition, as well.